Linebacker depth needs replenishing

A continuing series looking at how the Patriots could fill positions through the NFL Draft, April 23 to 25.

It’s no secret that the Patriots lost several starting linebackers last month. Over the first week of free agency, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts both signed with Miami and Jamie Collins inked a deal with Detroit.

Last season’s depth at linebacker was a big reason why the Patriots coaching staff was able to get creative with the defense, especially the pass rush. With so many talented players, it was tough for other teams to figure out who would be rushing the passer.

As of right now, the only linebackers on the Patriots roster are Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Terez Hall. The team also has edge rushers John Simon, Chase Winovich, Brandon Copeland, Derek Rivers and Shilique Calhoun. There’s not a lot of roster locks at these positions.

The average linebacker drafted by the Patriots stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 245 pounds. He runs the 40 in 4.7, has a vertical jump of 33 inches, has 22 reps in the bench press, leaps 116 inches in the broad jump and has an average time of 7.18 in the 3-cone test and 4.33 in the shuttle.

Since the Pats have a lot of needs at linebacker, today we’ll focus on inside linebackers.

Mykal Walker, Fresno State

Of all the inside linebackers, Walker had the most hits with six of eight matches on height, 40 time, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone and shuttle times. Walker is projected as sixth or seventh-round draft pick. The Patriots met with him at the East-West Shrine Bowl.

He started his career at Azusa Pacific before landing at Fresno State. He made an instant impact, finishing his first season with 87 tackles, 14 for a loss, to go with 4.5 sacks and two blocked kicks in 2018. Last year, he finished with 96 tackles, nine for a loss, and 2.5 sacks. Walker profiles as a core special-teamer.

Logan Wilson, Wyoming

Wilson is one of four inside linebackers to hit on five of eight categories — height, 40 time, broad jump, 3-cone and shuttle time. He’s a projected Day 2 pick in the draft. The Patriots met with him at his Wyoming Pro Day.

Wilson was very productive at Wyoming, starting every game of his collegiate career. Last season, he finished with 105 tackles, 8.5 for a loss, four interceptions and 11 pass deflections. He finished his run at Wyoming with 421 career tackles. He’s also a three-year captain. He has the athleticism to drop back in coverage. He plays fast and would contribute on special teams.

Joe Bachie, Michigan State

Bachie also hits on five of eight target measurements. He’s undersized (6-1 and 230 pounds), but hits on 40 time, vertical jump, bench press, broad jump and 3-cone. Bachie was one of just four linebackers to hit the Patriots benchmark on the bench press at the combine.

Named a captain back in 2018, Bachie was a solid leader at Michigan State. However, he missed the bulk of last season because of a positive PED test. He was still voted honorable mention All-Big Ten by league coaches after finishing with 71 tackles, 8.5 for a loss, 3.5 sacks and four pass breakups in eight games. He’s a projected Day 3 pick.

Dante Olson, Montana

Olson also matches on five of eight marks — height, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone and shuttle time. He’s a projected Day 3 draft pick. He has legitimate special-teams experience, being named to the second-team all-conference special-teams squad as a sophomore.

He played more defense as a junior and excelled. In 2018, he led FBS/FCS with 151 total tackles en route to earning All-American honors. He was also a Buck Buchanan Award finalist. Last year, he was the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He led the nation with 179 tackles. He’s also a solid leader on and off the field.

Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

Murray matches on four of eight targets — height, 40 time, vertical and broad jumps. He didn’t run the 3-cone or shuttle drills. He’s one of the best linebackers in this draft and is a projected first-round pick. Murray started every game in his three-year collegiate career.

Murray earned All-American honors his freshman year at Oklahoma. He racked up 155 tackles by his sophomore season. Last year, he finished with 102 tackles, 17 for a loss, en route to earning third-team All-American honors and first-team All-Big 12 honors. He has the athleticism to play all over the field. The son of a preacher, he’s an outstanding person off the field.

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