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Are Patriots eyeing pair of Clemson defensive linemen in first round of the NFL Draft?

By Khari Thompson,


With all the talk about offensive linemen, wide receivers and cornerbacks in Round 1 of the NFL Draft, let’s not forget about the possibility of the Patriots building in the defensive trenches.

To that end, New England’s defensive line coach Demarcus Covington is down in Clemson, South Carolina scouting two dark-horse first-round picks at Clemson’s Pro Day.

Covington was even spotted on the field leading drills for a defensive line prospect group that included Bryan Bresee, a first-round talent at defensive end. Additionally, edge rusher Myles Murphy, who did not participate in drills due to a hamstring injury, said he spoke frequently with the Patriots’ contingent this week.

On one hand, there’s something to be said for the Patriots doing due diligence in case their top options in the draft (probably at offensive tackle) don’t fall their way.

But it’s also seemingly a signal that New England, which is known to target edge defenders frequently in drafts past, might look to build that area up rather than swing at cornerback or receiver if they miss on a top tackle.

At 300 pounds, Bresee could fit in as a 3-4 defensive end in the Patriots’ system after playing a similar style with Clemson, and there’s no doubt New England could use such a player with Lawrence Guy getting up there in years and Davon Godchaux essentially being a two-down player.

Murphy, meanwhile, would be a twitchy, young pass-rusher to pair with Matthew Judon and serve as insurance for Josh Uche, who’s due a new contract next year but may just be a pass-rushing specialist.

Covington also got to serve as a defensive coordinator at the Senior Bowl, where strong defensive interior prospects like Adetomiwa Adebawore, Karl Brooks and Keion White showed out.

If there’s a potential surprise coming in the first round of the draft (or even in a trade-up situation on Day 2), the Patriots’ interest in players like Bresee and Murphy might signal where it lies.

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