Versatility on defense seems to be a coveted trait for the New England Patriots in this year's draft. With their third round selection - No. 87 overall - the Patriots chose Alabama linebacker Anfernee Jennings.
With Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche already selected before him, New England now has three rookies on defense that can play multiple positions. Jennings played mostly outside the tackle during his college career, however, he registered some snaps in the dirt over the tackle, playing some off the ball linebacker as well, and even some limited snaps as a 3-technique defensive lineman. Jennings can do a little bit of everything and do it all well.
Jennings projects most favorably as a day one starter at the strong-side outside linebacker role for the Patriots. However, with so many talented bodies on New England's defense - all of which have the ability to move around the field - it's easy to see Jennings playing in different spots in all sorts of situations.
As for his ability in the run game and the pass rush, in short, he excels at both. Jennings is extremely well-rounded, which opened up the door for him to register 83 total tackles last season, along with 12.5 tackles for a loss and 8 sacks.
One thing that pops right off the tape when watching Jennings is his jump off the ball. Some plays you see Jennings not only get his motor running before the ball is even snapped, but you see him two, three steps across the line of scrimmage while both sides of the line are still getting out of their stance.
Something else that stands out is his processing and his strategic methodology to beating offensive tackles and getting into the backfield. Jennings seems to always attack his blocker with a plan. Whenever he makes one move, he always seems to have a second one that follows. It's almost as if he is setting up his blocker to eventually put the finishing touches on him and make a tackle in the backfield.
Along those lines, he very quickly identifies the play and figures out where he needs to go. His processing is really, really impressive. His instincts just jump right off the screen.
Jennings sets a hard edge to the football, which will help aid a Patriots run defense that struggled at times last season. While it will be hard to replace Kyle Van Noy's production in the run game, if any outside linebacker in this draft could come close to doing so, Jennings would be that guy.
Jennings will step right into Van Noy's former role on day one. You will see him setting the edge in the run game and powering his way into the backfield to put pressure on the quarterback.