FOXBOROUGH — With their final selection on Friday, the Patriots took Nebraska defensive tackle Vincent Valentine at 96th overall. With the release of Dominique Easley earlier this month and Akiem Hicks leaving for Chicago in free agency, the Patriots had a need at defensive tackle heading into the draft.
The selection of Valentine can potentially fill that need for the team, but there is some work to be done on his part. He battled injury issues in 2015 and was only able to start seven games and produce 10 tackles, four for loss and three sacks. His 2014 season was much more productive, as he recorded 45 tackles to go along with three sacks.
Valentine is a big bodied player at 6’4” and 329 and could eat up space and blockers, which would allow those around him to make plays. There have been questions about his work ethic and conditioning level, which will need to be corrected if he is going to be successful in New England. He will also be part of a rotation with the Patriots and that should help some of the fatigue problems.
Following the third round, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio met with the media and discussed Valentine’s strengths as a player. He noted that Valentine’s size and power worked to his advantage at Nebraska. Noting that he played next to Maliek Collins, who was selected by the Cowboys, it was as though Nebraska had two NFL players on their defensive line.
If Valentine can take the positives from Nebraska and transfer them to New England, he will have a chance at a long and productive stay with the team. If not, he won’t stick around long.