AP Photo by Darron Cummings
The New England Patriots are looking for help on their defense, and that help could come in the form of one particular defender from the ACC. After working out this top 5 prospect, are the Patriots any closer to making him their pick?
Sources confirm that Clemson DL Ricky Sapp worked out for the New England Patriots earlier this month (Mar 16th). The 6-foot-3, 252-pound defender was a three year starter for the Tigers. He played alongside (backup) to the late Gaines Adams (Chicago Bears).
According to draft experts, Sapp is projected as an outside linebacker at the next level, or possible undersized defensive end.
Scott Wright of DraftCountdown.com believes Sapp’s athleticism will allow him to fill well in a 3-4 scheme, similar to what the Patriots run.
“Talented prospect who may be a better athlete than football player --- Classic 'tweener whose best fit might come as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 front --- Could be better pro than college player if the light comes on and he is utilized properly.”
Scout.com’s Chris Steuber sees Sapp as one of the top 5 OLBs available in the NFL Draft, along with Sergio Kindle (Texas), Jerry Hughes (TCU), Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri) and Brandon Graham (Michigan).
New England has either met with, or worked out all of the Scout.com top 5 OLB Draft prospects listed above. In addition they have shown interest in, or worked out Thaddeus Gibson (Ohio State), Eric Norwood (South Carolina) and Navorro Bowman (Penn State).
Whether that workout earlier this month puts Sapp any closer to being their guy in the first round is open for debate. But with three picks in the second round, if New England doesn’t have their guy already and Sapp is still on the board, expectations are that they’ll take him if available.
The Cleveland Browns, who run the Patriots style defense, have also shown significance interest in Sapp
Sapp met with the media at the NFL Combine. Here is a transcript of that Q & A:
What is your overall specialty?
Sapp: "Pass rush, baby. Coming off the edge to get the quarterback."
What can you do better?
Sapp: "Holding up against the run better."
Are there mostly 3-4 teams showing interest in you?
Sapp: "Yes sir, mostly right now 3-4 teams."
Did you play linebacker at all last year at Clemson?
Sapp: "I was down more. I stood up a little bit but I was more in a three-point stance."
Does having played a bit in a two-point stance help you if going to a 3-4 team?
Sapp: "It will help me out a lot.
I can play in both -- down and I think standing up is more of a challenge, more competition. I can do both."
What teams have talked to you and what do they say?
Sapp: "They ask me questions like
'Can I play the 3-4?' What would I prefer? I can do both."
Have you talked to Patriots?
Sapp: "Yes sir. I met with some of the scouts, I don't know any of the names.
One of the biggest things they were talking about was scheme wise and dropping [in pass coverage] and rushing off the edge."
How much are you being questioned about your past injuries at this point?
Sapp: "I had ACL surgery in 2008, December 11.
They ask questions like 'How far is the strength in my knee?' I played the whole year at about 60 percent strength.
My knee is fine. It's 100 percent. I did a lot of extra rehab before I came down here. I'm feeling real good."
What did you pick up from playing behind Gaines Adams that one year?
Sapp: "Everything. I learned everything from him,
not only playing the game but a lot of things off the field. How to finish, how to play four quarters, technique."
How about off the field?
Sapp: "Just how to live right. Gaines Adams was a leader on the field and off the field.
He taught me about life and everything off the field."
How comfortable do you feel dropping back in coverage?
"They ask questions like 'How far is the strength in my knee?' I played the whole year at about 60 percent strength.
My knee is fine. It's 100 percent. I did a lot of extra rehab before I came down here. I'm feeling real good." (AP)
Sapp: "Comfortable. It's competition. I love it."
Do you think in a 3-4 scheme that would create favorable matchups for you against backs and TEs?
Sapp: "Whenever you are in practice
against C.J. Spiller, [everything else should be easier]. I love the competition and I love the challenge."
What are your thoughts on C.J. Spiller?
Sapp: "Without a doubt, he's the best player I've played with. He things he does
in a game are just unbelievable. You're on the sideline and it's like 'Wow, I can't believe he did that.' He's a great player."
What was the most impressive thing he's seen Spiller do?
Sapp: "Most impressive thing I've seen him do is against Maryland,
he returned a kickoff and six people tried to tackle him and he scored a touchdown."
What would you say is your biggest strength?
Sapp: "Rushing the passer, getting to the quarterback, making plays in the backfield.
That's what I do all day. Speed. Quickness."
How tough would it be to transition to 3-4?
Sapp: "I think it would be easy. Our defensive coordinator,
he brought the 3-4 package to Clemson this year. I did some standing up. I did some dropping.
I think it would be an easy transition."
What kinds of questions have you fielded from teams in the 3-4?
Sapp: "A lot of them asked me how would I fit and how fast would I get the
coverages down, how fast could I get the defense down. I told them I'm a visual learner.
I learn fast, so I'd have no problem fitting in a 3-4 scheme."
What has it been like going through all the physicals at the combine?
Sapp: "It is crazy. At the same time, it is overwhelming.
You have 20-30 doctors pulling at your knee, poking at you, just making you're healthy and everything is right."
What do they say about your knee [that was injured in 2008 against Virginia]?
Sapp: "Doing great. I heard the doctors talking about my knee and
everything looks strong and stable."
What were some of your goals coming into the combine?
Sapp: "My main thing coming to the combine was my knee and how strong it was and
would it check out. So far everyone said it looked good so I have a lot of confidence."
Why did you go to Clemson?
Sapp: "I fell in love with the place, to be honest. I didn't think I would have come
to Clemson, but I fell in love with the place, the fan base, the coaches. We produce defensive ends.
That's what we do. I wanted to be a part of that."
Ricky Sapp is ranked as the No. 4 outside linebacker available in this year's draft by Scout.com.