Patriots linebacker targets to watch in the 1st and 2nd round


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Two years ago, the Patriots picked a couple linebackers on Day 2 of the draft.

It was believed that Michigan’s Josh Uche, whom they traded up to grab, and Alabama product Anfernee Jennings could become the new faces of a storied position group. As prospects, they had been billed as prototypical Patriots, versatile players who might one day replace an aging defensive core.

Two years later, that core still needs replacing. Inside linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley are free agents. The lack of speed among the Patriots linebackers, including part-time inside ‘backer Kyle Van Noy and backup Jahlani Tavai, was exposed during a late-season skid that culminated in a historic Wild Card blowout.

It’s time to return to the draft.

In late April, the Pats may again select two linebackers, perhaps even on Day 2. There are two do-it-all SEC prospects with overlapping system experience and a small-school standout. In the first round, another pair of linebackers will make all the headlines.

Here are the names to know:

Devin Lloyd, Utah

Lloyd is perhaps the most commonly projected player for the Patriots at No. 21 overall, and that may not change over the next two months.

He’s a complete player who played inside and outside linebacker for the Utes. Lloyd plays well in space — especially at 6-foot-3 — blitzes with ferocity, sheds blockers with his plus length and brings the hammer in the run game. His production in this class is unmatched.

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