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Jim McBride

Five linebackers the Patriots may look at in the draft

Isaiah Simmons (11) was a key piece of the Clemson defense last season.Richard Shiro/Associated Press

We’re breaking down some potential Patriots targets in the days leading up to the NFL Draft. On Monday, it was the tight ends. Today, it’s linebackers:


Isaiah Simmons, Clemson, 6-4, 238, 4.39, 1

Ridiculously instinctive, athletic, and versatile player who has lined up at linebacker, defensive end, slot corner, and safety. Piled up 107 tackles, 8 sacks, and 10 pass breakups last season alone.

Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma, 6-2, 241, 4.52, 1

High-character High-end character guy who plays with a high high-end motor. Has exceptional presnap recognition skills and a lightning-quick first step. Has the agility to slip blocks and the power to the run through defenders.


Patrick Queen, LSU, 6-0, 229, 4.50, 1

Linebacker Patrick Queen helped power the LSU defense this past season.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Explosive athlete with great strength and range. A tad undersized (comparatively speaking), but it has never stopped him from taking on — and beating up on — bigger opponents. Equally effective charging ahead or backpedaling into coverage.

Willie Gay Jr., Miss. St., 6-1, 243, 4.46, 2

An impressive athlete with excellent lateral quickness and closing burst, Gay has the skills to drop into coverage and pick up tight ends and backs on underneath routes. Could also develop into a blitz specialist.

Zack Baun, Wisconsin, 6-2, 238, 4.65, 2

Wisconsin's Zack Baun was among the nation's leaders with 19.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks.Andy Manis/Associated Press

Rugged old-fashioned fashion thumper who plays every snap like his hair is on fire. Has flashed the ability to play off the edge (he will turnstile slower tackles) and in the middle of a defense as a run stuffer (he explodes into ball carriers).

Best of the rest: Jacob Phillips, LSU (6-3, 229, 4.66); Josh Uche, Michigan (6-1, 245, 4.65); Logan Wilson, Fresno State (6-3, 230, 4.65); Cameron Brown, Penn State (6-5, 233, 4.72); Malik Harrison, Ohio State (6-3, 247, 4.66).

Vitals from the NFL Combine.

Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.