Illinois defensive tackle Akeem Spence will declare for the 2013 NFL Draft following a somewhat disappointing junior season, leading at least one writer to wonder whether the New England Patriots will take a flyer on him.
The Pats struck defensive line gold this past year with Chandler Jones, their first round pick in 2012, and a player that could be the defensive rookie of the year. Spence could be another pick up front, likely to back up Vince Wilfork or Kyle Love.
Spence's Fighting Illini went just 2-10 in 2012, with the junior recording only one sack. But rather than hang around a rebuilding Illinois squad, the player once thought of as a potential first-rounder has chosen to go pro. James Christiansen of NEPatriotsDraft.com wrote up what he could do for New England's defensive front:
At 6’1″ and 305 pounds, Spence wouldn’t really fit as a 5-technique defensive end, but he would be a natural fit as a disruptive player inside at either the 1-technique or 3-technique. He excels at shooting gaps, shedding single blocks and using his natural strength to get to the ball carrier.
New England's draft pick won't be determined until after the NFL Playoffs are finished, but it won't be a very high one.