As of right now, the Patriots aren't scheduled to pick until 71 others have come off the board. But that hasn't prevented them from meeting with one of the top available pass-rushers in this year's class.
According to Pro Football Talk, the team held a private workout with Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett. The 6-foot-3, 259-pounder is almost universally considered a first-round pick, though where in the first round he'll be taken has been the subject of some debate.
Per Pro Football Focus senior analyst Steve Palazzolo, who joined Quick Slants the Podcast this week, Barnett is one of the site's top-ranked players regardless of position and the No. 3 player on its draft board. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, meanwhile, has Barnett mocked to the Cowboys at No. 28 overall in his most recent set of predictions.
For the Patriots to have a realistic shot at landing Barnett, they'd probably have to find a way to trade back into the bottom part of the first round at the very least. They have two third-rounders, one fourth, two fifths, a sixth and a seventh to play with.
Barnett was an incredibly productive players for the Vols with double-digit sacks in each of the last three years, and his stats alone -- given the competition he faced in the SEC -- make him deserving of the first-round consideration he's received.
The reason there's some discrepancy as to where he'll be drafted is because he's not the freakish athlete that some teams look to draft early on Day 1. He ran a 4.88-second 40-yard dash and jumped 31 inches in the vertical at the combine, neither of which landed him in the top 15 among defensive linemen. His 6.96-second three-cone drill, however, was fifth-best at his position.
Barnett's height, weight and strength on the edge give him the look of a Patriots defensive end; Trey Flowers (6-2, 265), Jabaal Sheard (6-3, 265) and Rob Ninkovich (6-2, 260) all fit into a similar range physically. But would he be athletic enough to fill the various roles -- in coverage, as an edge-rusher, edge-setter and interior-rusher -- that the Patriots often ask their ends to fill? And would the value he provides be worth what it would require to get back into the first round?
A private workout would help Belichick and staff find the answers to those questions.