Potential Patriots: 5 defensive linemen to keep an eye on in NFL draft

The NFL draft is quickly approaching and the Patriots have 12 overall picks, including six in the top 101. Given their lack of moves during free agency, the team should be very active. This will be a series broken down by position of players who could be of interest to the team. Today, we look at the defensive linemen. Here’s earlier editions of the series.

With the departure of Trey Flowers, Danny Shelton and Malcom Brown, this is considered one of the top priorities in the draft, especially after the only real replacements were Michael Bennett and Mike Pennel. This is said to be one of the deepest positions in the draft, so even if the team doesn’t select one with its first few picks a good player can still be had.

Here are five names to keep an eye on.

Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State -- Jones is an interior lineman, but athletic enough to grow into a three-down player at the next level. In his final season at Ohio State, he finished with 13 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Given the fact he played for Greg Schiano, the Patriots likely have a good scouting report on how he could potentially fit into their system. He's expected to be a first-round selection.

Dexter Lawrence, Clemson -- The Clemson product has been mocked to the Patriots at No. 32 in a number of recent mock drafts. As a junior, the interior defensive lineman finished with 36 tackles and 1.5 sacks. His best season was his freshman year when he had 62 tackles, including 8.5 for loss, and 6.5 sacks. Lawrence had a great combine, which certainly boosted his stock.

Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame -- Tillery is another option for the team at No. 32 overall. The Notre Dame product played through a torn labrum in his shoulder this season, which could be impressive for NFL teams. Despite the injury he finished last season with 8.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

Zach Allen, Boston College -- The 6-foot-5, 285-pounder took off his last two seasons at BC. He totaled 100 tackles and four sacks as a junior, and then had 61 tackles and 6.5 sacks as a senior this past fall. Allen can play both inside and outside, which is obviously something that will stand out to the Patriots. He's expected to be a Day 2 selection, which could make a lot of sense for New England.

Chase Winovich, Michigan -- Winovich certainly isn't a first-rounder by any means, but if the team wants to target the position in the middle rounds, he could be a nice option. He's very versatile and can play pretty much anywhere as an outside linebacker/defensive end. In his four years at Michigan, he totaled 43 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks.