With Super Bowl LIV in the rear-view mirror, it’s fully time to embrace player acquisition season. Today, APC’s draft prospect profile series continues with another linebacker: this time a player from the reigning national champions.
Patrick Queen, LSU
Weight: 227 pounds
Queen has generally good play diagnostic skills. He generally reads the blocking in front of him quickly and attacks the proper gap. Queen can be a tick slow reacting to the play from time to time, however, and there was one game that I watched, I believe against Auburn, where he seemed to struggle reading anything and misdiagnosed several plays resulting in big gains. I don’t know if that game was an outlier, if Queen has up and down pattern recognition skills, or if he hadn’t done his homework, but it did concern me a bit.
Once Queen makes a decision, he accelerates fairly well and is good at knifing through linemen and can even run through them from time to time despite his less than intimidating size. Even when he doesn’t get a jump on a play, he is able to quickly read blocking in front of him and more often than not attacks the proper gap. Where Queen struggles is shedding offensive linemen who get to the second level; he doesn’t seem to have the technique or explosive pop through his hips to shed offensive linemen or tight ends when he doesn’t have forward momentum. This problem is compounded on the aforementioned plays where Queen reacts slowly, and he usually gets swallowed up and taken out of the in those instances. Due to this issue, it looks as though Queen will really struggle if the quality of line play in front of him isn’t good.
Queen also doesn’t seem particularly adept at diagnosing the offense pre-snap, and consequently doesn’t often make impact plays against the run. Queen has excellent lateral agility and is able to effortlessly able to prevent running backs from getting the edge on stretch and sweep plays, but sometimes get caught up in traffic while tracking the running back. Queen takes good pursuit angles and doesn’t suffer from blown plays due to over-aggressiveness and over-optimism like Kenneth Murray does.
Pass defense is the area where Queen really shines. He has excellent lateral agility, loose hips, and a good understanding of leverage to track tight ends and running backs cutting or changing direction in man coverage. Queen does have a bad habit of attacking the receiver too early and drawing penalties, however, and he’ll need to clean that up at the next level.
Queen is very good in zone coverage, playing the eyes of the quarterback well and giving himself the opportunity to make plays on the ball. He’s also very adept at understanding when to stay with a man in his zone and when to attack quarterbacks on roll outs. Queen does seem to lose track of people entering his zone every so often, however, and he did give up a few unnecessary receptions as a result.
Queen was mostly asked to pass rush up interior gaps, and he didn’t really demonstrate anything special. Queen isn’t particularly adept at splitting linemen, and didn’t really even attempt to turn his hips and shoulders to do so. He did demonstrate some ability to simply run over linemen, but he was usually to late to the quarterback to really affect the throw.
In confined spaces, Queen usually had an aim point at the runner’s waist and often did good job of wrapping and getting his shoulder into the runner. Queen did sometimes get lax with the wrap up, but it’s nothing egregious. In the open field, Queen often did not accelerate through his tackle and often broke down and let the ball carrier come to him. In doing so, Queen would let his feet die and became susceptible to quick changes of direction by the ball carrier, juke moves, and stiff arms.
While Queen has good acceleration and adequate play diagnostics after the snap, he struggles shedding at the second level and his lack of pre-snap diagnostics limits his big play potential. Queen will likely enter the league as a slightly below average run defender, with the potential to become a great run defender. In order to reach that potential however, he’ll need to get much better at shedding linemen; I believe there is significant risk that he won’t greatly improve this skill (see Oren Burks) and he’ll likely cap out as a slightly above average run defender who depends on quality line play in front of him.
Queen is very good in pass defense and I believe he’ll enter the league as an above average pass defender with the potential to become excellent. He doesn’t provide much as a pass rusher.
Overall, I would grade Queen as an early third or perhaps late-second round pick. Queen is a popular pick to go above Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray at the moment, but I think he lacks big stop skills and can’t play adequately independently from line play, two traits I believe are necessary in a first round pick. Perhaps I’m undervaluing what Queen brings as a pass defender, but after watching the Packers’ linebacking corps get blown up in the NFC Championship Game I really believe that high end run defense skills independent of line play are necessary to justify a first day selection on a linebacker.