What the Patriots Picked Up at the End of the 2015 NFL Draft

Meet Mississippi State’s Matt Wells and Alabama’s Xzavier Dickson. Roll tide. By Rob Dixon

In the 2015 NFL draft, the Patriots picked up four players from the vaunted SEC West—two from Arkansas and one each from Mississippi State and Alabama. Here’s a rundown on Matt Wells from Mississippi State and Xzavier Dickson from Alabama, both of whom are versatile, hybrid defenders.

A running back in high school, Wells played linebacker for the Bulldogs, though a bit undersized at 6’2″ 220. He was a two-year starter and a major part of the best Mississippi State team in recent memory in 2014, recording 45 tackles (8.5 for loss). Lots of SEC teams run the ball from the spread formation to get fast players in space, and Wells’ speed enabled him to make a lot of stops that less quick linebackers wouldn’t have made. And when teams passed out of the spread, Wells might have been at his most effective, because his speed and versatility enabled him to cover slot receivers, tight ends, and backs. That same speed and athleticism was on display at Mississippi State pro-day, where he impressed with a 4.35 40-yard dash, a 35-inch vertical leap, and a 9’10” broad jump. He gives Belichick options, and in the world of faster and faster tight ends, Wells may be an asset in nickel and dime coverages. He might also find playing time on special teams, where speed, agility, and toughness are a must.

Alabama’s Xzavier Dickson, whose parents clearly loved Scrabble, is also versatile, though he’s more of a hybrid DE/LB than LB/Safety. He was listed as an OLB at ’Bama, though he frequently lined up on the D-line. ’Bama’s always loaded and deep, so X-Dicks didn’t play much until his senior season and, even then, he rotated in and out a lot. ’Bama’s frequent ability to substitute makes his 42 tackles—eight of them sacks—particularly impressive. He also led ’Bama in tackles for loss, with 12.5. He’s probably not fast enough to play in pass coverage, so he’ll hope to find playing time for the Pats on the D-line and in running situations, with instruction to get after the quarterback and hold his ground on running plays. He’s a beast who frequently ran right over SEC linemen to get after the quarterback. I’m surprised he didn’t go sooner in the draft, given his ability to rush the passer. Projections had him going in the fifth round, so getting him in the seventh is a win for the Pats.

All in all, the versatility of Wells and X-Dicks makes them both good picks for the Pats, because if anybody can put versatile guys in the right position to make plays, it’s Belichick.


Rob Dixon is the singer/guitarist in Boston rock vets Quintaine Americana, a professor of English at the University of South Alabama, and a lifelong Mississippi State homer.