Four-star defensive end Natrez Patrick from Mays High School in Atlanta became the eighth prospect to commit to the University of Georgia for the class of 2015 in May. A physical marvel, Patrick’s production heavily relies on his superior athletic ability and size. Far from a refined prospect, Patrick still needs to work on using his hands better on the pass rush and shoring up his defensive fundamentals in order to become a playmaker at the collegiate level.
Strengths: The strongest aspects of Patrick’s game stem from his unique combination of elite size and schematic flexibility. Measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 248 pounds as a rising high school senior, Patrick already possesses the physical stature of some professional pass rushers; the Denver Broncos’ two-time All-Pro linebacker and former first-round pick Von Miller measures in at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds. But it isn’t merely size which separates Patrick from many of his high school counterparts. Patrick is an explosive athlete who has in his arsenal a dominant outside move in the pass rush, meaning he often capitalizes on his explosiveness to evade blockers and get to the quarterback. As a result of this, Patrick is untouched on a large portion of the sacks he records. That being said, Patrick isn’t one to shy away from contact and has shown on a few occasions that he can make an inside move and tackle a ball carrier in the backfield. Patrick has adequate ball skills, is able to swat passes and kicks in the air and has been seen to make some catches as an offensive player as well. But perhaps the most important phase of Patrick’s game is his versatility. With his measurables where they are, Patrick is capable of playing as both a stand-up pass rusher in a 3-4 defense or put his hand in the dirt as a defensive end in a 4-3 defense.
Weaknesses: As can be said of many elite high school athletes, many of Patrick’s weaknesses stem from his reliance on his strengths. As a result of his superior gifts, Patrick gets away with not being the most fundamentally sound pass rusher or run stopper in the world. Against the pass, Patrick needs to learn how to use his hands and leverage his weight to his advantage. At the next level, offensive tackles are more athletic and cannot simply be run for a loop. Rather, Patrick will need to rely more on technique and less on ability. Furthermore, Patrick’s feet are sometimes jumpy when he rushes the passer. While high school offensive linemen as a group are not skilled enough to take advantage of this, college offensive tackles, especially those in the Southeastern Conference, will use this to knock Patrick off balance and sometimes to the ground. Against the run, Patrick is a work in progress as well. Not a true wrap-up tackler yet, Patrick is more likely to make a flashy hit than safely counter a back’s forward momentum. Tackling without his hands and often with his shoulders, Patrick is not only a risk to miss tackles, but a risk for injury with this poor form. And though Patrick is a better tackler in the open field, he still heavily relies on taking out the feet of ball carriers, a strategy which will not be as successful of a tactic in the college ranks.
Bottom Line: Patrick is exactly what a college coach would want out of a four-star defender. In many ways, he is in a college football coach’s mind nothing but pure potential energy, a chunk of clay ready to be sculpted into an exceptional defender. Though he’s yet to show refined skills consistent of a college pass rusher, he has shown flashes of excellence and his size and explosion leave a lot of room for improvement. In defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s multiple defense that fuses 3-4 and 4-3 principles together, Patrick is a perfect fit, as he can line up either in a three-point stance as a defensive end or stand up and play outside linebacker. More likely to play defensive end at his speed – Patrick was clocked at 5.02 seconds on the 40-yard dash – Patrick shares similar size to where Georgia’s senior defensive end Ray Drew was coming out of high school in Thomasville, Ga. If he can refine his skills into fundamental technique, Patrick is capable of being a productive pass rusher and run stopper for the Bulldogs. As he plays now, however, Patrick projects as a third-and-long pass rush specialist, a rather high ceiling for a worst-case scenario.