Geneo Grissom was taken 97th overall by the Patriots. (Brett Deering/Getty Images)
When Oklahoma defensive end Geneo Grissom was taken in the third round of the NFL draft earlier this month by the Patriots, Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was maybe the least surprised guy on the planet.
“When I heard about the pick, it just kind of made sense, because he can do so much and he’s going to a team that asks their players to do a lot,” Stoops said of Grissom, who was taken 97th overall by the Patriots.
“I think that there wasn’t one thing or one game that really stood out. With Geneo, it’s a combination of things that he does that enthralls you — that’s what I ultimately think attracted the Patriots to him,” Stoops added. “Their defensive staff probably saw him rush and play well against Alabama and what he did in the Sugar Bowl as a four- and a three-technique against some of the best players in the country. They saw him stand up this past season. That’s really where his value is, and I know that’s what important to the Patriots, more so than most teams. Just the versatility that he brings.”
Over the course of his collegiate career, the 6-foot-3, 262-pounder didn’t put up overwhelming numbers. At Oklahoma, he played in 39 games with 11 starts, and finished with 88 tackles (55 solo) with 17 tackles for loss, eight sacks and a pair of picks. His finest season came as a junior in 2013, when he had 40 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and one interception.
Instead, as Stoops suggests, Grissom made his name with the Sooners as a versatile presence who can do plenty of things as an edge defender, including work with his hand on the ground as a defensive end or more of a stand-up presence. He played both defensive end and outside linebacker over the final two years of his career, and was named All-Big 12 honorable mention linebacker in his final year with the Sooners while he was making the transition from defensive end to linebacker. He played in 10 of 13 games with starts at linebacker in all 10 of those. (He missed three games because of injury.)
Any way you slice it — defensive end, outside linebacker, hand up, hand down — Grissom is best as a “five-technique outside edge guy, whether he’s standing or with one hand down,” according to Stoops.
Added Stoops: “I think when you look at New England, it’s a defense that offers multiple looks, and Geneo gives you a little bit of that, in that he can contribute at different positions. With us at Oklahoma, he played with his hand on the ground and standing up, and he did both real well.
“He can also drop into coverage, and help work against tight ends. I don’t even see him being an inside guy, but you never know — I mean, [New England] did some of that with [Jamie] Collins last year, moving him around a little. To me, Geneo had his best success outside, but at the same time, with the Patriots, you never know. Those guys can coach him up — Bill Belichick, I’m not telling him anything he doesn’t already know. Geneo can do a lot of different things, and I’m sure Coach Belichick has a lot in store for him.”
The scouting report from Stoops would certainly make him an intriguing prospect. Much of it depends on how he makes the adjustment come training camp, but at this point, it sounds like Grissom would be a part of the conversation when it comes to finding backups for either Chandler Jones and/or Rob Ninkovich. (It’s a colossal leap to put him in the same sentence as Ninkovich, but it’s hard not to look at the multiple skill set and the body type — Ninkovich is 6-foot-3 and 251 pounds, while Grissom is 6-foot-3, 262 pounds — and see some very general similarities.)
At the same time, there’s always the possibility he could also work occasionally on the other side of the ball. Belichick acknowledged Grissom’s work as a tight end at Oklahoma’s pro day. (He had a short stint at tight end as a sophomore before switching full-time to the defensive side of the ball.) Stoops said that while it might be too much to ask him to play both sides as a rookie — he’s going to have enough to worry about trying to get his head around the defensive playbook as a rookie — it’s certainly something to look for down the road.
“He can play tight end now in the NFL physically,” Stoops said of Grissom. “There’s no question that right now he could help the Patriots in goal-line situations as a third or fourth tight end, and he would be a valuable asset in that area.
“But to be successful in the NFL on one side of the ball takes a lot more training,” he added. “I think he could do it physically — there’s no question about that. But it might take away, at least early in his career, what he needs to focus on defensively. He could be really valuable to them on offense, but right now that’s a personnel decision they have to make with him and how much they want to put on his plate at the start of his career. But there’s no question with his ability.”
Ultimately, the arrival of Grissom gives the Patriots another defensive chess piece to consider. Stoops admits he’s a bit biased, but he says Grissom is “walking into a great situation” in New England.
“He’s a laid-back guy who really came into his own the last couple of years,” Stoops said. “He’s someone who matured and realized his talents, and that was really helpful for us. He can take coaching. At the next level, he’s going to be able to play the edge and set the edge for them, and do a good job with that.
“Geneo is just a really good person who wants to do well, and I believe his best football is in front of him.”