- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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The NFL playoffs are down to the final four teams, which includes the New England Patriots. But it's never too early to begin predicting what will happen in April's NFL draft.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. produced his first mock draft of 2013.
Let's take a look at how he sees the draft going for the AFC East.
No. 8: Buffalo Bills
Kiper’s pick: Manti Te'o, MLB, Notre Dame
Analysis: This selection seemed like a good fit until recently. For starters, I didn't like what I saw from Te’o in the national championship game facing elite competition. Alabama exposed some holes in Te’o's game that could show up more consistently at the NFL level. Second, Buffalo’s hire of Mike Pettine means the Bills will run a lot of 3-4 defense. That means Te’o must have the size and athleticism to attack or get around 300-pound NFL guards on a consistent basis. Alabama’s guards consistently punished Te’o. He brings a lot to the table such as physicality, character and leadership. But Buffalo may be better served getting a linebacker with elite athleticism or filling another position.
No. 9: New York Jets
Kiper’s pick: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Analysis: I disagree with Kiper on this pick. Yes, Jets head coach Rex Ryan loves his defense. However, New York spent back-to-back first-round picks on its front seven by taking Muhammad Wilkerson (2011) and Quinton Coples (2012). Adding Mingo in the first round would seem like overkill when the Jets have plenty of needs, such as quarterback, receiver, tight end and safety. I think the Jets should draft offense for once and start focusing on scoring more points. New York can no longer try to win games 17-14.
No. 12: Miami Dolphins
Kiper’s pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Analysis: It’s hard to gauge who is the best receiver in this draft and whether that player will be worth a top-12 pick. However, Kiper pegs Patterson as the first receiver off the board going to the Dolphins. It’s early and player stocks change. But as of right now, I’m not convinced Patterson, Keenan Allen or any receiver in this year’s draft should go in the first dozen picks. This feels a bit like a reach. However, Miami needs receivers to help develop rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
No. 31: New England Patriots
Kiper’s pick: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Analysis: Wide receiver is a sleeper need for the Patriots. They score so many points that you sometimes forget depth is an issue and Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker is about to become an unrestricted free agent. New England needs to add youth and athleticism to this group and Hopkins can provide it. His numbers were off the charts. Hopkins caught 82 receptions for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns. New England has the luxury of taking the best available player, but adding an athletic receiver is not a bad choice.