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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Patriots

By Mike Reiss

The Patriots will get bigger along the defensive line and at running back if things unfold the way ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper projects in his fourth mock draft. But are they the right picks?

To start, the choices hit two areas in which the Patriots could use more of a long-term boost, first at defensive tackle and then in the offensive backfield.

The defensive tackle spot is well stocked in the short term from a personnel standpoint with Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Armond Armstead, Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga and Joe Vellano, so the need doesn't seem as pressing right now. Thus, any pick at the position would be made as much with 2015 upside in mind more so than the present snapshot, sort of like the Patriots did in 2004 with Wilfork as a first-rounder.

As for running back, the Patriots return three of their top four players from last season in Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden. But here's the key: All enter the final year of their contracts.

Kiper's mock is posted on Insider today, and he slots Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman to the Patriots at No. 29 and then Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde at No. 62.

Hageman was profiled earlier this week by Tom Pelissero of USA Today, and there is plenty to like from a physical traits standpoint. The Patriots work out hundreds of prospects before the draft, and Hageman was one of them, as Pelissero notes.

In Kiper's scenario, I think the Patriots would lean more toward one of the Notre Dame defensive linemen, Stephon Tuitt or Louis Nix III, over Hageman.

As for the running back spot, this would be similar to when the Patriots selected Vereen in the second round (2011) and then followed up with Ridley in the third round that same year. While some say teams are placing less value on the position, the Vereen and Ridley picks indicate otherwise in New England. Hyde would be a power back to help fill the void created by LeGarrette Blount's free-agent departure to Pittsburgh.

In Kiper's scenario, a choice between Hyde and tight end Troy Niklas could be a tough one for the Patriots. Niklas, who would fill a need that could be viewed as both short- and long-term in nature, probably wouldn't last to the latter parts of the third round when the team picked again. At the same time, Hyde just might represent too much value to pass him up at that point.