New England Patriots: Mock thoughts

Mock thoughts: Impact of Revis trade

April, 23, 2013
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The recent trade of Darrelle Revis to the Buccaneers makes the Jets one of the more compelling teams to watch at the top of the draft, which kicks off in just two days.

Along those lines, the trade also speaks to the fact that just one move can cause a trickle-down effect that not only impacts the two teams involved, but also the rest of the draft board.

As a testament to such, both Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay, ESPN's NFL draft experts, have each released an updated version of their first round mock drafts following the Revis trade, and in the case of Kiper, the Patriots pick for number 29 has changed.

Rather than taking Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor at pick 29, Kiper now has the Patriots slated to draft talented wide receiver Justin Hunter out of Tennessee. Hunter was among the most impressive receivers at the combine, checking in at 6-4, 196 pounds and running an electric 4.44 40.

Receiver is clearly among the team's top needs, and Hunter has the size and speed to stress a defense vertically.

The latest update from Kiper also stands as a testament to how difficult it is to project how the board will play out in front of the Patriots, as director of player personnel Nick Caserio alluded to on Monday. Draft prognosticators work hard to accurately project each pick, but the inevitably of draft day trades make it difficult for anyone to forecast how the events will unfold.

To see Kiper's latest projection (Insider content), click HERE.

In addition to the draft experts, ESPN.com's team of NFL bloggers is participating in a Twitter-based mock draft, for which James Walker, who runs the AFC East blog, is handling the duties of making the Patriots' selection.

After attempting to make a trade back in the order to acquire more picks (the Patriots have just five as of now, of course), Walker selected former USC wide receiver Robert Woods. Woods is regarded as a strong route runner and stands at 6-0, 201 pounds and ran a 4.51 forty at the combine.

To watch the blogger mock draft continue to unfold, click HERE.

Mock thoughts: Pats have options

March, 26, 2013
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The NFL draft is just one month away, and with the initial wave of free agency behind us, we have a better feel for the Patriots' remaining needs.

On Monday, we suggested that the Patriots' top remaining needs this offseason are at cornerback and wide receiver. The draft experts at CBSSports.com seem to see it the same way.

Each CBSSports.com draft expert released an updated first-round projection on Monday, and two have the Patriots looking cornerback, and two have them looking wide receiver.

Both Rob Rang and Dane Brugler have Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant as the pick at No. 29, which would help round out the Patriots' depth at the position. With Alfonzo Dennard facing potential jail time, the Patriots could be down a starter to begin the season. Though Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole have each been re-signed this offseason, Trufant would add playmaking ability to the secondary.

Meanwhile, Pat Kirwan and Pete Prisco have the Patriots looking at wide receivers, with Kirwan slotting Cordarelle Patterson of Tennessee and Prisco projecting Robert Woods of USC to the Patriots. Patterson is considered by many to have the highest upside of any receiver in this draft, and some believe he could land in the top 10 picks. Woods would give the Patriots a wideout to play on the perimeter, something Brandon Lloyd provided for the team last season.

To see the projections in their entirety, CLICK HERE.

Mock thoughts: On Hunt for talent

February, 15, 2013
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In his latest mock draft, former NFL scout Russ Lande presents a different scenario for the Patriots than has been the norm with most others. Instead of a defensive back or receiver, Lande focuses on the front seven.

His choice: SMU defensive end Margus Hunt.

Writes Lande, "While Hunt is no doubt raw, his rare combination of great height, long arms, good playing strength and hip snap/explosiveness make him too enticing for Coach Belichick to pass up. At the Senior Bowl it was clear that Hunt could easily add 20-plus pounds and at close to 300 pounds with his height and arm length he would be an ideal versatile defensive end in the Patriots defense."

One theme that has come through loud and clear this week is how the 2013 NFL Draft is loaded at defensive tackle. This type of selection ties into that line of thinking.

To read Lande's mock draft, on the National Football Post website, CLICK HERE.

Mock thoughts: corner or safety?

February, 6, 2013
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As we continue to become familiar with some of the top prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft, using mock drafts as a tool to do so sparks some different scenarios.

Peter Schrager's mock draft 3.0, on FoxSports.com, presents a cornerback vs. safety scenario for the Patriots.

Schrager, like SI.com's Don Banks, ESPN.com's Todd McShay and USA Today's Tony Pauline, slots Florida safety Matt Elam to the Patriots with the 29th overall pick. Right after that selection, Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes, goes to the Falcons at No. 30.

This sparks the following question: If you're the Patriots, and the decision is safety vs. cornerback, which position is the better choice?

As noted by Schrager, one notable thing Rhodes has going for him is NFL-type size. He's listed 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds. If you liked the way the Seahawks played defense with bigger corners Richard Sherman (6-3, 195) and Brandon Browner (6-4, 221), a player like Rhodes might be on your radar.

Naturally, part of this ties to what happens in free agency with cornerback Aqib Talib. If he doesn't return to New England, the Patriots' need for a cornerback becomes greater. In addition, if the Patriots have long-term plans to leave Devin McCourty at safety (the opinion here is that is his best position), it would be a signficant factor tilting things to the cornerback spot.

Also, given that the Patriots selected safety Tavon Wilson in the second round last season, would that be a factor in them possibly shying away from it in the first round this year?

These are some pertinent questions to ask/consider, and Schrager's mock draft (read here) provides a springboard to do so.

Mock thoughts: Another vote for Elam

February, 4, 2013
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Later this month, we'll be at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and that's when preparations for the draft will shift into a higher gear in this space. But that hasn't stopped others from getting a head start with mock drafts, such as Tony Pauline of USA Today.

Pauline's first mock draft is now posted, and it is passed along here in the spirit of using it as a tool to become more familiar with prospects and needs of other teams.

At No. 29, Pauline could envision a scenario where the Patriots select Florida safety Matt Elam.

"Safety has been a sore spot for the Patriots, and deep center field continues to be an issue," Pauline writes. "Elam's range and pass-coverage skills are the perfect remedy."

Elam is listed at 5-foot-10 and 202 pounds, which is a bit on the smaller side in the eyes of some, but his toughness, playmaking skills and sure tackling have him as one of the draft's highly-touted prospects. He was also the pick for the Patriots in Don Banks' initial mock draft on SI.com.

To read Pauline's full mock draft, CLICK HERE.

Mock thoughts: Offense or defense?

January, 30, 2013
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After the Patriots led the NFL in scoring during the 2012 season, some might not agree with the idea that they need to look to the offensive side of the ball with their top pick in the forthcoming NFL draft.

But with a potentially depleted receiving corps entering next season (Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and Deion Branch are among the team's free agents at the position), there could be a need to upgrade at wide receiver this offseason.

Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com has released his latest mock draft, which has the Patriots taking wide receiver Tavon Austin out of West Virginia, the same player ESPN's Todd McShay pegged for the Patriots in his initial mock draft.

While not big in stature (5-9, 174), Austin had off-the-charts production last season, finishing with more than 1,900 yards of total offense, including 114 catches and 72 rushes in West Virginia's high octane offense.

Brugler's colleague, Rob Rang, posted his own latest mock, and has defense in mind for the Patriots.

Rang slotted Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro for the Patriots at pick 29, and he would presumably be a complement to Devin McCourty (should he stay at safety going forward). At 6-foot-1 and 218 pounds, Vaccaro has good size for the position, and had four games with 10 or more tackles last season to go along with a pair of interceptions.

To see both mocks in their entirety, CLICK HERE.

Mock thoughts: Another edge-setter?

January, 29, 2013
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As we dip our toe into the "mock draft" season, it is a reminder of how this is a good opportunity to learn more about prospects while considering various possibilities.

Along those lines, a mock draft from Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com brings up an outside-the-box possibility for the Patriots: One year after selecting Chandler Jones with its top pick, would the team take another player at the same position?

Jeremiah explores that thought by tabbing Florida State defensive end Cornellius Carradine to the Patriots at No. 29.

At 6-foot-5 and 264 pounds, Carradine has Patriots-type size for an end-of-the-line player in the team's system. But as colleague Field Yates noted in his defensive end positional review on Tuesday morning, it's a position in which the Patriots are deep.

Carradine comes with some medical questions, as noted by this scouting report on NFL.com: "As a senior, Carradine was thrust into first string duties opposite Bjoern Werner after Brandon Jenkins was sidelined with a foot injury. He then went on to start 12 games, registering 80 total tackles, including 13 tackles for loss, 11 of which were sacks. Against Florida, however, Carradine tore his ACL and will miss a large portion of the pre-draft process because of it, including the Senior Bowl."

To read Jeremiah's mock draft, CLICK HERE.

Mock thoughts: Elam at safety

January, 25, 2013
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Don Banks of Sports Illustrated acknowledges that it's early to put together a mock draft.


"A mock draft in January is the ultimate example of the can't-wait-for-it mindset that prevails in today's world," he writes as a lead-in to his first mock draft. " Never mind that this year's draft class just became finalized days ago, or that NFL teams are still very early in the process of immersing themselves in scouting, at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala."

Banks, as usual, is right. But from this perspective, there is value in going through such an exercise because it starts the process of becoming familiar with some of this year's top prospects. It is a process that will extend over the next three months.

Along those lines, Banks pairs the Patriots up with Florida safety Matt Elam at the 29th overall pick.

"As the playoff loss to the Ravens proved, the Patriots still have their seemingly never-ending issues in the secondary," Banks writes. "Elam is a solid value in the latter stages of the first round, and his nose for the football would upgrade New England at safety, where the Pats tend to take a makeshift approach at times. And, of course, Bill Belichick loves him some Florida Gators."

For those focuing on the safety position, Banks' mock first round has a similar look to last year when there were two safeties with first-round grades -- Mark Barron and Harrison Smith.

In addition to Elam, the other safety in Banks' mock draft is Texas' Kenny Vaccaro.

Quick-hit thoughts from Pats inactives

October, 21, 2012
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts from the Patriots' inactive players today:

Might be time to shut Mankins down for a few weeks. With left guard Logan Mankins (hip/calf) unable to go, you almost wonder if it would be smart to shut him down next week in London as well. With the bye after the trip to London, that would give him two-plus weeks to rest injuries that are making it hard for him to play on Sundays. Five-year veteran Donald Thomas did a nice job replacing Mankins in a 52-28 win over the Bills on Sept. 30, and he is likely to get the call again today.

Questions at safety. With both starting safeties out -- Patrick Chung (shoulder) and Steve Gregory (hip) -- it will be interesting to see what the Patriots come up with at a position that has hurt them this season. Rookies Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner are next up on the depth chart, and they were the pairing on the field on the Seahawks' game-winning 46-yard touchdown pass last week. Would the Patriots really turn to two rookies? Sterling Moore, a cornerback who played safety at times last year (making his debut against the Jets), could be a possibility there. So could cornerback Devin McCourty, which would require a shuffling on the cornerback depth chart with Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington the likely top options.

Return of Dont'a Hightower. Rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower is back after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury. The team's starting strongside linebacker, he's strong against the run. In a game that the Patriots figure to be in their base defense often against the ground-and-pound Jets, Hightower's presence is a positive. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich moved back to linebacker last week, but this frees him up to return to end, where he could split some time with Jermaine Cunningham.

Back to seven offensive linemen. After dressing eight offensive linemen last week, the Patriots are back to their standard seven for this game with Nick McDonald the top interior backup and Marcus Cannon the backup tackle. The Patriots probably went with extra depth last week with the uncertainty of Mankins' ability to make it through the game.

Four tight ends in the mix. The Patriots are going heavy with four tight ends, which could be a tipoff to a game plan that relies heavily on the position. No. 4 tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion) was inactive last week.

Edelman also returns from injury. Receiver Julian Edelman is back after injuring his hand Sept. 23 against the Ravens. Will be interesting to see how the receiver reps are split with Wes Welker, who has been on a tear.

McShay goes the full 7 in mock

April, 25, 2012
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For his final mock draft, Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. produces a full seven-round mock draft.

His picks for the Patriots:

27. OLB Shea McClellin (Boise State)
31. S Harrison Smith (Notre Dame)
48. DL Kendall Reyes (UConn)
62. CB Casey Hayward (Vanderbilt)
93. G James Brown (Troy)
126. RB Edwin Baker (Michigan State)

To read the mock draft (Insider content), CLICK HERE.

ANALYSIS: McClellin has been compared to Mike Vrabel and could be a big boost for the pass rush, while Smith projects as a Day 1 starter at safety and on special teams. Looks like a solid first round. One of the questions with Reyes is if he can be a true two-gapper, which the Patriots have generally preferred, but he has some pass-rush burst. He could still fit. The rest of the picks fill areas that could use depth.

Cosell's unique mock draft

April, 23, 2012
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Greg Cosell of NFL Films puts together his first mock draft, and it's one of the most unique around. Cosell explains how he made his selections:
"I will choose players based on my film study and my sense of team needs. I have no idea what different teams draft boards look like, nor will I try to speculate what a team might be thinking. The main objective of my mock is to further discuss the top players by putting them in a draft format. One other caveat: I am disregarding documented off-field problems, character issues, anything that is not a function of on-field play. I understand that teams significantly factor that into the equation, but I am solely basing my player evaluations on what’s on the tape. That’s what I do. I watch tape."

Cosell gives the Patriots outside linebacker/defensive end Shea McClellin (Boise State) at No. 27 and defensive lineman Michael Brockers (LSU) at No. 31.

On McClellin: "He showed the ability to get low and bend the edge as a pass rusher. He also had an instinctive feel as an inside rusher for getting skinny, and getting through small cracks. He shed blocks and made plays in the run game. He was a smooth change of direction athlete with excellent balance and body control. My sense is he will get better in the NFL with a chance to be a dynamic edge pass rusher. He’s not as purely explosive as Clay Matthews, but I see some similarities as McClellin matures and develops."

On Brockers: "Brockers is a development player with great size, long arms and natural power. When he stayed low and played with leverage he could be dominating. He also flashed quick and violent hands. Are there similarities down the road to Richard Seymour, clearly a better player coming out of college than Brockers? Will Brockers have the explosive strength and leverage to win the battle for the neutral zone? Will he establish a new line of scrimmage? The key for Bill Belichick is how impactful that kind of player is for other defenders. I can see Belichick looking at Brockers and seeing a raw, less refined Seymour; a piece of fresh clay that he can mold."

To read the mock draft, CLICK HERE.

In doing so, one comes away with an appreciation for Cosell's detail and film study.

Mock thoughts: Weeden factor

April, 21, 2012
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Sports Illustrated's Peter King offers up his 2012 mock draft, and he adds the wrinkle of trades. Not surprisingly, the Patriots are involved in one of them.

On the clock at No. 27 in King's scenario, the Patriots ship their choice to the Browns, who select quarterback Brandon Weeden.
"Cleveland sends a third-rounder to New England to move up 10 spots, from 37 to 27, and prevent the other Weeden fans -- Chiefs, Eagles, Bills, Niners -- from grabbing him," King writes. "I know he'll be 29 in October, but if you think a player can be a good starting quarterback in the league for eight years, and several teams do, he's worth a lot more than the 27th pick."

At No. 31, King slots Southern Cal defensive end Nick Perry to the Patriots.
"After losing Mark Anderson in free agency and without knowing whether soon-to-be 33-year-old Andre Carter will be back -- those two combined for 20 of the Pats' 40 sacks in 2011 -- New England needs an edge rusher. Perry's my best guess," King writes.

To read the mock, CLICK HERE.

ANALYSIS: The trades are always fun to consider, and the swap King proposes is a Patriots-type deal that we've seen in past years. In this case, the question would be "Is it worth moving from 27 to 37 just for a 2012 third-rounder?" The thought here is that the Patriots wouldn't like that deal, instead preferring to let the Browns keep the 37 in place of their 2013 first-rounder. If Cleveland bites on that (similar to the 49ers in 2007 for Joe Staley, giving up their 2008 first-rounder and 2007 fourth-rounder to New England) it's a slam dunk from this view. In that case, the Patriots would have No. 31, their two second-rounders, two third-rounders and a fourth-rounder in this year's draft, while adding the 2013 first-rounder to what they already have in '13 -- a 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7 (the 5 and 6 were traded).

Mock thoughts: Jones & McClellin

April, 20, 2012
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Don Banks of SI.com produces his mock draft 6.0, and it has a defensive flavor for the Patriots. He envisions a scenario where Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones is the pick at No. 27, followed by Boise State outside linebacker Shea McClellin at No. 31.
"The Patriots are always a willing trade-down partner, so anyone getting itchy to move up and take Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden should have Bill Belichick's number handy," Banks writes of the Jones selection. "But for the moment, I'm giving New England a pass-rushing prospect who can help fill the void created by Mark Anderson's departure and Andre Carter's injury."

In selecting McClellin at No. 31, the Patriots add another piece in the front seven.
"Again, the Patriots could easily trade out of this slot, but if not, getting a versatile player who can plug into their defensive front seven is a solid selection," he writes. "If the Patriots don't go defensive end at No. 27, USC DE Nick Perry is a great value at No. 31."

To read the mock, CLICK HERE.

ANALYSIS: Both players look like good fits for the Patriots, although it might be a case where the Patriots go with a one-or-the-other scenario because they project to a similar position in the scheme. Banks notes this twice with the possibility of a trade. The Patriots have shown plenty of interest in Jones in the pre-draft process.

Patriots & 'multi-option' mock

April, 12, 2012
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ESPN Scouts Inc draft analyst Todd McShay delivers his annual "multi-option" mock draft, where he looks at each NFL team and breaks down the various scenarios for them in the first round.

McShay winds up slotting USC defensive end Nick Perry to the Patriots at No. 27, and then Michigan State defensive lineman Jerel Worthy at No. 31.

McShay presents five different scenarios for New England:

1. Pass-rusher a top priority (tied to slow development of Jermaine Cunningham).

2. Bolstering the defensive line with a bigger body.

3. Thinking of the future along the offensive line.

4. Solidify the safety spot.

5. Trade down to add extra picks.

To read the mock draft, CLICK HERE (Insider content).

A different type of mock draft

April, 11, 2012
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Pro Football Weekly draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki produces a different type of mock draft, which he calls a "fit-based."

"Throw out popular convention and probabilities. The key to nailing the draft is understanding fits, properly identifying needs and understanding the depth of the talent pool via the draft, free agency and the trade market," Nawrocki writes.

"In the latest mock draft, PFW concentrated on assigning prospects to teams based on three factors — one, the best schematic and divisionaly competitive fit; two, the strongest area of need; and three, the available talent pool in the draft."

For the Patriots, Nawrocki envisions a scenario where Illinois defensive end/outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus is the pick at No. 27, and safety Harrison Smith gets the nod at No. 31.

Nawrocki on Mercilus: "Ron Zook clearly excelled recruiting elite pass-rushing talent at Florida and Illinois, and Mercilus falls in a similar class as Zook's two former first-round standouts, Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey, from a physical standpoint. Much like the two early-entry first-round picks, Mercilus has raw positional instincts, but he showed improvement as the season progressed and has the speed and length to mold and potentially make the Patriots' defensive front more multiple."

Nawrocki on Smith: "Bill Belichick could be comforted by knowing every detail about Harrison Smith dating back to the recruiting process, where his former coordinator Charlie Weis lured him to school. In a draft class very short on safeties, Smith could stand to benefit and be selected in the first round, where the Patriots seldom miss and do not shy from reaching for high-floor talent."

To read the mock draft, CLICK HERE.

ANALYSIS: Mercilus passed the eye test at the combine (looked like a Rosevelt Colvin, from this view). One of the interesting aspects of him as a prospect is that he falls in to the "one-year production" category in the sense that he had one big season. The Patriots usually like to see a bit more, but there have been examples where they've still taken the plunge (e.g. WR Chad Jackson in 2006). Smith was the pick at No. 31 in the ESPNBoston mock draft Tuesday.

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