The "mock draft" season is still a few months away, but ESPN's Todd McShay is already hard at work. He's produced an "early mock" for the 2012 draft (link here, Insider content) and he targets two defenders in the first round for the Patriots.
The Patriots own the Saints' first-round pick, as well as their own selection, and McShay slots them at No. 29 and No. 31, respectively.
"The order represents the current inverted NFL standings, with the league's strength-of-schedule tiebreaker determining the order for teams with the same record (teams with the lower opponent winning percentage get the worse pick)," McShay writes.
At No. 29, McShay gives the Patriots Melvin Ingram, a defensive end from South Carolina.
"Ingram's versatility makes him a perfect fit for the Patriots," McShay writes. "He can play end or outside linebacker and also has experience rushing the passer from the inside. As a senior, Ingram emerged as a big-time playmaker (8.5 sacks, 13.5 TFL, 2 INT)."
At No. 31, the pick is Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks.
"Banks is flying under the radar and could very well return to school, but he has the size and fluidity to help a New England pass defense that ranks dead last in the NFL (297 ypg) and has had trouble finding long-term secondary help in the draft," McShay writes.