What we learned about the 2012 NFL Draft from listening to Pro Football Weekly draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki on his media conference call Wednesday, as it relates to the Patriots:
1. Based solely on tape evaluation, Nawrocki sees Illinois defensive end/outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus as a reach for teams in the mid- first round range. He could be there for teams like the Patriots late in the first round.
2. Georgia center Ben Jones is viewed as ordinary as an athlete when looking at tape, but given his toughness, competitiveness and smarts – combined with the lack of centers in the draft – it could push him up the board to as high as the second and third rounds. The Patriots have two second-round picks and if they’re thinking center, Jones is one of the few candidates at that point in the draft.
3. Michigan State defensive lineman Jerel Worthy has scheme versatility. He could fit in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses and projects to the late first-round area, where the Patriots have their two picks. “I think he would be best in a movement type scheme, playing in gaps and penetrating,” Nawrocki said, adding that the big concern is his inconsistent effort.
4. LSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers, a third-year sophomore, is one of the youngest players in this year’s draft. Nawrocki relayed that some teams had questions about his maturity in interviews, with Kentwan Balmer (first round, 2008) as a comparison. Nawrocki could still envision him as a top-15 or top-20 pick.
5. At receiver, Nawrocki sees a clear divide between the top two (Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd) and the rest of the pack. He envisions Blackmon and Floyd off the board before teams like the Patriots pick.
6. Baylor receiver Kendall Wright totaled just four reps on the 225-pound bench press at his Pro Day, raising concerns. “I know there are teams that have him sitting in the second and even third round after that workout,” he said.
7. On receivers in general, “You can find them anywhere in this draft, so I don’t know if [a team at the end of the first round] needs to reach for one that early.”
8. Nawrocki grades Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill as more of a third-rounder based on the tape. His combine workout, though, has him rising in the eyes of some. “Not a sophisticated route-runner. It’s going to take him some time to learn,” he said.
9. Nawrocki called Andrew Luck the most polished quarterback to come out of the draft in his time evaluating prospects. While Luck and Robert Griffin III are expected to go 1 and 2, Nawrocki sees a gap between them.
10. Oregon's LaMichael James is the most instinctive running back in this year's draft in his view. The big concerns with James is durability and off-field questions.