One of the best annual resources for those following the NFL draft is Pro Football Weekly's "value chart", which slots each prospect in the range of where they are projected to be selected.
Nolan Nawrocki, who produces the chart, posted this year's on Friday.
A few thoughts based on the chart, from a Patriots perspective:
1. The big gap on the safety board stands out. After Mark Barron and Harrison Smith in the first round, there are no safeties viewed as second-rounders. So depending on how committed the team is to adding a safety, if there isn't an early hit at the position, it might not come until the third round. The depth of the safety class seems to come in the middle rounds, which has been a consistent theme among draft analysts over the past few months.
2. Offensive line looks like a spot with potential good value based on the positioning of the Patriots' picks.
3. Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones, who has been linked to the Patriots by several analysts of late, is rated in the late first-round range. That is right in the wheelhouse of where the Patriots are scheduled to pick (27th and 31st).
4. Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus (16 sacks in 2011) is seen as a second-rounder. Should that be the case, he could be an intriguing option for the Patriots late in the first round if they are looking for pass-rush help.
5. Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is viewed as a late first-rounder. He has good size for a cornerback, and given Bill Belichick's strong connection to Alabama and past history of loading up in the defensive backfield (6 picks in the secondary over the first two rounds in the last 5 years), perhaps Kirkpatrick would be a consideration if available.
6. Boise State outside linebacker/defensive end Shea McClellin, who has been connected to the Patriots in recent mock drafts, is seen as a mid-third rounder.