- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.