Precisely 11 weeks from today the 2013 NFL draft will commence, and ESPN's draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have unveiled their second mock drafts of the "season."
There's an interesting contrast between their picks, as Kiper slots the Patriots to take safety Matt Elam out of Florida, a player that other draft gurus have suggested would be a good fit as well. The key for Elam, says Kiper, is his versatility, something he believes head coach Bill Belichick would covet. While not a big safety, Elam isn't afraid of contact either. He was named a first-team All American this past season when he had four interceptions and two sacks, and is the younger brother of Chiefs safety Abe Elam.
And while Kiper's pick is rooted in need, McShay's choice for the Patriots is a true value selection. McShay has the Patriots taking North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper, who he considers an "absolute steal" at pick 29 with the potential to become an "elite interior lineman." He also notes recent injuries to guard Logan Mankins that increase the need for insurance at the position. At 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, Cooper has very good size for the position, and was a noted pass protector in college.
The discussion of need versus value is always an interesting one during the draft, as there's a fine balance between filling holes in your roster while not bypassing superior talent when it is available.