While answering questions on a marathon of a national conference call, we asked NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock to offer his take on the 29th pick in the draft and how the Patriots might approach it.
"I think when you're looking at the Patriots at 29, the defensive back thing, whether it's a corner or a safety to me I think has to continue to be worked on with New England," he said. "There's also some unpredictability about their wide receiver position, starting with Wes Welker, and moving right through their depth chart. Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, [Donte'] Stallworth, all those guys technically are unrestricted free agents."
Beyond addressing specific areas of need, Mayock mentioned Bill Belichick's tendency to draft for value.
"I think the way Bill operates is he's always looking for value," he said. "So at 29, where's my best value? You'd like it to matchup with a need obviously, and the needs would be wide receiver, d-back, maybe another edge-rusher. I think Bill goes into it with an open mind, 'OK, who's going to fall to me at 29? And do I trade out if I don't like what's there?' which is always a possibility, trade down. Or, 'can I get some value there?'"
Among defensive backs, Mayock specifically pointed to Florida State's Xavier Rhodes, who he considers a platoon prospect at both cornerback and safety.
"And when you're looking at corner, a guy like Xavier Rhodes, who's a corner and a safety, he's a 215-pound corner from Florida State, he right now has mostly second-round grades as a corner or a safety, depending on what he runs," he said of Rhodes.
As for receivers, Mayock noted Terrance Williams of Baylor.
"The wide receiver position, we talked earlier, who's going to be available at 29? The kid from Baylor, big, good-looking height, weight, speed guy, Terrance Williams," he said.
Ultimately, given the uncertainty of which players will be available at 29, Mayock said Belichick will rely on his formula for striking the balance between need and value.
"I think when you start getting down to the late first round, it's really hard projecting, but you know how Bill works," he continued. "It's going to be value, hopefully at a position of need. If not at a position of need and [then it will be] somebody [that] slides through that's just a great football player, then if not, then we've got to trade and get out."