In his most recent mock draft, ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr. has expanded his selections through the third round, providing a comprehensive breakdown of how he projects each team will use its day one and two picks.
As it relates to the Patriots, Kiper cites wide receiver, cornerback, defensive end and an interior offensive lineman as the team's top needs, and finds solutions to three of those needs with their first three picks.
In the first round, Kiper has the Patriots taking cornerback Jamar Taylor out of Boise State, followed by wide receiver Markus Wheaton from Oregon State in the second round and center Travis Frederick of Wisconsin with pick 91, which was recently retained when the Steelers matched the offer for Emmanuel Sanders.
Wheaton is among the players that have taken a pre-draft visit to the Patriots, while Taylor has become a popular name in mock drafts for the team in the back end of the first round (the Patriots have privately worked him out, as they do for many prospects). The team has its starter at center in Ryan Wendell, who enjoyed a strong 2012 campaign; however, he enters the final year of his current contract in 2013. Frederick would represent a "thinking ahead" selection, something the Patriots have successfully acquired in the past.
More from Kiper relating to the Taylor selection:
"I'm not sure fans are too excited about Taylor, but he's been a recent riser, hits one of my top two needs and the board didn't break in my favor. If you see the pick-by-pick, both the top two wide receivers are gone, and Xavier Rhodes was taken by Denver just one pick ahead."