New England Patriots: mock draft

Following up with mock thoughts

February, 7, 2013
Earlier this afternoon, we passed along the mock drafts from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, which presented an interesting debate on drafting for need versus value.

Kiper pegged hard-hitting safety Matt Elam out of Florida at pick 29, while McShay slotted Jonathan Cooper, a hulking guard from North Carolina.

To oversimplify the picks, it was a case of need (Elam) versus value (Cooper).

Elam is regarded as a potential first-rounder and would beef up a Patriots secondary that could undergo a facelift this offseason. He would serve as a nice complement to Devin McCourty, who settled into a free safety role last season. Given those considerations, he's a player that would fill a need.

Cooper, conversely, would have a tough competition to crack the starting lineup as a rookie, as the Patriots have their left guard in place in Logan Mankins and a solid starter at right guard in Dan Connolly (who was signed to a handsome contract last offseason). But at pick 29 (Kiper had Cooper all the way at number 11), would he be too good to pass up?

Looking back at the first-round picks made by the Patriots under Bill Belichick, history suggests the team has found players who filled needs while also meeting first-round value.

2001: Defensive lineman Richard Seymour

2002: Tight end Daniel Graham

2003: Defensive end Ty Warren
2004: Nose tackle Vince Wilfork, tight end Ben Watson
2005: Guard Logan Mankins
2006: Running back Laurence Maroney
2007: Safety Brandon Meriweather
2008: Linebacker Jerod Mayo
2010: Cornerback Devin McCourty
2011: Offensive tackle Nate Solder
2012: Defensive end Chandler Jones, linebacker Dont'a Hightower

Of those players listed above, many contributed on an immediate basis, while others evolved into starters by their second year (Solder and Wilfork were groomed by Matt Light and Keith Traylor, respectively).

Using that sample as a baseline, the Patriots have excelled at finding first-round talent that has fit their team needs.

As it relates to Cooper, this isn't to suggest he wouldn't be on the team's radar, as he's a talented player and both Connolly and Mankins are 30 years old, meaning he could develop into a starter down the line. But looking back at the trends of Belichick's draft history, it seems the team has favored finding players that fit needs and offer value, not taking a player only because of the latter.

Kiper, McShay offer mock draft 2.0

February, 7, 2013
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.

Both Kiper and McShay had the Patriots taking wide receivers in their first mock drafts, with Kiper liking DeAndre Hopkins out of Clemson and McShay choosing Tavon Austin out of West Virginia.

To see each of their mock drafts (Insider content), click HERE for Kiper and HERE for McShay.