With the end of the regular season upon us, it is time to release my first Patriots mock draft of the season. Feel free to chime in with your own version or praise/critique mine in the comments section.
1st Round – Pick 30 (via New Orleans)
Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall (Scouting Report)
It is no secret that in today’s NFL it is very helpful to have a strong pass-rush to help combat the high-flying aerial offenses that are taking hold at the top of the standings. While the likes of Andre Carter and Mark Anderson, both free-agent additions in 2011, certainly helped the Patriots put pressure on the QB, they can hardly be considered long-term solutions.
Curry brings a sudden athleticism to the edge that would fit in both an odd (3-4 OLB) and even (4-3 sub-DE) front. At 6’3″ and 260 pounds, Curry has the size to contribute against the run, although he is certainly much better suited against the pass.
He is not going to be an Aldon Smith sort of player, but has the ability to total double-digit sacks at the next level.
1st Round – Pick 31
Mark Barron, S, Alabama (Scouting Report)
It would certainly be considered an upset around the Boston area if Coach Belichick used both of his first-round picks this year. However, a team that is perhaps only a few players away from being truly special might get Belichick to change his ways.
As Mike Loyko pointed out in his draft needs assessment, safety is a clear area of need for the Patriots, and one that should be upgradable – even with a less than stellar draft class.
Mark Barron is a classic strong safety – strong against the run and able to make some big plays. You’ll see a little of Brandon Meriweather in him if you watch his tape, but I think Barron will respond much better to Belichick than Meriweather did.
Barron would certainly add some depth to the safety position, even if he isn’t a guy that can play both FS and SS. Chung and Barron could be a formidable pair to deal with in the proper scheme.
If the Patriots front office isn’t in love with a 1st-round safety, I wouldn’t be surprised for them to target another offensive tackle – shoring up the future behind the aging Matt Light and the suddenly injury-prone Sebastian Vollmer. Kenny Vaccaro from Texas is a guy we absolutely love as an NFL safety, but he has yet to declare.
2nd Round – Pick 51(via Oakland)
Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State (Scouting Report)
The injury-plagued 2011 season has shown that you can’t have too many quality cornerbacks on your roster. If Ras-I Dowling, Devin McCourty, and Kyle Arrington all return to health and form in 2012, cornerback is certainly less of a concern than it is now.
That said, a fourth cornerback could still see plenty of playing time in dime packages, or if any of the three incumbent DB’s get injured again.
Leonard Johnson would provide the Patriots with a corner that can play man, zone, and support the run. Johnson’s name isn’t on the radar of many NFL fans out there, but watch for a lot of hype after the Senior Bowl, where we think he will be a top performer.
Top wide receiver Justin Blackmon had this to say to me after the OSU/ISU game – “[Johnson] was the most physical corner I’ve played this season.” He certainly held his own against Blackmon, as well as shutting down fellow Top 100 receiver Marvin McNutt.
2nd Round – Pick 63
The Eagles and Patriots have seemingly made a draft-day trade every year since 1970 – why would 2012 be any different. If a linebacker that Philadelphia covets is still on the board, look for Andy Reid to make a move to fill a huge need.
Dropping only a handful of spots and picking up a 5th round pick in the process would be a good deal for New England.