NEPD Editor: James Christensen
After an excellent win against the Denver Broncos, Patriots fans are antsy for some more football action. Hopefully, our second crack at a Patriots Mock Draft will satiate you a few minutes.
Despite their 14-3 run so far in 2011-2012, the Patriots have a lot of definable needs on both offense and defense, but will Bill Belichick find players that can fit his seemingly stringent guidelines and still present value?
27th Pick (Via New Orleans)
Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama (Scouting Report)
I hope they never do, but the rest of the NFL will eventually catch on that trading with the Patriots for future 1st rounders is not a great decision. Perhaps this year Bill Belichick won’t be able to find a cherry of a deal and will make two selections in the first round.
Dont’a Hightower will be near the top of the list to be selected if he isn’t able to keep the “free 2nd-rounder annuity” going.
Linebackers with a diverse skill-set never get old. Hightower has the skills to play nearly every linebacker position in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. He can even put his hand in the dirt and get after the quarterback in sub-packages.
With Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes holding down the inside positions, Hightower could rush the passer and set the edge from the OLB positions, while providing depth inside as well.
He isn’t incredibly fast, but his sudden physicality will make some plays for the Patriots defense – a unit that thrives on creating turnovers.
If a wide-receiver like Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor) is still available, the Patriots could look in that direction. However, I think that New England will be pursuing Josh McDaniels’ favorite receiver from his time in St. Louis — Brandon Lloyd.
Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississipi State (Scouting Report)
After addressing the linebacking corps, upgrading the defensive end position might be next on the list. Brandon Deaderick, Ron Brace, and Gerard Warren have been decent, but nothing special. Shaun Ellis is almost certainly on his way out.
The Patriots have missed a truly dynamic 3-4 DE since Richard Seymour was traded to the Raiders. Fletcher Cox has the potential to be that sort of player.
His size (6’4″, 295) and ability to command a double team are key factors when evaluating potential 3-4 DE’s. He can get a bit overaggressive at times, which will need to be scaled back if the Patriots stick with their 2-gap 3-4 system.
Rushing inside from the 4-3 DT position is another thing that Cox brings to the table. Superb athleticism, a quick first step, and explosive power make him tough to handle one-on-one.
There are a strong set of defensive backs and interior offensive linemen that could still be available at this pick if the Patriots would chose to go that route. Mark Barron (S, Alabama), Chase Minnifield (CB, Virginia), and Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin) could all be available.
Click on page two for the 2nd round.