NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
A mere 16 days away from the beginning of the 2012 NFL Draft. I make yet another attempt at predicting the Patriots picks. It’s always a difficult job trying to figure out what Bill Belichick and the Patriots will do, so this time I take a different approach.
Here is my latest attempt at how I think the Patriots 2012 NFL draft could shape up.
1st Round (27) - Nick Perry, DE, USC
Using the best player available approach, the Patriots take Nick Perry at #27. I think the Patriots are going to focus heavily on the defensive line and the linebacker positions early on in the draft. When you look at the roster those are the two thinnest positions remaining after free agency.
With Nick Perry the Patriots would be getting an edge rusher that can play with his hand in the dirt, but can also stand up and provide some edge rush. He is 6’3″ 271 lbs., he fits that type of Willie McGinest “Elephant” role. Perry is big enough that he can play the run and shouldn’t be a liability on 1st and 2nd down.
This is a pick the Patriots might not have made a few years ago, but with the offense locked and loaded, I believe Bill Belichick is going to get Tom Brady help on the defensive side of the ball. I could envision the Patriots taking a player like Brockers here, but I believe there will be a run on DT from pick #17 on.
1st Round (31) - Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
It seems every year the Patriots are projected to take 50 different players and they always seem to pick a player that no one projects them to take. I believe Worthy is a player that could interest the Patriots. First of all, I just can’t see the Patriots selecting a DT in the first round who is under 300 pounds.
I love Kendall Reyes, but I agree with something PFW’s Nolan Nawrocki said this week about him. He thinks Reyes will and should shed 10-15 pounds to get back down to 285 where he was much more dominate as a junior, that would take him off the Patriots radar at least as a first round pick.
Worthy is 6’3 310 pounds and has an explosive first step. He can anticipate the snap count and fire off the ball better than any DT in this year’s draft. I truly believe the Patriots are going to try to get more athletic with their defensive front this season. With these first two selections they take a page out of the Giants playbook, by loading up on explosive DL that can get to the QB. Worthy has some question marks, but also has incredible potential.
He is a natural 4-3 DT, but I believe Bill Belichick will find ways to get creative with him. I have not heard his name connected to the Patriots at all this year, so I am throwing it out there.
2nd Round (48) - Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State
Wagner’s name was first mentioned in connection with the Patriots by SI.com Tony Pauline and upon thinking about it I think it makes complete and total sense. If we take a look at the Patriots free agent moves this off-season, they have targeted specific roles to be upgraded instead of specific positions. One of the weaknesses of this team last year and the year before that is the role of coverage linebackers.
Besides Jerod Mayo, the linebacker position as a whole is not very athletic. Brandon Spikes is a downhill linebacker and a physical specimen, but he’s not very agile. Ninkovich has improved each season, to the point where he is a legitimate NFL OLB, but he has his limitations.
I think we will see the Patriots try to get more athletic at the linebacker position through the draft and that’s why I think the pick of Bobby Wagner makes sense. He is one of the best all around LB in the draft. He is fast, agile, can drop into coverage well, he can blitz, can play both OLB and ILB equally and he is a special teams demon. While his measurable might not match up with the traditional Patriot linebacker, it’s all about getting more athletic on the front seven. Wagner is going to be a stud either way, but it would be nice to have an athletic coverage linebacker like him on the Patriots.