NEPD Editor: James Christensen
A trade. How else would you expect a 2012 Patriots NFL Mock Draft to start? However, unlike most years, I have the Patriots moving up instead of moving down. What prospect could make Coach Belichick change his pattern?
See my full 7-round mock draft after the jump.
1st Round (13 – via Arizona) - Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State (Scouting Report)
The Patriots ship their 27th and 31st picks in exchange for the 13th pick from the Arizona Cardinals. The Patriots also received a 5th round selection. The Cardinals have a lot more than just one hole to fill and their should be some offensive line help available at the end of the first round.
Unlike the Cardinals, the Patriots need talent more than depth on the defensive side of the ball. Adding a player of Cox’ caliber would help on all levels of the defense. It is doubtful that Cox would make it past the Cowboys, Eagles and Jets at 14-16, so the Patriots will have to move up if they want to draft him. Even then, Cox may not make it out of the top ten.
Cox figures to be a defensive tackle when the Patriots are playing 4-3 or in sub packages. He can slice through defenders and make plays in the backfield. When the Patriots are in a 30 front, he has the frame to play a 2-gap DE position. However, that might not be the best use of his skills. The Patriots ran a lot of 1-gap / 2-gap splits last year and I think Cox is a more natural fit on the 1-gapping side.
Many people that watch Cox say that he is “raw”, which is certainly true. Cox, who declared as a true junior, can clean up and improve a lot of his technique. However, Cox was incredibly productive (14.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 56 tackles) despite his “rawness” – unlike other projects such as Michael Brockers and Dontari Poe.
Other possible trade-up targets could be Courtney Upshaw, Quinton Coples or a top receiver.
2nd Round (48) - Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech (Scouting Report)
Trading up in the first round essentially ends any possibility of landing the top safety in the 2012 NFL Draft – Alabama’s Mark Barron. After Barron, I don’t feel that any safety is worth a 2nd round pick, although Trumaine Johnson, Harrison Smith and George Iloka all earned 3rd round grades.
The cornerback position, however, is completely loaded. A top prospect like Hosley could fall all the way to the middle of the 2nd round, where in other years he could have easily been a 1st round selection.
Hosley is an absolute ball-hawk, sniffing out routes and breaking on the ball earlier than some receivers. Adding Hosley as a cornerback would give the Patriots a lot depth at the outside cornerback position, allowing guys like Kyle Arrington and Sterling Moore to see time in sub-packages. Devin McCourty would also be freed up to play some safety when needed.
Josh Robinson, Casey Hayward and Chase Minnifield are other corners that might fit the “Bill” at this point in the draft.