2012 NFL Draft: 15 Potential Patriots (Defense)

4) Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Hightower is the second and last Alabama player that will be on this list. Hightower, like Barron, is someone who has a great deal of big game experience and has performed at a high level in the SEC. Hightower called a lot of the plays for the Crimson Tide and is widely regarded as a smart and instinctive LB.

What makes Hightower attractive to the Patriots, a team who already has two young ILBs, is his versatility. Hightower will be able to play all four LB spots in the 3-4. Rob Ninkovich has developed into a nice player at one OLB spot, but the other is still very much unsettled. The team needs a player who can set the edge in the run game and also pressure the QB. Hightower is a very good blitzer and plays an aggressive, physical style.

Adding another LB like Hightower would not only solidify another LB spot, but it would make both Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo better. Hightower is projected to go late in the first round, right around the area of the Patriots two picks, so he is a player that’s definitely going to be in play when they are on the clock.

5) Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The Patriots love to pick CBs high in the draft and with the secondary playing so poorly this year, one has to think they will be looking at the position again in the first two rounds.

Stephon Gilmore is a player who fits the Patriots prototype on almost every level. He is a bigger CB standing 6’0 1/2″. We have seen the Patriots start to target bigger CBs the past two seasons. Out of all the CBs at the combine, Gilmore had the best overall performance. He posted a 4.40 forty time, a 6.61 3 Cone Drill and a 3.94 short shuttle drill. We know from studying trends that those three drills are valued very highly by the Patriots and a CB has to prove that they can run fast and change direction to be drafted by the team. Those numbers are all exceptional, so based on that alone he fits the prototype.

When you watch Gilmore on film, you see a CB who plays mostly zone coverages. He makes tremendous breaks on the ball and has very good anticipatory skills. Gilmore also has very good ball skills recording 8 interceptions and 17 pass defenses throughout his career. Gilmore is also a very solid tackler and can deliver big hits. When you add up all the variables, Gilmore out of all the DBs in the draft, might be the best fit for the Patriots.

6) Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
Mercilus is yet another DE/OLB hybrid that the Patriots will have to at least look at when it’s their time to pick. Mercilus is a player who only started for one year at the University of Illinois, but erupted onto the scene leading the nation in sacks with 16.0 and second in the nation with 22.5 TFL.

There is some question as to whether Mercilus is a “one year wonder” and if he can carry over this pass rush potential over to the NFL. While Mercilus is one of the best pass rushers in the draft, he needs to get better in the run game. It remains to be seen what type of player he could be playing on his feet and in space, but with his combine numbers and game film, he is a candidate for the move.

The Patriots sent their Head Scout Jon Robinson to his Pro Day to watch him go through LB drills. While Mercilus may not be the typical Patriots pick, he is someone that they have to consider towards the end of round one.

7) Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
Hosley is another CB that fits the Patriots prototype. One of the best ball-hawks in the entire draft, Hosley makes a big play on the ball in just about every game I’ve seen.

While he is a bit undersized at 5’10” 178 pounds he makes up for it with his quick change of direction, high vertical leap and long wingspan. Hosley has primarily played in zone coverages, but in my opinion he has enough ability to play in man to man schemes as well. While he might not be able to gain much more than 5-7 pounds, he can get stronger and plays more physical than his size would suggest.

Virginia Tech has produced a number of good NFL CBs and Hosley is likely the next in line. He doubles as a kick and punt returner which makes him even more attractive to the Patriots, as they need return men as well. Right now Hosley is projected to go in the second round. Taking Hosley at pick #48 would be great value and I would predict it would pay immediate dividends.

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12 Responses to “2012 NFL Draft: 15 Potential Patriots (Defense)”

  1. baba says:

    KEEP DREAMING !! BELICHICK will do the same , as usual , and select nobody you and “gurus ” selected ! Result – very average players, inexpensive and play to stay that way ! No hope , no glory ! And , what most important – no more SB , so keep drinking your Cool- Aide !!

  2. Tom says:

    This is a nice review of a lot of the usual suspects, but what about someone like LaVonte David from Nebraska? He is an OLB in a 4-3 system, probably projected for the 2nd round, a little small at 6’0″, but he has a lot of speed/quickness and is a fairly heady player. Had a great game against Ohio State, helping to keep Nebraska in the game. Do LBs from a 4-3 not transition well to a 3-4?

  3. Eric says:

    According to Bucky Brooks…”Most teams see Perry as a 4-3 defensive end; he’s not comfortable being a 3-4 outside linebacker”. If this is true, do you think the Patriots are going to use the 27th pick on someone like this?

    • MJP says:

      I hope so, I don’t care if he pretends to be a 3-4 OLB while standing up and just rushes the passer and plays the run, I don’t care if he drops into coverage twice a year, he’s got talent and upside as a pass-rusher and is just putting it all together.

  4. MJP says:

    I would replace Mercilus with Branch though neither is a 1st-Rounder from what I’ve seen. I give Branch the nod because he is much better against the run and his athleticism is a much better fit in the 3-4. Branch looks really raw but he does look explosive when he stands up. He really needs work on his pass-rush skills since he’s all speed rush and he doesn’t bring the violent, strong hands as a pass-rusher like he does vs. the run. Good upside with Branch though.

    I really don’t know how Mercilus recorded all those sacks, of the 5-6 games I found on him he was stonewalled most of the time, he is strong and on occasion will get a bull-rush going but very rarely. He plays tall and stiff so bending the edge is not his strongest asset. He has no secondary moves that are successful and I’m willing to be a very large majority of his sacks came on broken plays or coverage sacks. I will give him credit for his motor which is the only reason he seems to win because it’s not from pass-rushing skill. I think he’s serviceable vs. the run when he wants to be but he’s not as disciplined as Branch in that area. I wouldn’t put Mercilus in a 3-4, I saw 3 occasions where he was blatantly off-sides and still couldn’t beat the OL…not a legit first step and way too stiff to stand up.

    Please add Brandon Taylor to this list as well as Casey Hayward and Devon Wylie. Very valuable players that should be available from 48 on.

  5. Jeff says:

    My wish list in the draft right now is:
    #27 – Brockers
    #31 – Hightower/Gilmore/Barron Depending on who’s left
    #48 – Harrison Smith/Trumaine Johnson
    #63 – Crick

    The more I’ve looked at the WR and CB, crop I think that 3rd-5th round is where you can really hit on some guys, so I won’t be surprised if BB tries to pick up some later picks to grab some of the talent at those positions for a little cheaper.

    • MJP says:

      If Brockers weren’t 6’5” 322lbs with 35” arms would he be a 1st round pick? Nope, doesn’t show up on tape enough. I’ll take Reyes or Malik Jackson in the 2nd-3rd round though. Jackson gave the best 2 teams in college football all they could handle and that’s playing out of position as a DT (should be a DE, especially if he can bulk up another 15lbs to be the 5-tech in the 3-4)

  6. Billy C says:

    I’m a big fan of going D-lineman early in the draft. Entering the offseason and under contract the Pats only have “Big Vince” as a sure fire contributor (others on the line are very average with low ceiling potential). I know it’s not a sexy pick but in the second round I’d look real hard at drafting Chapman (the big nose tackle from Alabama). I understand he’s a nose tackle in the mold of Wilfork, but with BB moving Vince around so much Chapman could play the 3 or 5 technique in whatever Bill decides to run.

    • Billy C says:

      I forgot to mention that Chapman would be limited to interior lineman in either front that Bill uses. There is no way he plays the outside, as his mobility is somewhat limited.

  7. Jeff says:

    No Upshaw…is that because the odds are he will not be on the board?

  8. The Hooded 1 says:

    Brandon Boykin needs to be on this list. Plays defense, offense and special teams. Wouldn’t be shocked if was one of our second round picks.

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