Ladies and gentlemen, it's draft time.
The NFL draft is the most exciting day in football, as teams make or break their futures with just a few decisions. No team is more active on draft day than the Patriots are, and they need another solid draft to remain in the Super Bowl hunt.
Most fans are already in NFL-draft mode, but all the Patriots fans out there are finally joining us.
As your welcoming gift, here's a full seven-round New England Patriots mock draft.
New England's defense was its Achilles' heel all season. Vince Wilfork is obviously a star defensive lineman, but the other starters are all replaceable. We don't yet know whether the Patriots will run a 4-3 or 3-4 defense in 2012, and Devon Still fits either scheme.
At 6'5", 310 pounds, Still is a great complement to Wilfork in a 4-3 defense. Still is a fantastic athlete with some pass-rushing ability.
Though Still would fit in a 4-3 defense, he is best suited for the 3-4, which New England may be moving back to. Still's length is perfect for the five-technique position, and he is both athletic and powerful enough to hang there.
A cornerback like Stephon Gilmore would be a terrific fit here as well.
Dan Koppen was injured for most of 2011 and is a free agent this offseason. His future in New England is hazy at best, as the Patriots are not afraid to move on from an aging player, no matter how good he may be.
Peter Konz is a 6'4", 315-pound center with the ability to play guard. Konz is a powerful player with good run-blocking ability, and he would add some additional meanness to an already-mean offensive line.
Few underclassmen centers are talented enough to enter the draft, but Konz obviously is. The Wisconsin product is smart and, though he has had some injury issues, consistent.
Once again, a cornerback would make sense here, and the Patriots could use more help at pass-rusher.
New England spent much of the 2011 season with a wide receiver—Julian Edelman—playing cornerback. Rookie Ras-I Dowling can't be trusted to remain healthy, and Devin McCourty's play took a huge drop this year.
The Patriots run almost exclusively zone coverage, and, coincidentally, Chase Minnifield is exclusively a zone cornerback. Minnifield is capable of hauling in some interceptions, and he could step in immediately for New England.
New England's tight ends and Wes Welker are its only real offensive weapons outside of Tom Brady. Welker is great at working underneath, but he isn't a deep threat, and the Patriots need someone to stretch the field.
Rueben Randle, a 6'4", 208-pounder from LSU, is exactly that guy. Randle isn't insanely fast, but he is fast enough to run downfield, and his size gives him a huge advantage. Though he does need some work, Randle could develop into a star.
As I already noted, New England's secondary is bad. Cornerback remains the team's biggest issue in the secondary, but they need help at safety, too.
Trumaine Johnson, a college cornerback, is a potential steal in the third round. The 6'3", 197-pounder is an excellent athlete with good size, and he can match up in the slot or drop back in zone.
Even after drafting Rueben Randle, the Patriots could still use some help at wide receiver. That's not to say wideout is the team's biggest need, but B.J. Cunningham is a steal at this point.
At 6'2", 215 pounds, Cunningham is a big, physical player with excellent yard-after-the-catch ability. Cunningham isn't an explosive talent like Randle is, but he has the ability to develop into a starting-caliber wide receiver.
The Patriots love versatility, and Markus Zusevics can play four offensive line positions. The 6'5", 300-pounder needs some work—as does any seventh-round pick—but he is athletic enough to play right, and possibly even left tackle.
Though he isn't especially bulky, Zusevics plays with a mean streak and is excellent in the open field. He needs to bulk up, and his technique needs some work, but there is a lot to like about Zusevics's upside.