2012 NFL Draft: Defensive Players Who Will Improve Weak Patriots' Squad
It is no secret that the Patriots will be looking to upgrade on defense this offseason.
After a disappointing performance on that side of the ball last season, the Pats will look both to improve through free agency and develop talent via the draft.
The Patriots have two first-round and two second-round selections in the upcoming draft, but whether they keep them or not is anyone's best guess.
No matter what the Patriots do through free agency, they will still need some young talent in the draft to build for the future.
Here are some players that would look good in a Patriots' uniform.
Mark Barron, Safety
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The Patriots' safety position was a revolving door in 2011.
After letting James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather go, the Patriots used many different players to try to fill the void including cornerback Devin McCourty.
Needless to say, safety is a position of need for New England in 2012.
Enter Mark Barron.
Barron was an outstanding safety for the National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide and is best known for his hard hitting, size and football IQ.
Barron would help form a formidable tandem with Patrick Chung, also known for his physical presence. Both players would be young and offer New England stability at that position for years to come.
Vinny Curry, Defensive End
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Vinny Curry doesn't wow on film. He doesn't have plays that make you shake your head in disbelief. But he is exactly the type of player that Bill Belichick loves.
"I admire him. He’s a lunch-pail guy that works his tail off. He’s got some talent but he’s not supremely gifted. And he gets the most out of what he is. He’s got some natural pass rush ability and some toughness. And when you combine those things, you can be a really productive, good NFL player."
The Patriots have two outside lineman who were productive for them a season ago in Andre Carter and Mark Anderson.
Assuming that one of them leaves, the Patriots again have a big need at defensive end.
Curry would be someone that Belichick could mold into a solid, productive pro with double-digit season sack potential.
He would also be a home-grown pass rusher, something the Patriots haven't had since Willie McGinest.
Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback
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Janoris Jenkins was once regarded as a very high draft prospect.
This would be a big upgrade for the Patriots.
New England had to resort to playing Julian Edelman in the secondary down the stretch of the 2011 season, so young talent certainly couldn't hurt.
If Jenkins can stay out of trouble, he and a fully healthy Ras-I Dowling would give the Patriots a nice trio of young cornerbacks that includes Devin McCourty.
Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker
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It is natural to assume that Bill Belichick would love any player coming from Alabama. He and Nick Saban are good friends after all.
That being said, Belichick might want to talk to Saban about outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw.
Upshaw has a fantastic football IQ, which is high on BB's list of things he looks for in a player. Upshaw comes from a 3-4 system under Saban and has the ability to plug right in to the lineup from day one with the Pats.
The Patriots would then feature three young, smart and talented linebackers: Upshaw, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes.
Now there is a linebacking corps that would have Patriot fans excited.
Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
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Since we've already addressed possible options at defensive end and outside linebacker, why not talk about one who can play both?
Whitney Mercilus out of Illinois has the athleticism and smarts to play both defensive end and outside linebacker, making him perfect for Bill Belichick's complicated scheme.
And boy does Belichick love versatile players.
Mercilus is fast and rushes the quarterback as quick as anybody. He also is strong against the run, but struggles against bigger blockers.
Patriots' fans have been clamoring for a speed rusher off the edge and Mercilus could be the answer to their prayers if he fine-tunes his game and makes use of his athleticism.