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Still can anchor the Patriots' three-man front for years to come.
Best Case: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Let's be realistic here. The chances of Bill Belichick using a top pick on a pass-rusher are slim.
Why? Projecting a college defensive end as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the Patriots scheme—reading and reacting, setting the edge, dropping into pass coverage and rushing the passer—makes for a tough evaluation.
The Patriots tend to look for safe bets in the first round of the draft, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Belichick trade out of the spot if there are questions about the remaining talent on the board.
Despite the signing of Jonathan Fanene, the defensive line remains a top priority. Veterans Shaun Ellis and Gerard Warren not expected to return, and following the release of Mike Wright, the Patriots need big bodies that can cover three- and four-man fronts.
Looking at the draft tracker over at Patriots.com, Still is a popular mock selection for New England, with some analysts pegging him as a mid-first round pick. National Football Post's Wes Bunting has him going 20th overall to the Titans.
His strength equips him to collapse the pocket, and he'll attract double teams as a five-technique in base defenses. While not an accomplished pass-rusher, Still will develop his effectiveness on third down over time.
The worst-case pro comparison would be Ty Warren. Not a bad use of the 31st pick in the draft, though it may take a run on another position—say, wide receiver—for Still to be available here.
Worst Case: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Barron is comfortably the best safety in the 2012 draft class, but I have a hard time seeing him as the solution at safety in New England.
Put simply, Barron is an elite run-stuffer. There are very few prospects who can wrap the arms and drive through the ball-carrier like the Alabama safety.
On the downside, he possesses only average speed, and while Barron's instincts compensate for this to some extent, he struggles when the field is spread in sub-packages.
A free safety with the speed to compliment Patrick Chung is the biggest need in the Patriots' secondary, regardless of the recent signing of Steve Gregory.
Barron is a student of the game and a disciplined player—he couldn't be more different from Brandon Meriweather in that regard—but he won't improve New England's pass defense on third down.