2012 NFL Draft: Should the New England Patriots Trade Up on Draft Day?

Drew BonifantAnalyst IIMarch 24, 2012

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Aaron Murray #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs is hit by Melvin Ingram #6 and another defender of the South Carolina Gamecocks at Sanford Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If your head is still spinning from the New England Patriots' busy free agent spree, don't expect a break anytime soon.

History tells us that the wheeling and dealing in Foxboro doesn't stop as the focus shifts to draft day. If anything, it gets more frantic.

A little more than a month remains until the draft, where the Patriots are typically one of the more active teams in the NFL. New England trades its draft picks like a Yankee Swap, moving up and down and in and out of rounds, leaving fans and analysts wondering who the team will pick—and where.

Usually, such moves push the Patriots down in the draft order. The Patriots are fans of the 2-for-1 deal. They like value, value and more value. Why draft in the first round when you can draft twice in the second and third? Why draft in the first round this year if you can draft twice in the first round next year?

This year, however, the team has plenty of team depth, cap space and a few clear needs. Should this be the year the Patriots move up?

The Patriots have two first-rounders and two second-rounders. They can do anything they want and move anywhere they want.

Well, almost anywhere. The No. 1 and No. 2 picks are out. Given what the Colts and Redskins, respectively, went through to get in those spots, it's hard to think they'd be excited about moving anywhere.

But the Patriots could do something similar to the Julio Jones trade. Last year, the Falcons gave up the 27th overall pick, a 2011 second-rounder and fourth-rounder and their 2012 first and fourth-round picks for the No. 6 overall pick. The Patriots have the draft picks to move into the top 10 this year, maybe even the top five.

Such a trade would be an absolute shock, but the Patriots can go almost anywhere they want in the first round. Whether they should, however, is an entirely different question.

The Patriots' top need going into the draft is a pass-rusher. It's their glaring weakness, one made more apparent by the departure of Mark Anderson and the up-in-the-air status of Andre Carter, who apparently is nowhere near healthy enough to warrant attention from suitors.

The pass-rushing talent is available, and there are plenty of big names that the Patriots would have to move up to get. According to Matt Miller's mock draft, Nick Perry, Michael Brockers, Melvin Ingram and Quinton Coples, all players with excellent, game-breaking potential, are the rushers expected to go in the top 20, if not in the top 10.

The Patriots have been hesitant to move up in the draft during the Bill Belichick era. New England has preferred to draft where it's slotted, which would mean taking whatever rushers are available at No. 27 and No. 31. Miller's draft has outside linebackers Vinny Curry and Whitney Mercilus available near the end of the first round, so the Patriots could still find their pass-rushing menace without trading up.

Though the pass-rushing talent is deep this year, the Patriots have to be open to the idea of moving up. The transition to a passing-dominated league has placed a premium on players able to disrupt aerial attacks. If teams are grabbing pass-rushers and targets are disappearing off the board, the Patriots have to be willing to take the chance and jump into the frenzy.

New England has to come away with an answer to its pass-rushing woes during the first round on April 26. If that means paying a price to move up, one the Patriots have avoided in recent years, they'll have to pay.