New England Patriots Mock Draft: Best-Case Scenario 7-Round Predictions
The New England Patriots seem to keep everyone on their toes when it comes to April's NFL draft. With six picks in the first four rounds this year, several talented college players will call Foxboro home next season.
The team's top position needs include safety, defensive end, outside linebacker, cornerback, guard and center.
However, the Pattiots don't always draft based on roster needs, sometimes they opt for value. If their favorite prospect is no longer available at a certain spot, then coach Bill Belichick and company are very likely to trade out of the round. The patient draft style of New England makes almost every mock draft a shot in the dark.
Yet what if all New England's top choices were still waiting for their names to be called? Here is the Patriots' best-case scenario for the 2012 NFL draft.
Round 1, Pick 27: Michael Brockers, Defensive Lineman, LSU
Michael Brockers is an imposing figure at 6'6" and 322 pounds. The big man is a highly regarded prospect. In fact, CBS Sports has the LSU Tiger as the 10th best prospect in this year's draft.
With that said, his NFL Scouting Combine performance left much to be desired. Brockers ran just a 5.36 40-yard dash and benched only 19 reps. To put his strength in perspective, Ryan Baker, Brockers' 232-pound college teammate, benched 30 reps.
As a result of his disappointing numbers, Brocker's draft stock is falling. Fortunately, No. 90's loss is the Patriots' gain. Brockers could very well fall to the bottom of the first round and right into New England's lap.
In college, Brockers was a 4-3 defensive tackle. Yet, he is certainly capable of being a bookend defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. Since the Patriots waver between a 4-3 front and a 3-4 sub package, Brockers could be the star-studded defensive end that the organization has been longing for since the departure of Richard Seymour.
According to NESN's Jeff Howe, this redshirt sophomore would be an intriguing option for the Pats:
"Brockers has the positional versatility to play anywhere in a three-man front, so he'd fit into whatever scheme the Patriots run with in 2012, and because they've stocked up on defensive linemen, there wouldn't be any pressure for Brockers to step in right away as a rookie. The Patriots would have enough time to develop him."
In his only season as a starter for LSU, Brockers registered 47 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
With tons of upside, Michael Brockers would be a steal for the Patriots at No. 27.
Round 1, Pick 31: Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama
Alabama's Mark Barron is the top safety in the 2012 NFL draft.
In his senior season for the Crimson Tide, Barron amassed 67 total tackles, a sack and two interceptions.
At 6'2" and 218 pounds, the safety possesses the size to anchor an NFL secondary. However, a double hernia surgery left Barron unable to compete at the NFL Combine in February. With injuries a question, Barron could be waiting at the end of Round 1.
Healthy enough to compete at Alabama's Pro Day on March 29, ESPN reports indicate that Barron ran a respectable 4.54 40-time unofficially.
"I think it went pretty good," said Barron. "From all the feedback I got, people said I looked good. I'm OK with the performance I had today. I'm probably at about 80 or 90 percent."
Even though he's not 100 percent yet, Mark Barron could be the Patriots' answer at safety come Pick 31 of the first round. New England has taken chances on injured players in past drafts, Rob Gronkowski being one of them. If Barron falls, the Patriots could snag him.
After last season's hodgepodge safety position of James Ihedigbo, Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown, New England is searching for a long-term solution. Even though Steve Gregory was an early addition in free agency, the Pats could have their eyes set on a true difference-maker in Mark Barron.
Round 2, Pick 48: Vinny Curry, Defensive End / Outside Linebacker, Marshall
Marshall's Vinny Curry is a special pass rusher who will get many looks in the second round of the 2012 draft.
The 6'3", 266-pound defensive end could also fit into the outside linebacker position. A position in which the Patriots must bolster.
The three-year starter didn't exactly wow scouts at the NFL Combine after he ran a 4.98 in the 40-yard dash. However, he proved his doubters wrong when he ran 40 times at his Marshall Pro Day of 4.64 and 4.69.
As a junior in 2011, Curry brought down ball carriers for 94 total tackles. If it's one thing the Patriots would benefit from on the outside, it would be a tackling machine, which Curry is. At some time in this draft, New England will draft a linebacker, Curry makes perfect sense in Round 2.
Curry can do it all. He is athletic, can shed blockers and has an innate ability to force fumbles.
There's no such thing as an NFL team not having enough pass rushers. With the loss of Mark Anderson and uncertain future of Andre Carter, the Patriots could call on the Thundering Herd's Curry at Pick 48.
Round 2, Pick 62: Brian Quick, Wide Receiver, Appalachian State
Brian Quick dominated Division I-AA, and put himself on the map at the NFL Combine. Quick showed scouts that he's a sure-handed receiver with loads of potential. With a 40-yard dash of 4.55, and a 34-inch vertical jump, the Appalachian State star could be a deep threat at the next level.
The knock on Quick is that he hasn't been playing football for very long. But the former basketball player can beat out his defender on jump balls and separate at the line of scrimmage. In his senior season, Quick had 71 grabs for 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Quick's inexperience may keep Bill Belichick at a distance after coping with the woes of project player Taylor Price, but the Patriots cannot go out of their way to avoid talent.
At 6'4" and 220 pounds, Quick fits the mold of a prototypical No. 1 receiver in the NFL. He would also have time to blossom with talent ahead of him on the depth chart.
In the end, Quick could become a matchup nightmare in the pros. Therefore, the Patriots must take a hard look at this Mountaineer at the end of Round 2.
New England may have recently fixed their wide receiving core with the acquisitions of Brandon Lloyd and Donte' Stallworth, but they do not have a young talent like Quick.
With no wide receiver-of-the-future under contract with the Patriots, Brian Quick would be a nice choice at Pick 62.
Round 3, Pick 93: Chase Minnifield, Cornerback, Virginia
Chase Minnifield is an unheralded cornerback who could slide right into New England's secondary and play alongside fellow Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling.
The Patriots' defensive backs got beat deep time and time again last season. Look for the front office to change that misfortune through the draft.
In Minnifield's 2011 campaign, he tied for seventh in the nation with six interceptions. His success in forcing turnovers is largely due to his proficiency in both zone and man coverages.
He's a gritty player who is not afraid to press the receiver at the line of scrimmage and is a sure tackler as far as cornerbacks are considered.
To make matters more interesting, the senior defensive back has a great bloodline. His father was a four-time Pro Bowler at corner for the Cleveland Browns in the late 1980s.
The Cavalier was unable to run at the NFL Combine due to swelling in his knee. The injury left his stock flailing. Once thought to be a possible late first-rounder, now Minnifield could be waiting until the third round.
Gil Brandt of NFL.com reported that Minnifield ran a 4.63 and a 4.68 40-time at Virginia's Pro Day. The DB attributed the slow times to a tight hamstring.
Health may be an issue, but the skill is there. New England could find a gem in the third round with Minnifield.
Joining Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington and the emerging Sterling Moore, Minnifield could smooth over the Patriots' youthful cornerback group if available at pick 93.
Round 4, Pick 126: David Molk, Center, Michigan
David Molk ascended his draft positioning after out-benching all other offensive lineman at the NFL Combine.
Michigan's four-year starter won the 2011 Rimington Trophy as the nation's best center. With experience on the Wolverine's side, Molk could be on the Patriots radar in the fourth round.
With the center position relatively unsettled, Molk could be a bargain in the middle rounds of the draft. With a great deal of help needed on defense, the Patriots may not want to invest a first-round pick on Wisconsin's Peter Konz.
That is where Molk comes into the picture. At 6'1" and 298 pounds, he has solid size and his strength is unquestioned. Therefore, New England could very well find their future starting center at Pick 126 in the fourth round.