New England Patriots Mailbag: Safety in Harrison Smith?

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New England Patriots Mailbag: Safety in Harrison Smith?
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Thaddaeus Wharton asks: If the Patriots draft Harrison Smith, the safety out of Notre Dame, do you think he'd be able to start right away? rates him pretty well, and it looks like a cover safety is a big need. Or is McCourty the best bet there? Is the team possibly done making additions at safety?

Smith is an intriguing name to watch come draft day, because he seems to be crawling into first-round contention. At one point, he was thought to be a second-rounder, but that appears more and more unlikely.

If he's on the board when the Patriots pick, it might be too difficult to pass on him. 

New England has shown a tendency to start its first few picks over the last few years. That's likely an indication that the team is selecting players at the position out of need.

Nate Solder started 13 games last year. Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty and a few others all started sizable chunks as rookies in 2010 as well. Go back yet another year, and you've got Sebastian Vollmer and Pat Chung in 2009, and Jerod Mayo came out of the 2008 draft. 

With this franchise's struggles last season in the defensive backfield, it would be an upset if an addition is not made at the position.

Yeremiah Bell is reportedly drawing interest from the Patriots, and while he's getting up there in age, he could provide a a steady presence as a proven wrap-up tackler. That would give the team three veteran safeties with starting experience (Chung and Steve Gregory) and could convince the Pats to go in another direction on draft day. 

I don't see McCourty as a long-term fit, because he's already shown his upside at corner, and moving him just creates a void at that position. Give him decent help at safety, and heck, maybe the kid plays like he did as a rookie. 

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