Could the Patriots end up with one of the best defensive tackles in the draft?
The New England Patriots can make even the most respected draft pundits look like Miss Cleo in their predictions.
That's because they simply value players differently than other teams.
Mel Kiper Jr. and other draft pundits put their big boards together based on every player in the draft, but every team goes about it differently. Take the Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, who build their board based on their own needs only, according to Lance Zierlein of Sideline View.
So it makes sense to take the needs of the team into account when building a big board for that specific team. Let's take a look at a Patriots' big board from that perspective.
1. Morris Claiborne, CB LSU
Most respected draft pundits have Claiborne as the top-rated defensive back in the draft. He'll go in the top 10, but that doesn't preclude him from the board.
If the price is right, could this finally be the year the Patriots move up to take their guy? If so, Claiborne seems like the "king" most worth his ransom.
2. Michael Brockers, DT LSU
Big, strong, versatile. The Patriots don't ask a whole lot of their defensive linemen, but those three traits should help Brockers be a great fit for the defense.
He's likely to be gone in the top 10 or 15, but he makes the board simply because of the Patriots' need for a defensive linemen and his talent. He'd be one of very few prospects worth trading up for, in my eyes.
3. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Alabama
That Alabama pipeline hasn't been tapped into since at least the 2010 draft, when the Patriots selected Brandon Deaderick in the seventh round. This time around, they could get one of the best defensive backs Nick Saban has coached at Alabama.
His versatility in both man and zone coverage make him a perfect Patriot, and he even has the potential to line up at safety.
4. Fletcher Cox, DT Mississippi State
Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love both had very solid performances in 2011, and adding another top-notch defensive tackle could help the defensive line return to the dominance it enjoyed in the dynasty days.
He's versatile and can rush the passer, but he needs to strengthen up a bit before he can be considered a true five technique for the Patriots defense.
5. David DeCastro, G Stanford
Help along the interior offensive line isn't a big need now, but it will be very soon, with Brian Waters and Dan Koppen likely entering the final year of their careers. DeCastro is ready to go now, but barring injuries or other unforeseen circumstances, he wouldn't be asked to contribute much until 2013.
6. Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame
The Patriots loaded up the wide receiver position in free agency, but most of their guys are around 30 years old and are on one-year deals or the last year of their deal. Wide receiver will be a need sooner or later.
Floyd is a playmaker, and his 6'3", 220-pound frame would make him a bear to cover for almost any defensive back. He'll likely be selected in the top half of the first round, but the need and his talent make him a must for the Patriots board.
7. Kendall Reyes, DT UConn
Reyes has the right frame for a 3-4 defensive linemen, but does he have the right skill set?
The Patriots would rather find a guy who is better at holding the point of attack, and although Reyes' pass-rush ability was dormant for much of college, it was on full display at the Senior Bowl.
The Patriots defense is built on two-gap principles, and Reyes doesn't seem like a perfect fit in that sense, but he has the physical traits that could help him learn and eventually transition to that role.
8. Stephon Gilmore CB South Carolina
Gilmore has been a popular Patriots pick for his versatility. He lined up at cornerback in college but has the ability to move to safety if need be.
His long 6'1" frame and lean 193-pound trim would make him an easy fit at either spot. He's also a good enough tackler and run defender to make an impact on the back end.
The only problem is his tendency to gamble, and we've seen how poorly Belichick takes to that.
9. Cordy Glenn, OG Georgia
Cordy Glenn has size, length and versatility to play guard and tackle. If he falls to the Patriots, it might be a small miracle.
That being said, guard isn't one of the Patriots' biggest needs this year, although it will be in 2013 with the likely departure of Brian Waters into retirement.
10. Courtney Upshaw DE/OLB Alabama
Another one from the Saban-Belichick pipeline, Upshaw brings the type of scheme versatility the Patriots love in their front as they interchange between three-man and four-man fronts as well as base defense and sub packages.
His versatility as a 3-4 outside linebacker, inside linebacker or down pass-rusher makes him a solid fit for the Patriots. What's more, he loves football, and Belichick loves guys who love football.
11. Brandon Boykin, CB Georgia
What Boykin brings that the other cornerback prospects lack is kick-returning ability. The Patriots averaged 21.4 yards per kickoff return, ranking fourth-worst in the NFL. Think they missed Brandon Tate a little bit?
If they did, Boykin would be a good fit. Oh yeah, he can play cornerback, too.
He's a physical enough defender to take the slot duties, where the Patriots lack a real standout player.
12. Mark Barron S Alabama
The Patriots need safety help badly, but so do a lot of teams, and there's only one first-round prospect at the position this year. If the Patriots want him, they may have to overspend for him, and we know how Belichick feels about that.
Barron is a little too similar to Patrick Chung for my liking, but as my friend Mike Dussault of PatsPropaganda.com suggests, perhaps adding Barron would allow Chung to play more in deep coverage.
13. Alphonso Dennard CB Nebraska
Dennard is a physical cornerback, but is he too physical? James Christenson of NEPatriotsDraft.com went as far as to say he reminded him of a "Vontaze Burfict at the cornerback position."
He's a press corner through and through, and although the Patriots could really use someone like him who could play man effectively, they run more of a zone scheme in the back end.
14. Shea McClellin, DE Boise State
I was surprised to find that McClellin has been such a popular pick to the Patriots in the first round—he's been projected anywhere from the first to fourth rounds.
As always, the difficulty comes in projecting these players to a new position. McClellin is a small defensive end, but he's athletic enough that it looks like he'd be a fit at outside linebacker. He has 20.5 career sacks, evidence enough of his ability to get after the quarterback. He's a hard-worker, also in the mold of a true Patriot.
15. Kevin Zeitler, OG Wisconsin
I know one Michael Schottey will be very happy I put Zeitler on this list. He's just the kind of physical presence the Patriots love on the inside of their offensive line, and although he might need some time to develop, he's got a great skill set and physical tools to be molded by Scar.