New England Patriots' Mock Draft: 7-Round Prediction Heading into Bowl Season
The New England Patriots are a good team, but they are not without their weaknesses on the roster. Once the season is complete, possible departures of players such as Aqib Talib and Wes Welker will leave gaping holes on the roster that will not all be filled in free agency.
The Patriots will need to look to the college ranks to occupy some of the vacancies left behind. Here is a look at some of the players they may select this April in the NFL draft with the five selections they currently hold.
Round 1: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
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Cornerback is a spot that Bill Belichick has repeatedly swung and missed on. Terrence Wheatley, Darius Butler, Ras-I Dowling—the list goes on. This being the case, the team is still looking for a man to hold down the fort as the team's top option at the position.
Standing in at 6'1", Florida State's Rhodes is a bigger corner like Dowling, the kind of player team's look for to match up against some of the taller receivers around the league. Rhodes, unlike Dowling though, can stay on the field and produce.
He has three interceptions on the year, but teams mainly stay away from his side of the field. He will have an opportunity to make more plays on the ball when he is in the NFL next season and is being tested out.
On paper, he with Alfonzo Dennard would give the Patriots a stout young pair of corners that could help develop what was been an extremely underwhelming secondary in recent years. Like Dennard, he is a bit of physical corner and could give New England a duo that could be a tough bunch like the Brandon Browner/Richard Sherman pairing in Seattle.
Round 2: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
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The Patriots thought they may have drafted two good, young pass-rushers this April, but they have seen little return from third-rounder Jake Bequette, who quite frankly was lucky to even make the team. With Bequette's slow development the Patriots could look to add another pass-rusher to see the field with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich.
Lemonier has been one of the best players on an Auburn team that has struggled mightily, even leading to the firing of coach Gene Chizik.
Lemonier has been a strong pass-rusher the past two years in the SEC which Bill Belichick obviously has a ton of respect for. He could give the team the ability to throw even more looks at offenses and add even more talented youth to a developing New England defense.
Round 3: Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
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The Patriots will be in a serious state of transition at the wide receiver position when the 2012 season ends. Wes Welker and Julian Edelman will both be unrestricted free agents, while Brandon Lloyd has underwhelmed this season, but is still under contract. No matter who remains, the team will be looking to add another body at the position.
Stills has been a starter for Oklahoma ever since his true freshman season and has become the top option for Landry Jones since Ryan Broyles is now playing on Sundays. Stills has 75 receptions and 11 touchdowns on the season and has put together his third straight standout season.
Stills would give the Patriots some speed at the position and give them a young option on the outside that could be the first real receiver they have developed there since Deion Branch. One way or another, the team will have a new look at wideout, whether it is with Stills or one of his fellow draft classmates.
Round 7 (from Tampa Bay): Alex Hurst, OT, LSU
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The Patriots have one of the great offensive line development programs with coach Dante Scarnecchia at the helm; because of this, they do not always have to look early in the draft for offensive linemen. A number of late-round and undrafted picks have gone on to start games in New England red, white and blue.
Hurst would be no exception. At 6'6", 335 pounds, Hurst clearly has the size to the play the position at the NFL level with the right guidance. He has been dealing with personal issues and left the team earlier this season. As long as those are not long-term problems, the Patriots could find themselves a diamond in the rough down the road if they go with him.
Round 7: Jordan Rodgers, QB, Vanderbilt
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The Patriots are obviously not a team starved for a quarterback right now. Tom Brady, at 35, will be their quarterback for a couple of more years at the minimum, so they are able to look for one late in the draft as a developmental prospect.
Who better to take a look at in training camp behind Brady and Ryan Mallett than the younger brother of reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, Aaron Rodgers. Jordan, of course, does not have the talent of Aaron, but he has shown signs of growth and has been a competitive player this season in the SEC.
If nothing else he deserves a look from an NFL club. Perhaps the Patriots can find another late-round quarterback and get lucky down the road (a la Matt Cassel).