The biggest questions for the New England Patriots this offseason will be at wide receiver and on the defensive line.
With a little help from Emory Hunt of footballgameplan.com, the Patriots could go a long way in providing some long-term answers at those spots.
Hunt's mock draft has the Patriots taking Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore with their first-round pick, the 29th overall:
You can't ignore production at the top level, and every time I popped on an A&M game, this guy was making plays behind the line of scrimmage. Yes, he may not work out well, he may not run fast, he may not lift a lot of weights, but he can sack the quarterback and can be disruptive, and that's all you really want out of a football player.
Moore's stock took a huge hit at the combine when he didn't put up the measureables most scouts would have liked to see, with a 4.95 40-yard dash and 12 reps on the 225-pound bench press. He improved on those numbers at his Pro Day—as almost every draft prospect does—but concerns remain about his ability to play in the NFL.
My question: Why? He racked up 21 sacks and 38.5 tackles for loss over the past two seasons, ranking in the top six in the nation in both categories. In 2012 alone, he logged five sacks against Alabama, LSU and Florida—high level competition the likes of which he'll see at the NFL level.
In fact, his combine numbers caused a dip in his stock, which led me to peg him as a player the Patriots should have their eye on following the combine.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller says he feels Moore would be a good value for the Patriots at 29 and that, paired with Chandler Jones, the two could form a solid pass-rushing duo. He summed up Moore's pre-draft profile perfectly:
Damontre Moore isn't a great athlete, but he's a really good football player. Great hustle, doesn't give up on plays, like his acceleration— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 5, 2013
With the Patriots' second-round pick, Hunt has them taking USC wide receiver Robert Woods: "I think this guy will do a great job in that Patriots system. Once he gets the football in his hands, it is lights out. He has that speed and can burn defenses and outrun angles. I like this fit for New England."
Woods was also identified as a player the Patriots should have their eye on following a lackluster showing at the combine. His 4.51 40-yard dash wasn't as fast as some scouts might like to see, but it may have been his sluggish three-cone drill that took him off New England's board. The Patriots have historically put a lot of weight on that drill, and Woods ran the slowest time at the combine.
Aside from that three-cone drill, Woods fits the profile of a Patriots receiver: smart route-runner, capable of creating yards after the catch, runs the whole route tree, can line up outside or in the slot and makes tough catches in traffic. At present, the Patriots need a versatile Y receiver to backup Danny Amendola. That could change if the team re-signs Julian Edelman, but Woods would be an upgrade either way.
Whichever team takes him will need to look into his medical history, including ankle injuries that limited his quickness. He has the ability to create big plays with the ball in his hands, though, and if he checks out medically, there's no reason to pass up on him.
Here's the rest of Hunt's mock draft:
1. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
2. Robert Woods, WR, USC
3. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
7. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
7. Aaron Hester, CB, UCLA
Hunt has the Patriots double-dipping at wide receiver with the addition of Marquess Wilson, whose combine numbers and measureables match up well with what the Patriots are looking for at wide receiver. Wilson has good speed, can create yards after the catch and isn't afraid to go over the middle for a tough catch, but he doesn't have great burst and isn't physical to get off jams or block in the running game.
Williams is a great penetrating defensive tackle and logged six sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss last year with the Tar Heels. He has a variety of pass-rushing moves, but, at times, he can get too aggressive and lose gap integrity against the run. He's not the two-gap type defensive tackle the Patriots usually line up, but his ability to get penetration is unlike anything the Patriots currently have on the interior defensive line.
Hester has ideal size for the position at 6' and around 195 pounds. He is at his best in man-to-man, so he could provide depth if the Patriots are going to continue to run man coverage on the back end. He has good ball skills, despite logging just five interceptions in his career, and, interestingly for Patriots fans, that's because he doesn't turn his head when the ball is in the air.
What do you think of Hunt's mock draft? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.