Highlighting the New England Patriots' Most Likely First-Round Pick

Dan Matney@@Dan_MatneyContributor IIIMay 6, 2014

Highlighting the New England Patriots' Most Likely First-Round Pick

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    USA TODAY Sports

    With the NFL draft just two days away, there is growing speculation as to who each team will select in the first round of one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.

    Considering the Patriots are notorious for shopping their first-round selection in an attempt to acquire more picks later in the draft, it is always relatively unknown what direction they will go in the first round.

    With that in mind, here are projections from some of the most popular NFL draft analysts, with a Big Ten defensive lineman being the most popular selection.

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network

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    Ra’Shede Hageman, Defensive Lineman, Minnesota

    NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah is one of many NFL draft analysts who are under the assumption that the Patriots will target the former Golden Gophers defensive tackle.

    Jeremiah said that although Hageman’s production on tape fluctuates, his ceiling is going to appeal to the Patriots front office.

    “Hageman is inconsistent on tape, but he has the tools to become a Pro Bowler,” Jeremiah wrote.

    I agree with Jeremiah’s assessment of Hageman. His hulking build and athletic ability makes him an intriguing prospect for teams picking towards the end of the first round.

    If he puts forth his full effort and can play at a consistent level, Hageman has the potential to be one of the best players in the 2014 class.

Bucky Brooks, NFL Network

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Ra’Shede Hageman, Defensive Lineman, Minnesota

    Similar to his NFL Network counterpart, Bucky Brooks also believes that the Patriots will select Hageman if he is available with the 29th selection.

    “It’s hard to find athletic defenders with Hageman’s physical tool,” Brooks said in his mock draft for NFL.com. “Effort and desire are concerns, but Bill Belichick could take a change on a ‘boom of bust’ prospect with immense potential.”

    As I said in the Jeremiah slide, Hageman would be a good selection if the coaching staff can develop Hageman into a consistent player.

    Hageman will be best suited to play in a system that requires defensive lineman to shoot one gap. 

Matt Miller, Bleacher Report

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    Dominique Easley, Defensive Tackle, Florida  

    Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller made a bold prediction, mocking Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley to the Patriots with the 29th selection:

    Were it not for two ACL tear—one to each knee-Dominique Easley could be contending with Aaron Donald for the top defensive tackle spot. Once teams saw Easley’s rehab progress, it became clear he wouldn’t last long on draft day.

    Much like Tank Carradine last year, Easley can be drafted and stashed on the physically unable to perform list to start the season if need be. But in New England he’s the second coming of Richard Seymour in that he will allow the Patriots to play either a 3-4 or 4-3 front without bringing him off of the field. His athleticism—as long as it comes back post surgery—is eye-opening for a man his size.

    While I agree that Easley has the potential to be a solid contributor due to his skill set and athleticism, it seems to be a long shot that Easley will go in the first round.

    Usually, a single ACL tear would put a small red flag by a player’s name on a draft board. Easley has torn the ACL in both of his knees, which means that he likely won’t get a look until late in the second round at the earliest.

    While Easley has potential, there are too many question marks around him as to whether he can return to the playing level that he had reached before two serious knee injuries.

Kyle Montgomery, Mile High Report

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    Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina 

    In a search across various websites to find a mock draft that didn’t have Hageman projected to land 29th, I came across an interesting mock selection by Kyle Montgomery of the Mile High Report, a Denver Broncos site:

    Montgomery believes that Eric Ebron will end up a Patriot:

    With the 29th pick they are going to add one of the elite prospects in this draft and a great toy for both Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady. How does one of the top few playmakers in the draft drop to 29? Just think of the options with Rob Gronkowski and Ebron on the field at the same time. He will offer a lot of what Hernandez brought to the team, and he is a much better blocker. This is the type of talent you can not pass up at this point of the draft even if it is not the biggest need.”

    While I agree that adding Ebron to the Patriots' offense would be exciting to see given his natural ability to produce in the passing game, it is a virtual fairy tale to see Ebron falling past the Packers at the 21st selection.

Personal Projection

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    Jace Amaro, Tight End, Texas Tech

    While Hageman appears to be the popular pick across the mock draft landscape, I’m surprised Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro hasn’t been discussed more as a possibility to land in New England.

    With the injuries to Rob Gronkowski and the absence of Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots' receiving corps really struggled at times last season.

    The addition of Amaro would give Tom Brady another Hernandez-like threat in the passing game, minus the off-field concerns.

    Amaro has good hands, was productive in college and can not only line up in-line but also split out wide or in the slot.

    With a healthy Gronkowski, the Patriots offense could closely mimic what they had before injuries and off-field events caused a complete revamp.