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NFL mock draft roundup: Experts expect Pats to go pass rusher or safety in Round 1

04.26.12 at 12:53 pm ET

The 2012 NFL draft is just hours away and the national media has made its final projections as to which players are going where. Here’s a roundup of who some of the nation’s top draft experts expect the Patriots to select in the coming days. These mock drafts range from one-round to full seven-round projections. However, the Patriots are without any picks after Round 4 due to trades.

Disclaimer: These projections are all made in the highly unlikely case that the Patriots do not trade any of their picks this year.

Mel Kiper: ESPN

Round 1, Pick 27 ‘€“ Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama: A couple weeks ago, Upshaw falling all the way to the Patriots seemed like a pipe dream. Now, scouts have picked apart Upshaw’€™s measurable and appear to have dropped him down their boards in favor of players like Syracuse’s Chandler Jones. Kiper expects Belichick to look past that in favor of Upshaw’€™s tenacity and skills against the run and pass, getting both value and need with his first selection.

Round 1, Pick 31 ‘€“ Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: Kiper projects the Patriots filling their other big need on the roster with the No. 2-ranked safety in the draft. Although, Kiper does mention that Belichick could go for a cornerback here if the right player falls to him. Smith is a guy that’€™s been rising but gets good reviews from Kiper as a player that plays well up in the box.

Todd McShay: ESPN

Round 1, Pick 27 ‘€“ Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise St: McShay didn’€™t provide any analysis for his picks, but the McClellin selection doesn’€™t require much at this point. A versatile player against the pass and the run, McClellin is a rising player who hasn’€™t received much criticism through the entire process.

Round 1, Pick 31 ‘€“ Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: McShay’€™s mock echoes his colleague’€™s with the second selection and is part of a trend throughout a lot of these mocks, where the Patriots are expected to go for a safety and an edge rusher in the first round.

Round 2, Pick 16 ‘€“ Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn: McShay projects another popular projection for the Patriots, Reyes, falling to them in the second round, a scenario that Belichick & Co. would certainly jump on, should it present itself.

Round 2, Pick 31 ‘€“ Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt: The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Hayward was a rock in the secondary against the SEC’€™s best receivers against some mediocre Vanderbilt teams. McShay has the Patriots going for a corner who could see playing time in early in the right situations with his physicality and ability to be aggressive in zone coverage underneath.

Round 3, Pick 30 ‘€“ James Brown, G, Troy: McShay expects the Patriots to take this college tackle and move him inside to develop him as a potential future starter. A raw talent, the 6-foot-4 Brown would play big at guard. He shows good quickness and leverage but will need to add strength and bulk in order to have success at the next level, especially inside.

Round 4, Pick 31 ‘€“ Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State: Baker was a starter as a sophomore for the Spartans but lost his job this past season to sophomore Le’€™Veon Bell, who vastly outplayed him with a comparable number of carries. In short, Baker brings the boom as a powerful runner but lacks skills in the passing game as a receiver or blocker. He also needs to show more decisiveness as a runner, rather than Laurence Maroney-ing around in the backfield.

Michael Lombardi: NFL Network

Round 1, Pick 27 ‘€“ Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall: Lombardi showed brevity in the analysis of his picks, but it was especially poignant here, simply stating: ‘€œBill Belichick must find a pass rusher.’€ At this point, it’€™s a matter of which one. Lombardi has the Patriots going with the quickly rising Curry.

Round 1, Pick 31 ‘€“ Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: ‘€œExpect this pick to be traded.’€ Lombardi has the Patriots selecting Weeden simply to hold the next best quarterback prospect hostage for passing-impaired teams like the Browns or Dolphins, whichever one doesn’€™t land Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill.

Wes Bunting:

Round 1, Pick 27 ‘€“ Mark Barron, S, Alabama: While some pundits have predicted Barron going as high as the top 10, Bunting has Barron going to the Patriots here. Grabbing the top player at a position of need without trading up would be nothing short of a jackpot for the Patriots.

Round 1, Pick 31 ‘€“ Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC: Perry is another option for the Patriots as a first-round pass rush option. Bunting has the Patriots going for the versatile USC product who can play standing up in a 3-4 or with his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 in different packages in Belichick’€™s scheme.

Round 2, Pick 16 ‘€“Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas: You may remember an insane punt return against Tennessee when an Arkansas kick returner slipped about seven tackles. That would be this guy. He’€™s also a dynamic but undersized, vertical receiver who also can go over the middle and pick up some major YAC.

Round 2, Pick 31 ‘€“ Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia: Minnifield is a balanced prospect who is good in a lot of areas, doesn’€™t have many holes in his game but doesn’€™t really excel in any of them. He plays the run well but isn’€™t a run stuffer. He’€™s fast but had some problems getting beat deep.

Round 3, Pick 30 ‘€“ Mike Martin, DT, Michigan: Martin was extremely productive at Michigan but doesn’€™t translate well as a prototypical defensive lineman. ‘€œThe kind of prospect you don’€™t to bet against,’€ according to Bunting, Martin has a high motor and is a true coach’€™s player but lacks dynamic pass rushing or penetration skills.

Round 4, Pick 31 ‘€“ Miles Burris, OLB, San Diego State: Burris is an attacking, disruptive linebacker who can provide some pressure off the edge and inside at the linebacker spot and some quality special teams work. However, don’€™t expect him to develop into the next Clay Matthews, as his physical tools are not that of a high-end pass rusher.

Mike Mayock: NFL Network

Round 1, Pick 27 ‘€“ Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC: Mayock has the Patriots making the move for Perry here, despite his claims that he’€™s not big on the kid, ranking him as his No. 49 prospect. However, he anticipates Belichick drawing the best out of his pass rushing abilities.

Round 1, Pick 31 ‘€“ Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: Mayock goes with another popular Patriots selection in Smith here and expects him to ‘€œpay early dividends’€ in the New England secondary.

Peter Schrager, Fox Sports

Round 1, Pick 27 ‘€“ Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise St: Schrager is another expert who projects McClellin going to the Patriots. In this instance, though, he invokes the name of former Patriot Mike Vrabel when comparing him. That’€™s something that should get Patriots fans excited.

Round 1, Pick 31 ‘€“ Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: Schrager acknowledges Jenkins’€™ serious off-the-field concerns but says that his talent is simply too high not to roll the dice on him. Schrager also reminds readers that it was one of Belichick’€™s coaching buddies, Urban Meyer, who initially recruited the troubled cornerback. Jenkins would also be added to a team that would include former teammates Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Spikes.

Round 2, Pick 16 ‘€“ Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn: Reyes is not getting much love late in the draft process, with two experts expecting him to fall to the mid-second round. Again, if Reyes were to fall here, Belichick would jump on this value in a heartbeat.

Round 2, Pick 31 ‘€“ Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers: A big, raw talent who was once projected a first-round pick, Sanu works physically underneath to outwork defenders to the ball. Despite some quickness as a short-yardage receiver, Sanu’€™s ability as a vertical receiver is underwhelming. His 4.67-second 40-yard dash is lackluster for a receiver coming off the board this soon.

Round 3, Pick 30 ‘€“ Tydreke Powell, DT/DE, North Carolina: Powell is a stout, powerful, unathletic defender who isn’€™t quite a nose tackle. For the Tar Heels, he played more as a less disruptive 3-technique tackle who had limited pass rushing skills. Here, though, Schrager has the Patriots grabbing him as an option to hold two-gap assignments as a 5-technique in a 3-4.

Round 4, Pick 31 ‘€“ Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State: Crawford is an intriguing project player. After coming to the United States from England in 2005, Crawford didn’€™t start playing football until 2006 and is still developing as a football player. His main draw as a player is his impressive 6-foot-5, 274-pound frame, which could help him develop as an impact player on the edge.



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