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Final Mock Draft: Eric Fisher leapfrogs Luke Joeckel 04.25.13 at 8:07 am ET
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Draft day finally is upon us. Though I still long for the olden days of all-day Saturday, all-day Sunday action, it’s still the best time of the year — even if we have to wait until prime time.

Before we get to the good stuff, I just want to point out that this is my eighth year of doing mock drafts, and it has by far been the most challenging year, for quite a few reasons.

First of all, it’€™s just a weak class. There are four great offensive linemen in tackles Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher, and guards Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper. After that, there are some good pass-rushers and two or three plus corners, but the star power in this class is highly lacking. For that reason, when mocking these picks, I found myself frequently coming to spots where the team would want to trade down, but who would want to trade up?

The uncertainty at the quarterback position also makes things tough to predict. There are teams that need quarterbacks, but do they like Geno Smith and Ryan Nassib enough to spend first-rounders on them? The aforementioned lack of star power in this draft applies to signal-callers especially. The guess here is that Smith goes somewhere in the top six picks — to either the Eagles, Browns or a team that trades up — and the Bills make their pick at No. 8 and later move back into the first round to grab Nassib.

Typically, good mock drafts get six picks right, while great ones get 8-10 picks right. The bar should be lowered for this one.

1. Chiefs (2-14) — Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

Deciding between Joeckel and Fisher might be a closer call than many think.
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2. Jaguars (2-14) — Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon

Jordan will help a defense that finished last in the league with 20 sacks last season.
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3. Raiders (4-12) — Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

The safest pick they could make, but remember, Robert Gallery once was considered safe.
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4. Eagles (4-12) — Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

Joeckel still is arguably the best player in the draft. This would be quite the steal.
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5. Lions (4-12) — Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

A true No. 1 corner to team with the re-signed Chris Houston.
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Read More: 2013 NFL draft, Eric Fisher, Geno Smith, Luke Joeckel
Five good fits for Patriots in first round of NFL draft 04.24.13 at 11:10 am ET
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Earlier on Wednesday, we took a look at five players the Patriots should hope fall to them in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday. Continuing our mini-series, here are five players who would appear to be good fits for the Pats based on where they are picking.

It should be noted that this draft isn’t particularly strong up top, so a lot of the guys that the Pats might want to fall to them might have been available at No. 29 in previous years. Once the the offensive linemen are off the board, there will be a lot of parity in prospects from the mid-first round to the early second.

These players are in no particular order.

Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee

Hunter is a true outside guy (6-foot-4, 196 pounds) who has all the attributes needed to be a No. 1 receiver. If drafted by the Pats, he’€™d be the best receiver prospect of the Bill Belichick era.

Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

If the Patriots want to come out of the first round with a big and physical corner like the ones in Seattle, Rhodes is the guy. There aren’€™t many 6-foot-1½, 210-pound corners who can run a 4.41 second 40-yard dash.

Matt Elam, S, Florida

He has NFL bloodlines, as he is the brother of former Jets, Browns, Cowboys and Chiefs safety Abram Elam. The instinctive safety is considered a playmaker in the defensive backfield, which should come as little surprise considering he models his game after Ed Reed.

Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State

He hasn’€™t been the most popular name in the pre-draft process, but when there’€™s a run on corners, expect the 5-foot-10½, 192-pound Taylor to come off the board. Taylor boasts very good speed and knocked the 3-cone drill (which the Patriots value highly) out of the park with a 6.82-second performance.

Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

The 6-foot-3, 299-pounder gets after the quarterback very well, but there are questions about both his work ethic and his ability to pick up concepts. Short is viewed as a risk/reward player, but we’€™re living in a world in which Ziggy Ansah might be a top-10 pick.

Read More: 2013 NFL draft, Five Players Series, Justin Hunter, Xavier Rhodes
NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks 04.19.13 at 7:10 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

JOHNTHAN BANKS

Position: Cornerback

School: Mississippi State

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 185 pounds

Achievements: 2012 Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back), 2011 All-SEC second team (cornerback), 2009 All-SEC freshman team (safety)

What he brings: Entering the draft following a highly successful four-year tenure with the Bulldogs, Banks is a great press coverage corner who also boasts a strong skill set when it comes to stopping interior passing games. When it comes to blanketing a receiver within 10-15 yards of the line of scrimmage, Banks matches up with anyone else in the draft class. Beyond that, though, there are some blemishes.

The first thing that is apparent with Banks is his height and ball skills. With his frame, Banks could easily slide in at safety. In fact, he was recruited at the position and played there as a freshman with the Bulldogs. However, since switching to cornerback, he has shown great quickness when covering short-yardage routes, particularly when talking about a player his size. Additionally, Banks tallied a school-record 16 interceptions during his time at Mississippi State.

However, when it comes to the vertical passing game, Banks comes up a bit short. Unlike a lot of taller cornerbacks, such as FSU’s Xavier Rhodes, Banks is quick, not fast. This comes into play when he has to stick with a receiver in man coverage. At the combine, Banks ran a disappointing 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash. At his pro day, though, he recorded an improved time of 4.51-4.55. As with any player, the 40 does not write one’€™s NFL success in stone. However, it does nothing to help dispel pre-existing concerns over his inability to keep up receivers downfield. Although, when he is there, Banks plays the ball well, using his height and leaping ability against receivers to make a play on the pass.

The final issue with Banks is a odd one for a big cornerback: his ability to take down ball-carriers. Banks, who was often used with great effect as a blitzer, does a good job punishing players when coming straight down on them. However, Banks has a tendency to overpursue and get caught up in traffic against the run, and can let a runner go if they put a move on him.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1 or 2

Notes: When it comes to cornerbacks who can provide press coverage, particularly in a Tampa 2 scheme, Banks presents a great value. Although, teams that want him to have a presence near the line of scrimmage will need him to bulk up and improve his tackling game.

In most cases, tall corners are tasked with lining up on the outside and using their press skills to their fullest extent. Banks, though, has exceptional versatility along the defensive backfield. In addition to his experience at safety, Banks’€™ ability to stick with receivers on short, quick routes makes him ideal for teams looking for a player to slide into the slot in nickel and dime formations. Should he end up adding to his frame and developing his skills in run support, Banks could become a dangerous defender in the box.

While it’€™s strange to see a receiver at 6-foot-2 (a la Dez Bryant) back receiving punts, it’€™s even more odd to see a defensive back doing so. Yet that’€™s exactly what Banks did in college as the team’€™s leading punt returner his senior year, averaging 10.5 yards per attempt.

Related articles: The Shutdown 50: Mississippi State DB Johnthan Banks

ESPN: Johnthan Banks gets Thorpe Award

Pro Football Talk: Mississippi State’€™s Johnthan Banks: I can cover Megatron

Video: Here’s a playlist of some of Banks’ performances against SEC competition, starting with a 2012 matchup against Tennessee and the Volunteers’ vaunted wide receivers:

Read More: 2013 NFL draft, 2013 Potential Patriots, Johnthan Banks, Xavier Rhodes
Mock Draft, Take 4: Manti Te’o moves up 04.12.13 at 1:51 am ET
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With the draft less than two weeks away, things are beginning to take shape as team needs are solidified and prospects work closer to cementing their stock.

The biggest difference from our last mock draft is that two teams picking in the top 10 with needs at quarterback addressed those needs, as the Raiders picked up Matt Flynn in a trade with the Seahawks before shipping Carson Palmer to the Cardinals. The Raiders and Cardinals were potential suitors for Geno Smith, though the Raiders probably wouldn’€™t have gone after the West Virginia quarterback unless they could have gotten rid of Palmer.

1. Chiefs (2-14) — Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
With all the moving parts that comes with each draft, this just continues to be the logical pick at the top for the Chiefs. They addressed the quarterback position by trading for Alex Smith, and the future of the offensive line is unclear given that the team franchised Branden Albert and cut Eric Winston.

2. Jaguars (2-14) — Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
Assuming nobody trades into the top spot to select him, this is the earliest possible destination for Smith. The guess here is that it’€™s still too early. Yes, quarterbacks often go higher than you’€™d expect, but Smith still doesn’€™t scream ‘€œtop-five prospect.’€ Blaine Gabbert isn’€™t the answer for the Jaguars, but should they really roll the dice with such a high pick if there’€™s a chance Smith isn’€™t either? Jacksonville was last in the league with 20 sacks last season, so Jordan would be a logical fit.

3. Raiders (4-12) — Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Reggie McKenzie inherited quite a mess, but the new general manager clearly is doing something about it. Despite the draft picks the team had given up for Palmer less than two seasons ago, McKenzie was right to move on from the shaky veteran when Palmer wouldn’€™t restructure his contract. The Raiders have strengthened their line a bit in free agency with Vance Walker, Pat Sims and Jason Hunter, but Floyd would become the star of a line that lost Richard Seymour when the team voided his contract.

4. Eagles (4-12) — Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Chip Kelly’€™s first big decision in the draft likely will come down to offensive line or cornerback. Does he grab Eric Fisher and stick him at right tackle for now or does he grab Milliner and add a top young player to the secondary after its big names went bust? The Eagles released Nnamdi Asomugha and let Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie leave before signing Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.

5. Lions (4-12) — Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Yes, this pick means that the top five picks remain the same as they did in the previous mock draft. That’€™s a sign of the draft starting to take shape, and if the Eagles opt for Fisher, Milliner would make sense here. The offensive line should be the priority for Detroit though, as Jeff Backus retired and Gosder Cherilus signed with the Colts.

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Read More: 2013 NFL draft, Manti Te'o, Xavier Rhodes,
NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes 03.05.13 at 3:43 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

XAVIER RHODES

Position: Cornerback

School: Florida State

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 210 pounds

Achievements: 2012 All-ACC, 2010 Freshman All-American, 2010 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year

What he brings: Rhodes is a big, strong, aggressive, physical corner who projects well in a scheme that calls for a lot of press coverage and also brings the ability to come up and tackle in the run game and on screen passes.

At 6-foot-1, Rhodes will come into the league as one of the biggest defenders at the position and could provide the Patriots with a younger, cheaper version of Aqib Talib, should Talib leave the team via free agency this offseason. In fact, Talib is the player with which Rhodes is most often compared, with Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com projecting him as a similar player, albeit without Talib’€™s top-end speed.

As with any larger cornerback, Rhodes will have to prove he has the top-end speed and short-area quickness to match up with some of the NFL’€™s faster receivers. Although, given the right scheme, Rhodes has the ability to flourish without his weaknesses getting exposed too often. It’€™s more likely that Rhodes will end up being matched up against receivers such as Demaryius Thomas and Dwayne Bowe far more often than quicker slot receivers such as the Jets’ Jeremy Kerley.

It could take some time for Rhodes to adapt to the NFL game, as his aggressive, handsy style might have to adjust to what is a more tightly called game in the secondary. Additionally, Rhodes’€™ aggressive reputation likely will be tested early and often to try to get the defensive back to guess wrong.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-2

Notes: After redshirting his first year at Florida State, Rhodes burst onto the scene, quickly becoming one of the top young defenders in college football, posting his most productive season in his first of three seasons as a starter. After his breakout season, Rhodes quickly established himself as a shutdown corner in the ACC, forcing teams to throw to his side of the field less, which caused his numbers to drop. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher put it best as to why the corneback’€™s stats dropped after his freshman season.

‘€œAfter one good year when you get numbers, you usually don’€™t get them after that because they quit throwing at you,’€ Fisher said. ‘€œIt comes back to the respect and appreciation of how he plays the game and how good of a player he is. To me, when a corner doesn’€™t have big numbers, it’€™s because of the respect other teams have for you.’€

It’€™s unlikely that he will still be on the board for the Patriots at No. 29. However, Rhodes’ lack of elite speed and quickness might cause him to slip a little. Such concerns, along with the notion that he needs to significantly improve his discipline as a defender, have some experts projecting him as a second-round selection, while others have him coming off the board in the top 15.

Patriots fans fearing that their team could be targeting another Ras-I Dowling have less to fear with this outside cornerback. Although he was sidelined for most of what would end up being his redshirt year his first season with the Seminoles, Rhodes’ only other injury was a major knee sprain during the 2011 season. While Rhodes isn’t indestructible, he lacks the chronic injury concerns surrounding Dowling.

Related articles: ESPN: Advance scouting: Xavier Rhodes

Palm Beach Post: Florida State’€™s Xavier Rhodes, once a reluctant convert to defense, now a shutdown cornerback

ESPN: The reluctant corner

Video: Here is a package of highlights from Rhodes’€™ performances against Wake Forest and Clemson this past season.

Read More: 2013 NFL draft, 2013 Potential Patriots, Aqib Talib, Ras-I Dowling
Post-combine Mock Draft: Offensive linemen dominate top 10 02.28.13 at 9:20 am ET
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With the annual scouting combine in the books for 2013, it’s time to take another look at the overall landscape of the first round.

The overall takeaway from Indianapolis is that this is a draft that’s all about offensive linemen, boasting depth at tackle and featuring two blue-chip guard prospects. None of the tackles may be Joe Thomas, but there are enough of them that any team in need of someone to protect its quarterback’s blind side should have options.

One team need changed at the top, as the Chiefs don’t even have to think about reaching for Geno Smith after trading for Alex Smith.

1. Chiefs (2-14) — Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
I don’€™t project trading of picks in mock drafts, but I’€™ve never wanted to more in my life. Now that the Chiefs have addressed the quarterback position with their second-round pick, they should re-sign Branden Albert, trade down and fill another need. Left tackle isn’€™t a big need, and letting Albert walk just so they can draft another good left tackle to replace him wouldn’€™t provide them with much organizational progress.

2. Jaguars (2-14) — Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
A lot of folks think that Dee Milliner could be the pick here. Yes, he ran well at the combine, but Milliner as a top-five pick, let along a top-two pick, is a bit of a stretch. The Jaguars need sacks almost as much as they need a quarterback, so Jones is the better fit.

3. Raiders (4-12) — Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
This might be a tad high for Floyd, but he helped his stock immensely at the combine and could now be the first defensive lineman selected in what is a very deep class at the position. Both Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant are free agents, the latter of whom was arrested over the weekend.

4. Eagles (4-12) — Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Mike Mayock says that Fisher has closed the gap between he and Joeckel considerably, so there’€™s a chance that the Central Michigan product won’€™t even be on the board by the time this selection is made. If teams trade up with teams not from Kansas City, he would likely be their target.

5. Lions (4-12) — Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Lions would have a really tough decision to make if this scenario were to arise: Do they add a potential star corner and address what is seemingly always an area of need, or do they grab a defensive end to replace the aging Kyle Vanden Bosch? Both Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril are free agents.   Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2013 combine, 2013 NFL draft, Geno Smith, Lane Johnson
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: Xavier Rhodes and Terrance Williams could be possible fits in New England 02.19.13 at 12:56 am ET
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Mike Mayock of the NFL Network weighed in Monday afternoon with some thoughts on this year’s draft, and had some specific thoughts on what the Patriots — who have the No. 29 overall pick, as well as four other selections — might do this year.

“I think when you’re looking at the Patriots at 29, the defensive back thing, whether it’s a corner or safety, to me needs to continue to be worked on with New England,” he said. “There is also some unpredictability about their wide receiver position. Starting with Wes Welker and moving right through their depth chart, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, [Donte] Stallworth, all of those guys technically are unrestricted free agents.

“You’d like it to matchup with the need, obviously, and the needs would be wide receiver, d-backs, maybe another edge rusher,” he added. “I think Bill goes in with an open mind; ‘OK, who is going to fall to me at 29? And do I trade out if I don’t like what’s there?’ Which is always a possibility to trade down. Or can I get some value there?”

Mayock specifically mentioned Florida State defensive back Xavier Rhodes and Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams as possible fits for New England at No. 29. Rhodes is a 6-foot-2 cornerback who had seven picks over the course of his college career. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-2 Williams finished the 2012 season with 97 catches for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“He’s a 215-pound corner from Florida State. He might now has mostly second-round grades as a corner or a safety, depending on what he runs,” Mayock said of Rhodes. “The wide receiver position we talked about earlier, who is going to be available at 29? The kid from Baylor, big, good looking, height, width, speed guy in Terrance Williams.

“I think when you start getting down to the late first round, it’s really hard projecting,” Mayock said. “It’s going to be value, hopefully a position of need. If not position of need, somebody slides through that’s a great football player, if not, we’ve got to trade.”

Read More: Mike Mayock, Terrance Williams, Xavier Rhodes,
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