I thought I'd make a series of first-round possibilities for the Patriots in the first round of the draft. I'll start of with defense and the big men up front.
I will assume we'll play a base 3-4 defense for the sake and purposes of this article and thus I will only discuss linemen able to play in a 3-man front. I'll get back to 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB players when discussing linebackers.Belichick likes to pick linemen rather high (Seymour, Warren) and has waved goodbye to those mentioned the last few years. He only has one premier lineman in Wilfork and the rest are capable rotational guys and veterans. I think BB and the Pats would like an upgrade at the line. This year there are some very good prospects for those purposes and whether they are available when the Pats pick might decide the outcome of this draft for the Pats.
I'll just go through the prospects which I feel carry a first-round grade and the chance of the Patriots picking them:
Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: This 6-4 346 lbs beast could be spectacular if put next to Vince Wilfork. Those two players could potentially shut down the run and occupy blockers in a way that the linebackers/defensive ends may roam free. However, the value of Poe is at an all-time high after a great Combine showing. The Patriots would have to move up to get a chance at picking him. My worry when it comes to Poe is that there's not a bunch of great performances shown on film. I would be hesitant to make a splash and give up picks to move up to get him and I think the front office will share my view.
Chance of Patriots picking Poe: Next to none
Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU: Brockers had a pedestrian workout at the Combine but was measured in at 6-5 322 and had a great wingspan. Although he may have limitations when it comes to athleticism he had some very good performances in a tough division (albeit he hasn't been a starter for more than a season). Brockers was one of the players with a lot of buzz surrounding him entering the Combine but may now be sliding big-time. The Patriots are not a team to completely fall in or out of love with a prospect based on a workout so if Brockers falls he might be a very appealing option.
Chance of Patriots picking Brockers: All depends on if he falls to us. If he's there when the Patriots pick at 27th I think there's a definite chance.
Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: Cox is a great prospect (at 6-4 298 lbs) and one of my favorite ones in this class. I think he could be a Richard Seymour-type of player for us if we somehow got him (not saying he'll be that good but still he offers a massive upgrade as a 3-4 DE). I do think Cox will go somewhere around pick 20 though and I do think we'll have to move up slightly to acquire him. That's not unthinkable but if there are other prospects still on the board (and potentially both Devon Still and Jerel Worthy are still available).
Chance of Patriots picking Cox: If he's available at 27th I think it's a no-brainer. I also don't think a slight move up might be unthinkable.
Devon Still, DT, Penn State: Devon Still (6-5, 303 lbs) is not receiving a lot of attention (like Poe and Cox or even Brockers for that matter) but based on basic film-study he might be the best of the bunch. This is a proven, tough player. I'm really hoping the buzz surrounding those players mentioned earlier make teams pass on Still. He would be a fantastic option at 27th if available. Likely not a player the Patriots trade up for but a player the Patriots would have no doubts picking if available to them. He might be a bit too limited as an athlete and if players like Worthy and Reyes still are around to pick they potentially should decide to look elsewhere.
Chance of the Patriots picking Still: At this point I think there's a definite chance with the 27th pick.
Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State: Worthy (6-2, 308) is another defensive tackle that didn't turn a lot of heads at the Combine but performs in games and has a lot of examples proving it. He has a burst of the ball and is a player opposing offenses has to be aware of at all times.I think he'd make plenty of sense at the bottom of round one or with the early 2nd-rounder.
Chance of Patriots picking him: If they decide to go elsewhere with their 1st pick or who knows even trade it ;-) Worthy could make a whole lot of sense. He might not have the height BB prefers if he wants to use him as a 3-4 DE but that would be knit-picking a it too much.
Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn: To me Reyes (6-4 299) is the joker in this group. He may not carry a first-round grade by a lot of teams but may be deserving of one. Possibly he could be had in the early part of the second-round. He's got a great deal of experience (42 starts) and is atheltically gifted enough to be picked at the bottom of the first. I'm getting more and more impressed with this kid the more I see.
Chance of the Patriots picking Reyes: If not one of the marquee names fall to the Patriots when they are up at the 27th pick I believe there's a definite chance that Reyes will be the pick at 1.31. It would be very risky to pass on him and hope he's still there when the Patriots go again. Of course we all know that trades can/will happen and if the Pats acquire an early 2nd-rounder they might pass on him at the bottom of the first.