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2012 SB Nation NFL Mock Draft: Barron and Mercilus the Picks

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Following the Patriots' Super Bowl XLVI loss to the New York Giants, the Patriots' position in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft was set, with the team picking at 27 (from Saints) and 31. That being said, SB Nation recently released their latest mock draft, and they have the Patriots going defense with both of their picks.

At 27, they have the Patriots going with Alabama safety Mark Barron:

New England was one Lee Evans dropped pass away from sending Baltimore to the Super Bowl. Their safeties struggle in coverage, more so than their corners. Barron does a number of things well, and has a natural instinct for the game. He'll fit nicely under Bill Belichick.

The Barron pick is one that a lot of Patriots fans are happy with. He's got great size, strength, and instincts for a safety. Unfortunately, he projects as more of a strong safety due to his less than stellar man cover skills and if the Patriots drafted him, it would likely restrict Pat Chung to the free safety spot. Still, Barron is a very talented player and is the best safety in the draft - he would certainly help the Patriots at the position.

With the 31st pick, SB Nation has the Patriots selecting Illinois defensive end / outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus:

2012 is shaping up to be the year of the scheme versatile pass rusher. That probably sets up some teams for disappointment. Mercilus does not look like a prospect who will disappoint. He has the speed and power to get around blockers and get to the passer, something he did with regularity last season. If he had more than one year of starting experience under his belt, he might get picked higher. Tweener or not, he's the kind of player the Patriots will find a way to use.

Mercilus has the typical size-weight-speed the Patriots look for in their 3-4 outside linebackers, as he stands at just under 6'4" and 265 lbs, and will likely run the 40 yard dash between 4.6 and 4.7 seconds at the combine. Mercilus has the type of burst you'd want and has the ability to line up at multiple spots and relentlessly get after the quarterback. However, he was a one year wonder at Illinois (had just two sacks prior to his 16.0 sack junior season) and he is still a bit raw. Still, the Patriots could benefit from drafting a project pass rusher - and Mercilus would be just that.