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New England Patriots Links 3/09/12 - Mel Kiper Assesses the Patriots' Needs

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<em>Sergio Brown, Devin McCourty, Josh Barrett... Pats are all set at safety, right?</em>
Sergio Brown, Devin McCourty, Josh Barrett... Pats are all set at safety, right?

Mike Reiss highlights what was learned about the 2012 Draft from ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper.

1. At the safety spot, where the Patriots have a need, things have started to shake themselves out. Mark Barron (Alabama) is viewed as a mid-first round pick and Harrison Smith (Notre Dame) a late first-rounder to early-to-mid second-rounder (7 INTs as a junior, 0 as a senior). Brandon Taylor (LSU) could sneak into the second round (he's rising a bit as this process unfolds) while Antonio Allen (South Carolina) and Phillip Thomas (Syracuse) are more third-round type of options.

4. With the Patriots projected to be in the market for a receiver, Arkansas has three to keep on the radar -- Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. Kiper slots Adams and Wright in the third round area as slot options, while noting that Childs is gaining momentum. While Childs doesn't have the same speed as Adams and Wright, he is bigger and viewed as a bit more polished and gets separation. A knee injury late in 2010 has knocked him off track. "All three of those guys are playing in the NFL and will have vital roles in the NFL," Kiper said.

5. The center spot, where the Patriots have some uncertainty, is weak. Kiper has Peter Konz (Wisconsin) as a first-rounder and then a big gap to the fifth round until the second-rated player at the position, Michigan's David Molk.

6. Outside linebacker/defensive end Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) is falling a bit and is a challenging projection to some teams. Kiper views him more in the LaMarr Woodley category of outside linebacker for 3-4 defenses. Upshaw is now in the 16-22 range in Kiper's view, potentially putting him in striking range for a reasonable trade up if the Patriots like him.

7. For teams like the Patriots who are looking for an explosive playmaker in the return game, RB Chris Rainey (Florida) is an all-purpose type of player who warrants consideration. Rainey is viewed as a second- or third-round option.