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2018 NFL Draft: ESPN’s Mel Kiper gives the Patriots a pass rusher in his latest mock draft

Is this really a need?

Goodyear Cotton Bowl - USC v Ohio State Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The New England Patriots have had an inconsistent pass rush in 2017, so it’s clear that they need a boost at the position. But there’s a legitimate question of whether the need is important enough to address in the draft, or could be resolved simply by having players on the injured reserve getting healthy again.

That question is addresses in ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft as he gives the Patriots another pass rusher in the first round.

32. New England Patriots: Rasheem Green, DE, USC

Green was absolutely unblockable in the second half of the season, finishing with 10 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He could play tackle in a 4-3 defense or end in a 3-4, which is probably what he’d be for New England. At 6-4, 275 pounds, Green has a tremendous frame, and I think he’ll be impressive in workouts. Could New England think about a quarterback here? Tom Brady will be 41 when the 2018 season begins. The Patriots also will have a pick in the first half of the second round as a result of the Jimmy Garoppolo trade.

On the current active roster, the Patriots have Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler, Eric Lee, and Geneo Grissom under contract for 2018, along with hybrid linebacker Kyle Van Noy. On the injured reserve, the Patriots have Derek Rivers and Keionta Davis, along with hybrid players Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, and Harvey Langi. This group could be bolstered further if they retain Marquis Flowers.

So is pass rusher really a need? I would argue that it is not if all of those players are healthy enough to return. If there’s a question of long-term health for any of these players then, sure, pass rusher could become a need, but it isn’t a major one based on the existing roster.

That said, Green has been a beast for USC over the past two seasons, racking up 16 sacks and 19 tackles for loss, along with 8 passes defended and 3 forced fumbles. Green plays on both the edge and on the inside, which is similar to how the Patriots use players like Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise, and he’s strong against both the pass and rush, so he’s certainly a schematic fit.

Kiper also notes that the Patriots could consider a quarterback and has Wyoming’s Josh Allen (#1 overall), UCLA’s Josh Rosen (#2 overall), USC’s Sam Darnold (#5 overall), and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (#13 overall) all off the board. That would leave Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph as the top quarterbacks still on the board and both would be interesting fits with the Patriots.