With the 23rd draft pick in the first round – and two selections in the second round (47th and 58th) – what areas might the Patriots target?
Draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network thinks outside linebacker could be one area, citing the age of the team’s starters at the position (Mike Vrabel turns 34 in August, Adalius Thomas is 32 in August).
“This is, I think, the best year for outside linebackers that I’ve seen in a long time,” said Mayock, who answered questions on a conference call Tuesday, and later followed up with reporters whose questions weren’t answered due to overflowing demand.
“So this is a situation where need lines up with depth in the draft. In that 3-4 scheme, there are at least four college defensive ends – 4-3 defensive ends – that I think are going to be rush linebackers.
“Aaron Curry [of Wake Forest] will be gone very early, obviously. Brian Orakpo from Texas, he’s a defensive end who I think is going to be a 3-4 rush linebacker -- I think he’ll be gone somewhere in the top 10 or 12 picks. Brian Cushing [of Southern California] is more of a 4-3 [strongside] linebacker, and some people think he can be an inside ‘backer in a 3-4 and that the Patriots would look at a guy like Cushing, and maybe they would. But I would think the outside is more of their priority.
“Which then brings in guys like Aaron Maybin from Penn State, an explosive edge rusher. Larry English, from Northern Illinois, another 4-3 defensive end who is going to be a rush linebacker. He’s kind of a late-1 to a mid-2, I think. Everette Brown, from Florida State, kind of the same thing – a late-1 to a late-2 – a defensive end who will probably be a rush linebacker. Clay Matthews from USC. Clint Sintim, who played in the 3-4 at Virginia and Al Groh, obviously the same system as Bill [Belichick], so it’s a little easier to evaluate.
“Those are some names, all guys who go by the end of the second round.”