If you watched any of the Patriots over the last few seasons, you know their weakness is on defense, not offense. They’ve made a few signings to hopefully boost both sides of the ball going into the 2012 season, but look for them to focus on defense in the draft tonight.
That said, it’s pretty much impossible trying to figure out who Bill Belichick has his eye on, but here are a few educated guesses:
How many times did the Patriots get beat over the top last season? Their biggest issue seemed to be giving up that big home-run type pass.
Options: Harrison Smith (Notre Dame) makes sense for the Patriots. He should certainly be available to the Pats late in the first, and they might even be able to trade out of that 31st pick and grab him in the second. He’s a smart player, and would be a special teams force as well. Brandon Taylor (LSU) is another guy the Pats will take a look at later in the draft if they miss out on Smith.
The Patriots lost Mark Anderson to the Bills, and it doesn’t look like they have much interest in bringing back Andre Carter. So who makes up for those 20 sacks? They signed Jonathan Fanene, but there are some options at defensive end that should be there.
Options: Rarely does Belichick draft an outside linebacker, especially near the top of the draft, so I don’t expect it this year. But one thing he looks for out of his defensive ends is versatility, and Andre Branch (Clemson) and Chandler Jones (Syracuse) look to have that. In a defense that goes from 3-4 to 4-3 at any moment, these guys fit the bill.
Vince Wilfork is still a beast, and Kyle Love is really coming into his own. Aside from those two, the Pats could use help. Ron Brace has been a dud, and Gerard Warren is getting up there in age.
Options: Kendall Reyes (UConn) was the early favorite for New England by draft pundits. From Nashua, New Hampshire, Reyes is a huge body with long arms and reportedly strong intangibles. Brandon Thompson (Clemson) is more of a run-stopper at this point, but again, has the versatility the Pats look for.