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Patriots and AFC East 2013 NFL mock draft roundup

Posted by Erik Frenz  April 17, 2013 07:00 AM

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Mock drafts always change throughout the pre-draft hype train, but with the 2013 NFL draft just around the corner, it's time to start taking one last look around the Internet at which prospect each team is being projected to take.

The Internet just happens to be filled with as many mock drafts as pictures of cats with cute captions under them, but the most renowned experts are the ones we'll look at here.

So, in an attempt at a last-minute round-up of opinions, let's consult the top draft analysts and see what they have in mind for the AFC East in the first round.

Expert mocks:

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN
James Christensen, NEPatriotsDraft.com
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports
Russ Lande, NationalFootballPost.com

New England Patriots

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Three of the five experts here went with a cornerback to New England at No. 29. That's interesting considering they have made significant strides to keep that position steady for 2013. Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor is seen by some as a second-round pick, but here, two experts pick him to the Patriots at No. 29.

Taylor has all the versatility Bill Belichick typically looks for in his cornerbacks, from his ability to play both man and zone coverage to his willingness to contribute against the run. He also showed solid ball skills in his junior and senior years at Boise State, with 21 pass break-ups and six interceptions.

Russ Lande's pick makes sense on several levels. Williams is not the elite pass-rushing defensive tackle the Patriots need, but he could be seen as a long-term heir to Vince Wilfork at the nose tackle spot, and a near-term upgrade over Kyle Love in the spot next to Wilfork. Given Belichick's relationship with Nick Saban, it wouldn't shock anyone if the Patriots went with another Alabama defender with an early draft pick.

New York Jets

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All five of our experts had the Jets picking a defensive player, and four had a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid with the No. 9 pick.

That probably has something to do with the fact that the Jets cut linebacker Calvin Pace and said goodbye to linebacker Bryan Thomas as a free agent. The two had clearly lost a step in providing pressure off the edges, and combined for just 5.5 sacks in 2012. The Jets starting duo of outside linebackers is Antwan Barnes and Garrett McIntyre were not much better; they totaled 6.5 sacks last year.

If it's not because of that, it might be because the Jets sacked opposing quarterbacks on 5.7 percent of drop-backs in 2012, the ninth-lowest average in the NFL, and could clearly use a boost to their ailing pass rush.

It's pick-your-poison with these four. BYU's Ezekiel Ansah, Georgia's Jarvis Jones, Oregon's Dion Jordan and LSU's Barkevious Mingo all have holes in their game, but any of the, would add a necessary amount of athleticism to the front seven.

Ansah is brimming with athleticism, but the question is whether he truly loves football, having only played it for three years after moving here from Ghana. Jones showed a lot of potential to make plays in the SEC, and there were concerns about a neck injury, but those were cleared up at the combine. Jordan is a versatile player, but may never be a consistently elite pass-rusher. Mingo will certainly be that, but the question is whether he will be a liability against the run.

All things considered on each prospect, Jones seems like the best pick.

At 6'2" and 245 pounds, he's a little small by the Jets' standards, but he got the job done against SEC talent in college, and did so as a 3-4 outside linebacker no less. He led the nation in both tackles for loss (24.5) and sacks (14.5), which would greatly help the Jets as they build a younger, more athletic fron seven.

Buffalo Bills

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All signs point to the Bills targeting Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, but the question is when. Opinions have varied on Nassib since Day 1, when Russ Lande called Nassib the top quarterback in the class while others insisted they wouldn't take him in the first round. Our own Greg Bedard is on board with Nassib as a first-round talent:

It turns out he's far from the only one. There's a split for the bills between Ansah and Nassib, with one expert predicting the Bills to take West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin.

Ansah doesn't make a lot of sense to Buffalo because they just spent an exorbitant amount of money on defensive ends Mark Anderson and Mario Williams last offseason. Adding defensive coordinator Mike Pettine should greatly help the pass rush; he knows how to generate pressure.

Nassib, however, makes sense, especially if head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett are going to continue to run the same style of offense with the Bills they ran with Syracuse.

In watching some of Nassib's game tape at DraftBreakdown.com, his accuracy did come into question. In games against USC and Louisville, there was some inconsistency — great deep passes were cancelled out by underthrown balls; good decision-making was offset by erratic throws under pressure.

Nassib showed command of the offense last year, and he has the arm strength to make all the NFL throws. If his football IQ is as high as I keep reading it is, those two components could come together to make him a great NFL quarterback.

Miami Dolphins

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There was only one pick on offense: Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker. Meanwhile, four experts felt a defensive back was the way to go: Two for Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes, one for Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, and one for Texas safety/cornerback Kenny Vaccaro.

There was a time when I felt Rhodes would be a great fit in Miami's secondary, but now I'm not so sure. He has great measurables and will be great in man coverage from the get-go, gone are the days of pure man cover cornerbacks like Sean Smith and Vontae Davis, both big corners close to or above six feet tall and over 200 pounds.

They showed their hand a bit in signing free-agent cornerback Brent Grimes, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound corner who is at his best in zone.

Dee Milliner would be nice, but the chances of him falling out of the top 10 — or even the top six — are slim.

Of these picks, D.J. Fluker makes the most sense.

Fluker is not a dominant athlete, but he is a mauler in the running game, and has freakishly long arms at 36.75-inches long which allow him to reroute pass-rushers around the quarterback.

The Dolphins have still yet to add help at right tackle through free agency, and the offensive line remains one of the biggest needs for the team headed into the draft with left tackle Jake Long out and so much uncertainty around whether Jonathan Martin can play. Adding Fluker could give them at least one answer.

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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »


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