2012 NFL Mock Draft: John Jenkins, Luke Kuechly To Patriots In First Round

The 2011 NFL Draft is in the books, meaning its time to look ahead to the 2012 NFL Draft class. SB Nation's first 2012 NFL Mock Draft projects John Jenkins and Luke Kuechly to the Patriots in the first round.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Peter King Says Patriots Should Take J.J. Watt

We're already addressed Boston College's OT Anthony Castonzo going to the Buffalo Bills with the No. 3 overall pick in Peter King's 2011 mock draft. With the draft now just one week away -- despite the current lockout and possibility that there won't even, ya know, be a season -- let's look at who King sees the New England Patriots taking with their two first-round picks. 

In King's mock draft, he offers both who he thinks the team will take, as well as who the team should take (sometimes they're the same player). For the Patriots' first pick, the No. 17 overall selection, King has Bill Belichick drafting Florida G/C Mike Pouncey, but says they should take Wisconsin's J.J. Watt. 

Watt's a speedy, versatile defensive end who'd allow Vince Wilfork to move back inside where he belongs. Pouncey? He's a Day One starting guard, with the ability to someday replace Dan Koppen (32 in September) at center if need be. Either of these picks would make the Patriots better immediately. I give them Pouncey because of the interior-line urgency and the Urban Meyer/Bill Belichick connection.

King then predicts that if quarterbacks start to go quickly, the Patriots will trade their No. 28 pick away to the Tennessee Titans, who will use it to take FSU's Christian Ponder (although he says they should draft Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Would Patriots Consider Nate Solder, Justin Houston In First Round?

The 2011 NFL Draft starts April 28th at Radio City Music Hall, and SB Nation’s Brian Galliford continues his survey of the league with his latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft. In this version, the New England Patrriots select offensive tackle Nate Solder with the 17th overall pick and use the 27th pick on outside linebacker Justin Houston.

Galliford says New England is a “great situation” for Solder, who would eventually replace Nick Kaczur and the “aging” Matt Light. An “athletic marvel,” according to Galliford, Solder “would not need to start immediately,” which would buy him time to develop under Bill Belichick.

Houston, meanwhile, “is an excellent long-term prospect” who could thrive with the Patriots. He remains “under the radar” on most draft boards despite his “excellent athleticism at 270 pounds” and projects to have a solid career in 3-4 defensive alignments.

Elsewhere, Galliford has Boston College offensive tackle prospect Anthony Castonzo going to the New York Giants at the 19th overall position.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Patriots Slated To Take Tyron Smith And Cameron Heyward, Anthony Castonzo To Atlanta

The latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft at SB Nation has the Patriots taking USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith and California defensive tackle Cameron Heyward with their two first round picks.

Tyron Smith is a name we haven’t really heard connected to the Patriots in previous drafts, when the first pick had been used on defenders like Akeem Ayers and Cameron Jordan. But Brian Galliford can see how he’d fit into the team’s plans:

Matt Light isn’t getting any younger at left tackle, but he’s still performing well enough to afford the team the time necessary to develop his replacement. Smith has elite athleticism and potential, and the talent-laden Patriots are one team that can afford to take him early and stash him.

With Smith in hand, our mock draft predicts that the Pats will still be able to pick up the impact defensive lineman they’ve been needing in recent years. For the second straight time, Cameron Heyward fell to New England at no. 28. That would be quite a bit of value considering how many fans would be perfectly happy to see the Pats use their first pick on him.

Ty Warren’s absence was felt in 2010, and the Patriots need to begin re-stocking their defensive line with high-end talent. Heyward is a perfect fit for the 3-4 that would improve the Patriots’ pass rush from that position.

Meanwhile, Anthony Castonzo out of BC has dropped towards the end of the pack, being snagged by the Falcons at no. 27. That would have him blocking for another former Eagle in Matt Ryan as Atlanta fills a hole on their line.

Entering their fourth year on the job, Tom Dimitroff, Mike Smith and company continue to slowly build the Falcons into a perennial playoff contender. Poised to lose Tyson Clabo at right tackle, Castonzo is poised to step in right away – and would be an upgrade in any case.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Nick Fairley Still No. 1, Patriots Projected To Take UCLA's Akeem Ayers

Another new 2011 NFL Mock Draft at SB Nation, and another new projection for the New England Patriots with the No. 17 overall pick. 

Previous predictions have had Bill Belichick and company taking Ohio State's Cameron Heyward and Cal's Cameron Jordan. But the latest mock draft has New England drafting Akeem Ayers, an outside linebacker from UCLA. 

Versatility is the name of Ayers' game, as he has a lot of experience dropping into coverage. Many scouts believe he has the athleticism and size to rush the passer as a 3-4 outside linebacker, as well. Bill Belichick would find a way to use him alongside Jerod Mayo.

Auburn's Nick Fairley is still projected as the No. 1 overall pick, owned by the Carolina Panthers. 

After the 17th selection (via Oakland), the Patriots have their own pick, at No. 28. And it's there that SB Nation thinks Heyward will still be available. 

Like Paea before him, Heyward missed the Senior Bowl because of Tommy John surgery. He's a classic 'tweener, but New England would be an ideal landing spot, as he'd fit into the role that Richard Seymour vacated two years ago.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Patriots Still Slotted With Cameron Heyward, Da'Quan Bowers New No. 1 Pick

The effect of last week's announcement that Andrew Luck will stay at Stanford and return for the 2011 season is beginning to be felt around both the NFL and college football alike, particularly in 2011 NFL Mock Drafts. 

With the consensus favorite to be the top overall pick, draft boards everywhere have had to reshuffle the order at the top, and in SB Nation's latest 2011 NFL mock draft, the new No. 1 pick is Da'Quan Bowers, a defensive end from Clemson. 

Minus a sure thing at quarterback, the Panthers will seriously consider sticking with Jimmy Clausen and take the draft's best pass rusher. Bowers is a phenomenal talent just starting to come into his own.

The New England Patriots first of two first-round picks -- No. 17, via Oakland -- has not changed from the original mock draft (assuming they don't trade it, of course): 

17. New England Patriots (f/OAK): Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State. Chances are outstanding that the trade-happy Pats will deal this pick, but Heyward would be an outstanding fit for Bill Belichick. He's a high-character kid and a great football player that fits the 3-4 perfectly.

And with their second pick, SB Nation has the Pats drafting a cornerback: 

32. New England Patriots (14-2): Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado. The Pats appear to have found an excellent, possibly lock-down corner in 2010 first-round pick Devin McCourty. They're still searching for quality players at that position, and Smith would give the group a little size, as well.

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