New England is projected to select Cameron Jordan, a defense end from the University of California, with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, according to SB Nation's latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft.
In addition, SB Nation has the Patriots selecting Justin Houston, an outside linebacker from Georgia, with the 28th overall selection in this year's draft.
Jordan had 161 career tackles, one interception and one forced fumble in four seasons at Cal. In 2010, Jordan recorded a career-high 51 tackles (26 solo) and tied a career-high with six sacks. Here's what Brian Galliford of SB Nation had to say about Jordan in the latest mock draft.
Once one of the league's prominent true 3-4 fronts, Bill Belichick has used more 40 front over the past couple of years. In Jordan, he gets a five-technique player for his 30 front that can play the edge or inside when he goes even.
Cameron Heyward was originally projected to be the Pats' pick at No. 17, but Jordan was also in the mix from the start, according to SB Nation's Patriots blog, Pats Pulpit.
Senior Alternative: Cameron Heyward, Cameron Jordan, Allen Bailey, Christian Ballard,
Analysis: There are some top prospects in both the junior and senior ranks, but the seniors match-up well in comparison to their junior counterparts. The Patriots almost certainly have to draft a defensive end, and there are players who rank right around the Patriots' draft picks.
Verdict: Jordan at 17, Heyward at 28, Wilkerson at 33, or Ballard at 60.
Houston finished his collegiate career with 110 career tackles in three seasons at Georgia. He had a career-best 56 tackles (30 solo) and a whopping 10 sacks this season for the Bulldogs. Here's Galliford's take on Houston.
With a five-technique guy in Cameron Jordan already on board, Belichick can continue to build his young defense by taking a solid pass-rushing OLB to team up with 2010 second-round pick Jermaine Cunningham.
While Houston is a top prospect at outside linebacker, Pats Pulpit doesn't believe that New England will take him, or any other outside linebacker for that matter, late in the first round.
Analysis: The Patriots won't take an OLB in the first round, unless the player presents incredible value (as in: Quinn, Smith or Kerrigan drops to 28), which means that the Patriots will start looking at the OLB spot from 33 and 60. Beal is my favorite second round prospect because of his ability to reach the quarterback, contain the run and drop into coverage. Ayers struggles to generate pressure and Houston doesn't drop into coverage- and Sheard is a great edge setting, which puts him above the two juniors, in my book.