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.