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2012 NFL Mock Draft: New England Patriots Mock Dont'a Hightower, Jerel Worthy

The New England Patriots are expected to focus on the defensive side of the ball during the 2012 NFL Draft, looking to improve a unit that didn't always carry its weight during 2011.

Sports Illustrated's Don Banks became the latest NFL analyst to predict that New England would use both its first-round picks on defensive players, choosing the Patriots to select Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower and Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy in his latest 2012 NFL Mock Draft.

27. LB Dont'a Hightower Alabama Jr. 6-4 269

(From New Orleans). Hightower is a versatile and instinctive player who seems ready-made for the New England defense, and we know Bill Belichick and Nick Saban look for the same kind of players and trust each other's judgment.

31. DT Jerel Worthy Michigan State Jr. 6-3 310

With the Patriots taking Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower at No. 27, they can fill another front-seven need with Worthy, one of the many defensive tackles with first-round grades. Worthy could play in the Patriots' D-line rotation initially and perhaps develop into Vince Wilfork's successor down the road a bit.

For more on the Patriots, be sure to check out Pats Pulpit and SB Nation Boston for all the latest news and notes.