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2012 NFL Mock Draft: Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay Foresee Defense For Patriots

Now that the combine has passed and draft experts have had time to digest what they saw from each of the 325 invites, it's time for another round of mock drafts to quench our draft needs leading up to late April.

Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay -- the lead draft analysts for ESPN -- have each recently released their third mock drafts, and both foresee the Patriots looking defensive with each of their first round picks.

Here's a look at each of their projections and the corresponding analyses given:

Kiper:

27. Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut

I had Reyes to the Patriots with their other first-round pick in a previous mock, and he sticks, albeit a little higher, this time around. The Patriots know they have to get better along the defensive front, and that could come via free agency (Mario Williams?). Still, I'd be surprised if they don't target it in the draft, even though Bill Belichick never fails to make moves and surprise during the draft. Reyes provides an active run-stuffer up front, a guy that can eat up blocks and free up rushers.

31. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

There's no question Jenkins comes with baggage, but without it you're talking about a player in the conversation 20 spots higher on the board. If you like your locker room and feel like you can keep him on track, this is the kind of guy you take a risk on at a big need position. I still think corner is one for the Patriots, who could obviously look at pass-rush help here. But put a talent like Jenkins in a culture like New England's, and you could have a steal.

McShay:

27. Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

Mercilus is not a great athlete, but he is a good fit at end in a four-man front, which is something the Patriots are using much more often these days. New England needs pass-rush help, and Mercilus has a nonstop motor and a knack for making big plays (FBS-best nine forced fumbles in 2011).

31. Devon Still, DT, Penn State

Still could show more consistency, but if the Patriots get their pass-rusher at No. 27 and there are no viable options available at wide receiver, he would offer an upgrade over DTs Kyle Love and Ron Brace in four-man fronts. Playing alongside Vince Wilfork would help Still early in his career, and if he learns to play with better pad level he could become an impact defensive tackle.

For all of your Patriots info, check out Pats Pulpit, and for more updates on the upcoming draft, head to Mocking the Draft.