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Like the case in many years, the Patriots are in great position for the 2012 NFL Draft.
New England holds four draft choices in the first two rounds, stemming off trades with the New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders last April.
But, what angle will the Patriots go in? What do they need?
Let’s find out:
Heading into the 2010 season many wondered what the Patriots would do with all of its safeties.
For one, they had steady, but not great James Sanders; up-and-comer Patrick Chung; pro-bowler Brandon Meriweather; and the solid, sound tackler, Brandon McGowan.
Fast forward one season and 75 percent of those names are no longer on the roster. Instead, it’s the likes of: Sergio Brown, Sterling Moore, Josh Barrett and (at one point) Ross Ventrone that manned the safety spot for the Patriots.
New England’s pass defense, at times, has been putrid. And it’s been the pass defense that, at times, has cost the Patriots games. (See: New York Giants)
In the past, this “plug and go” strategy on the defense has worked. Remember Earthwind Mooreland? But, it’s never been sustainable. Armed with two first-round picks — albeit late — the Patriots are in a good position to add to its secondary.
Chung, who has missed some time in 2011, looks to be a consistent piece at safety — although we did say that about Meriweather and Sanders too — but, Bill Belichick and Co. can’t live another season with this strong safety by committee rotation.
An early prospect to keep an eye on is Mark Barron. The hard-hitting safety from Alabama looks the part and we know Belichick likes to pick from Nick Saban’s pool, whether at Alabama or LSU.
In 2008 it was Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite. In 2009 it was Darius Butler. In 2010 there was Devin McCourtey. Ras-I Dowling joined the party in 2011.
Aside from Wilhite, all the players listed where drafted in the second round or higher. Of all the players listed, McCourtey is currently the only player active on the Patriots roster. (Dowling is on injured reserve)
Year after year, the Patriots have a need at the cornerback position and year after year, they attempt to fill it by drafting a young defensive back.
That recipe won’t change in the 2012 draft. Aside from McCourtey and Dowling, the Patriots corner situation looks bleak.
Kyle Arrington, whose impressive interception numbers perceive him to be better than he is, is inconsistent and lack solid coverage ability. In years past, Arrington would be the fourth or fifth CB option.
Phillip Adams and Antwuan Molden are nothing more than bodies to get New England through the season.
LSU junior CB Mo Claiborne is the best coverage corner in the draft, but could go in the Top 15 — if he declares. Another viable option is Janoris Jenkins. Despite his checkered past at Florida, Jenkins ventured to North Alabama, where he re-established his name for himself.
We will post needs 3-5 in the coming days. So, be on the lookout.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Follow Matthew Marcantonio on Twitter: @M_Marcantonio