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2012 NFL Draft: Potential Patriots – Defensive Line

Bill Belichick (Getty)

As the 2012 NFL Draft approaches, the New England Patriots have some glaring needs. One of those needs, as many will agree, is at Defensive End. With the losses of Mark Anderson and presumably Andre Carter, the Patriots will need to fill the void left by their two best pass-rushers.

The Patriots have never truly had a dominant pass rusher in the last decade. Richard Seymour was a great defensive lineman, but was never a game-changing pass-rusher. They’ve had other linebackers that could attack the passer, but they’ve never had a Michael Strahan (or a number of other New York Giants) type player that could single-handedly alter a game, or even a season.

The way the Patriots will address this is most likely through this year’s draft (if they choose to do so). In past years, the Patriots have gotten by without a pass rush with either A. a strong defensive backfield or B. an overly conservative defensive backfield. But one must assume that Coach Belichick is growing impatient with this current defensive philosophy and would like to adopt a more aggressive style – a style that disrupts today’s most important players: quarterbacks.

Here’s a look at some potential Patriots that could not only improve their pass rush, but also improve their defensive backfield:

Kendall Reyes, DL, Connecticut

Reyes was not a prolific pass-rusher in a weak Big East, so let’s not pretend that drafting Reyes would be like drafting Clay Matthews. However, Reyes is everything the Patriot’s defensive line is not: tall, long, athletic, and young. He’s the type of player that Belichick will see potential in – a player to mold, to teach, to form.

Devon Still, DT, Penn State

Projected as a late first/early second round pick, the Patriots could see Still as yet another big, long, athletic lineman who could, like the Giant’s line all teams should emulate, be disruptive not only in rushing the passer but in deflecting passes with a massive wing span.

Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

This is a player I’ve had my eye on, and one I hope the Patriots have been looking at as well. Mercilus led the Big Ten and the nation in sacks and forced fumbles. He may have bee the single most disruptive defensive player in the country, and yet he’s slated in a lot of mock drafts to go in the second round. He has to be Belichick’s dream selection, which huge talent and even bigger value.

Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

Another Big East pass rusher?  Yes, yes, I know, how good could he be? He had 4.5 sacks in only seven games last season. Mel Kiper recently suggested that Jones could be a hybrid Outside Linebacker/Defensive End, with linebacker speed and athleticism. The Hoody loves versatility.

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