Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, who writes a must-read piece for the National Football Post each Sunday, includes his first mock draft as part of his "Sunday Blitz."
Pompei strays a bit from the pack when it comes to the Patriots. While others have locked in on the defensive line, Pompei envisions a scenario where the team selects Southern Cal offensive tackle Tyron Smith at No. 17, and then comes back with Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston at No. 28.
ANALYSIS: To select Smith at No. 17, the Patriots would have to be confident that he could be their left tackle of the future. Because Smith was primarily a right tackle in college, there is an element of risk in making that projection. The other factor is how the team views third-year offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer. If the Patriots plan to keep Vollmer on the right side, then it makes sense to eye a left tackle when considering Matt Light is a free agent. But if the club is comfortable flipping Vollmer to the left side, this might be not as pressing a need as the interior of the line. As for Houston, he looks like the type of player with the physical make-up to set the edge on the outside. His pass-rush skills could also benefit the team, with the big question how he plays in coverage. While Smith and Houston could help the Patriots, the three players I would target in this scenario are Purdue defensive end/outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey, and Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward.