Brian Baldinger of NFL Network produces his first mock draft, and it has an offensive twist for the Patriots. At No. 17, he slots Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey to New England, then follows up at No. 28 with Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure.
Pouncey would likely become an immediate starter.
"The Patriots lost a solid veteran with the retirement of guard Stephen Neal. Pouncey can start immediately the way Logan Mankins did six years ago and eventually take over for center Dan Koppen," Baldinger writes. "Coach Bill Belichick has had good success taking prospects from Florida, trusting the way Urban Meyer trains his players."
Leshoure, who visited with the Patriots on Thursday, would team with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and another back.
"The Patriots won their last Super Bowl behind the running of Corey Dillon," Baldinger writes. "They've gone through many running backs since, none who ran with his toughness or anger. It's the missing element for the Patriots' offense, an element Leshoure can bring to a team that loves to beat opponents any way necessary."
ANALYSIS: One of the keys to this type of scenario would be the Patriots coming away with a boost to the front seven on defense in the ensuing rounds. In this scenario, targeting a defensive lineman like Cameron Heyward or an outside linebacker/defensive end like Jabaal Sheard at 33 would be a step in that direction. The value of selecting a running back in the first round has been dissected this week, as has selecting an interior lineman as high as 17. When ranking the importance of positions, those are lower on the first-round radar. One of the big questions in this scenario would be if the Patriots utilized enough of their top resources to improve the defense.