Kiper analyzes '12 class, looks forward

ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. kicked off his summer audits series with a look at the AFC East, and how each team helped itself during the draft, what questions remain, and which player likely to be available in next year’s draft would help each team this season.

As it relates to the Patriots, Kiper is high on the pair of first-rounders that they invested in, and believes that both Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower will pay early dividends.

The remainder of the class, however, he believes will have to wait, but not because they don’t possess ability, rather because the roster around them is already so talented.

Kiper still wonders about the Patriots' defensive personnel, and if the root of the pass defense woes in 2011 rested more in the secondary or the fact that quarterbacks had too much time to throw the football. With what looks to be an improved pass rush, we may find out more about the secondary this season.

And as for the player that should be available in next year’s draft that Kiper taps as a fit for the Patriots now? Xavier Rhodes of Florida State, whom he describes as a “big, physical corner who didn't see a lot of the ball last year because QBs rightfully wouldn't mess with his side of the field.”

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