Mock thoughts: Another vote for Elam

Later this month, we'll be at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and that's when preparations for the draft will shift into a higher gear in this space. But that hasn't stopped others from getting a head start with mock drafts, such as Tony Pauline of USA Today.

Pauline's first mock draft is now posted, and it is passed along here in the spirit of using it as a tool to become more familiar with prospects and needs of other teams.

At No. 29, Pauline could envision a scenario where the Patriots select Florida safety Matt Elam.

"Safety has been a sore spot for the Patriots, and deep center field continues to be an issue," Pauline writes. "Elam's range and pass-coverage skills are the perfect remedy."

Elam is listed at 5-foot-10 and 202 pounds, which is a bit on the smaller side in the eyes of some, but his toughness, playmaking skills and sure tackling have him as one of the draft's highly-touted prospects. He was also the pick for the Patriots in Don Banks' initial mock draft on SI.com.

To read Pauline's full mock draft, CLICK HERE.