Maybe, just maybe, Bill Belichick will decide to move up for a player he targets at a key position of need in a draft that seems to lack some first-round luster. Could he jump up to around No. 10 by packaging the 27th and 31st pick? Could he move up to the late teens or early 20s with a lesser package of picks? Will he move down and out yet again, leaving us all wanting for more?
Anything can happen on draft day, and 2012 promise to be maybe one of the most unique, active, unsettled first rounds that we've seen in quite some time.
Until that kicks off tonight at 8 pm, here's a look at 10 guys who would make really good Patriots. Some are elite talents that likely won't last until Belichick makes his pick. Others could be in the ballpark late in the first round. And some are picks that won't go off the board until Friday or Saturday. But all would make sense in New England. These aren't the only guys the Patriots might take in this draft by any mreans, but I'd be surprised if at least one of these names doesn't get a call from the 508 area code in the next couple days.
- Mark Barron, S, Alabama - Aside from him being an in-the-box safety rather than more of a free safety, Barron would be a great fit. He comes from Nick Saban's scheme that should make for a nice transition. He's a very good football player and safety remains one of the Patriots biggest needs. Too bad Barron may go off the board in the 12-15 range. Or higher.
- Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois - Some think Mercilus is Vernon Gholston 2.0. He's a one-year wonder, but some guys with limited college production/experience end up as NFL stars – see Smith, Aldon. Mercilus has all the measurables and potential to be a star on the edge of Belichick's front.
- Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse - Jones may not be an elite pass rusher, but he has big potential. He has the length, athleticism and versatility to help in both the 4-3 and the 3-4. He has big upside and a high ceiling. He may go around 20, but maybe he'll slip. Or maybe Belichick will go get him.
- Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor - Wright is an experienced, productive, well-rounded deep threat that the Patriots could develop as the team's future at the WR position.
- Trumaine Johnson, DB, Montana - Johnson is a small-school guy, but has great size. He could play corner or free safety, bringing versatility and potential to the back end of the defense.
- Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama/Bruce Irvin, OLB, West Virginia - At some point either of the two badder boys in the draft class might become value for Belichick at positions of immense need. Can't question the potential of either guy.
- DeQuan Menzie, DB, Alabama - Menzie was a corner for Saban's Tide, but could be a cover safety in the NFL. That versatility would be a boon for the Patriots in the mid or later rounds.
- Olivier Vernon, OLB, Miami - Vernon is a projection with limited college experience/production. But he has the tools to be a 3-4 OLB.
- Juron Criner, WR, Arizona - A big outside receiver with OK speed and good hands who could be a long term weapon for Tom Brady.
- Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple - Pierce has the size and speed to be an every down back in the NFL. He also would add another body to New England's unproven committee.
What do you think of my list? Would some grouping of these names leave you happy on draft weekend? Who did I leave off the list of likely New Englanders? Let us know with a comment below!