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Samsonite Make Your Case: First-round action

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Patrick Chung

We're now less than a week out from the NFL Draft, in which New England owns two picks in each of the first two rounds ... at least for now.

Knowing Bill Belichick's propensity for trading out of the first round, that could change at any time.

Until then, though, we're left to wonder, wish, and wax poetic about what the Patriots should do once the first round arrives.  

Read the arguments from the Patriots Football Weekly writers, then cast your vote in our Samsonite Make Your Case poll.

Erik Scalavino says, "Select Whitney Mercilus "

I know I sound like a broken record, but the Patriots needs a talented pass rusher. I've been saying it for the past few years, and they've failed to do so every time. So, I'm going to keep banging that drum, because it remains the most glaring need on this New England roster.

Last year should have been the year they took a pass rusher. It was not only the deepest position in the 2011 class, it was perhaps the best pass rush group in years. And this year's crop is significantly less attractive overall.

However, Illinois' Whitney Mercilus is a player who could fill the bill (pun intended). He has all the measurable number that Bill Belichick so desires in an outside linebacker: size (6-3, 265), speed (4.6), production (16 sacks last year), not to mention versatility.

Granted, Mercilus' jaw-dropping output in 2011 was light years beyond what he'd done in his previous two seasons in Champagne (one sack each in '10 and '09), but he wouldn't be the first so-called 'one-year wonder' to become a bona fide player at that position. In fact, the Patriots just faced one in the New York Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul (whose parents, like Mercilus', interestingly, are Haitian 'migr's)

Mark Anderson had 10 sacks for the Patriots last year ' an aberration, based on his career production prior to that. So did Andre Carter. But the former moved on to Buffalo and the latter is an elder statesman coming off quad surgery. It's unclear if he'll be brought back, and if so, when he'll be able to play.

More than ever, the Patriots need a young, aggressive pass rusher to bring a fear factor back to this team's defense, and to help a still-developing secondary, which was torched throughout 2011. Mercilus has the skills (and the marketable-sounding surname) to be that player.

Problem is, a lot of other teams ahead of the Patriots in the draft might think so, too. There's a chance he'll still be available when New England picks at 27, but more likely, they'll have to bite the bullet for once and actually trade up ' not down ' to get this guy.

I think it would be worth the price.
~ ES

Andy Hart says, "Pick Mark Barron"

In my opinion the Patriots two biggest needs at this point come at the edge of the defensive front and in the middle of the defensive backfield. With that in mind, Alabama safety Mark Barron would be the perfect pick for New England.

The problem is that even while recovering from a double hernia that might hurt his value a bit, Barron is still projected by many to be taken well before the Patriots pick. And while I can't necessarily rationalize moving up to 10 or 12 to take Barron, if he's available in the late teens or early 20s I think a move up should be a legitimate consideration rather than waiting around for what could be some pretty lean pickings late in the first round.

Barron's experience in Nick Saban's defense and impressive physical skills would make him an immediate starter in New England. He would fill one of the biggest needs on the team, a position that was a revolving door of unimpressive talent a year ago. Barron is one of the few supposed sure-things in this year's draft. Go get Barron and you will not look back with any regrets.
~AH

Your turn! Cast your vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll:

http://polldaddy.com/poll/6156344/

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