There are 12 days remaining until one of the most anticipated football events of the year, the NFL draft.
With each passing day, excitement and debates build while prognosticators do their best to nail down which prospects will land with each team. This is especially tough to do in New England, where the Patriots hold the 32nd and final selection of the first round.
The difficulty in predicting whom the Patriots will pick is evident in the ever-changing mock drafts being re-written each day. In just the last two weeks, several of the top draft resources have released their latest mocks, all of which have new players headed to Foxborough.
The general feeling is that New England will look on the defensive side of the ball first for the second consecutive year. ESPN.com's Mel Kiper Jr. and Ourlads' Scouting Service both have South Carolina defensive end Kalimba Edwards going to the Patriots. Also going on the defensive line is NFLdraftcountdown.com, which targeted Notre Dame defensive tackle Anthony Weaver for the Super Bowl champs after going with Florida State wide receiver Javon Walker in its previous mock. Ourlad's is staying consistent in looking at ends, having predicted Dwight Freeney of Syracuse at the spot two weeks ago.
Defensive line certainly makes for a sensible pick. Richard Seymour was a strong pick a year ago, but their isn't much in terms of young talent at the spot. 2000 draft pick David Nugent and 2001 rookie free agent Jace Sayler could pan out, but are far from can't-miss prospects. The Patriots added veterans Rick Lyle and Steve Martin already this offseason to go with holdovers Bobby Hamilton, Anthony Pleasant and Willie McGinest, but the lack of young players is a bit of a concern.
Of course, holding the 32nd overall pick puts the Patriots in a similar situation to Head Coach Bill Belichick in a similar situation to the 2000 draft, when the team did not have a first-round pick. Barring a trade in which New England moves up, which is definitely possible depending on how the Drew Bledsoe situation plays out, the Patriots pick will depend largely on what the other 31 teams do first.
"We'll be watching the parade go by again like we did in 2000," Belichick said in the latest issue of Patriots Football Weekly. "We'll just have to pick up value at No. 32 like we did then at No. 46 [Adrian Klemm]. It's a bit similar to that."
Belichick came on board late in the draft preparations that year, another similarity he is facing this year after the run to the Super Bowl title. With that in mind, the first pick may have to go to the best player available, regardless of position or team need at the time.
It would seem this is the mindset used by Lone Star Football, who currently has UCLA running back DeShaun Foster as the Patriots first pick. In their previous mock, Lone Star went with Northwestern linebacker Napoleon Harris. Given New England's lack of youth and depth at linebacker, that pick made more sense. The Patriots brought back Antowain Smith with a multi-year deal to be the feature back and still have J.R. Redmond and Kevin Faulk in reserve roles, so the offensive backfield hardly seems to need as much help as other areas.
The same could be said for cornerback, where the Patriots have two-time Pro Bowler Ty Law, fellow starter Otis Smith and newcomer Tommy Knight from Arizona. In addition, 2001 draft picks Leonard Myers and Brock Williams, both of whom are seen as solid prospects, are waiting in the wings. Yet, both Frank Coyle of Draft Insider's Digest and Patriots Football Weekly are predicting Miami cornerback Mike Rumph for New England.