With only a few weeks left until the NFL draft, fan and media speculation is running wild. Hundreds of college prospects are visiting and working out for teams. The visits, workouts, and rumors leave many people with a ton of unanswered questions. To help decipher these questions, NE Patriots Draft’s James Christensen stops by to talk all things draft in this Q & A.

In this years draft, there seems to be no consensus at the top of the draft. In your opinion, does this speak more to the prospects coming out or the teams needs at the top of the draft?

A little bit of both really – it all depends on how you rate the Quarterbacks.  To me, if I’m Carolina or Buffalo, and I’m more than just a new QB from contending for the playoffs, I take the best player available and throw my hat in the ring for Andrew Luck in 2012.

If you had to classify the Patriots top needs in this draft, what would they be and why?

Coming off a 14-2 season, the Patriots have more wants than needs. While there are a ton of “wants” on defense, including a stud RDE and OLB, the offensive line might be the only true “need”, with all the uncertainty surrounding Matt Light, Logan Mankins, and Nick Kaczur.

The vast majority of Patriots fans and analysts would agree that Outside Linebacker is a top need. Who are your top targets for the Patriots system?

In the first round, you are going to be looking at some risky conversions projects like Robert Quinn and Aldon Smith.  You might get Demarcus Ware or you might get Aaron Maybin, although I like both of these prospects much more than Maybin.  Jabaal Sheard from Pitt and Brooks Reed of Arizona are two guys that we’d grab in a heartbeat if they lasted until pick #60, although we doubt that they will. Later in the draft, we really like Thomas Keiser out of Stanford.

I could see the Patriots moving up in this draft to target a specific prospect. What teams do you think would trade down and which prospects d you think could be targeted?

Washington at pick 10 seems like the perfect fit for me.  It vaults the Patriots over another 3-4 team in Houston at 11 and the Redskins have a lot of holes in their draft that the Patriots could fill.  If Coach Belichick has his eyes on Quinn, Tyron Smith, or a WR/CB/DL that has fallen, this might be the last spot to jump in.

Robert Quinn is my favorite prospect in this draft, what are your thoughts on him and do you think he is a good fit for the Patriots defense?

Quinn’s perceived “character issues” are really a non-issue to us, and the Patriots have shown that missing a year doesn’t disqualify you from being a top-50 pick (Rob Gronkowski).  Therefore, it all comes down to Quinn’s talent.  He is an incredibly talented prospect, with great athleticism and an understanding of leverage from his years spent wrestling.  If he checks out medically and the Patriots can confirm his purported “film-rat” status, I think Quinn could be another cornerstone of the Patriots defense.

Da’ Quan Bowers stock seems to be slipping. If he falls into the Patriots range at pick 17, would you pull the trigger?

Bowers is such an intriguing prospect – he flashes all-world talent, but also disappears on film for long stretches.  If the Patriots see him as a 3-down player somewhere, 3-4 Elephant/4-3 DE perhaps, then picking him at 17 would hold some value.  If you can see anything in Belichick’s draft habits, its that he loves drafting guys that make an impact three or four downs.

 

What do you see the Patriots doing in the draft? Do you see there draft style staying the same or do you envision more of a aggressive style in order to select more quality players?

The way we perceive Belichick’s draft style is that he takes what the draft gives him, and we don’t see him starting to force things in 2011.  If a top prospect on the Patriots board falls, they will probably trade up.  If none of “their guys” are available at 17, they will probably trade down.  That said, with the current CBA issues, we could see the Patriots being a bit more aggressive in moving up for instant-impact players.

For anyone who would like to read more content and analysis from Mr. Christensen, be sure to visit NE Patriots Draft on his website or  follow him on twitter!

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