NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock held a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. The Patriots are picking 28th and 31st overall in the first round and have two picks in the second round, and Mayock said they would be wise to focus on defense early.
"They have two picks in the first round -- what a surprise," Mayock said. "Bill [Belichick] is a master at letting the board come to him, so I don't even think Bill will know really until that last week prior to the draft what specific players he's interested in. The way I look at it is it's got to be all about defense. You're sitting there with two picks, with the ability to move up, down or stay at 27 and 31. In a league where it's a pass-first league, I was kind of happy to see the return of defense in the playoffs and the Super Bowl, but let's be honest about it -- there are a lot of teams, including the Patriots, that want a track meet every week, which means you have to rush the quarterback and you have to defend on the back end. I think those are the two areas of need that kind of cry out for some help in the draft for the Patriots."
Mayock said that when it comes to offense, the Pats should focus on getting a vertical receiever. He noted that he believes the draft features four first-round receivers, and many big receivers who need to run well at next week's combine to prove their worth.
"[Wes] Welker has had career years and those two tight ends are exceptional, which has kind of changed the way a lot of people look at offense in this league," Myock said. "I think you have to give Bill and his coaching staff a lot of credit for crafting what they've crafted with that offens. However, having said that, between Welker and the tight ends, they're based in the middle of the field more than they are vertically. I think a vertical wide receiver could really help them."
As for projected first overall pick Andrew Luck, Mayock said the Stanford quarterback is "not Tom Brady or Peyton Manning," but that he is a better prospect than the likes of Matt Ryan and Cam Newton have been in recent years.