by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Well, now that I have as much chance of winning my NCAA pool as Pittsburgh does (thanks a lot, Big East!), time to refocus on the NFL draft.

Today we’ll discuss some players whose names have appeared on many mock drafts, but with whom we have some issues. (For a concise rundown of Pats mock picks, check out the draft tracker on While most of the choices below have some merit, we just don’t see them as helping out the team as much as others could.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: (Um, just one, please?) While New England needs a boost to its front five, we disagree with taking two with their first two picks.

For the love of all that’s decent, Coach Belichick, WILL YOU PLEASE DRAFT A PASS RUSHER?

In other words, Mike Pouncey or Derek Sherrod or Gabe Carimi. Also, as much as we enjoy watching BC football – although “enjoy” is stretching it of late – we’re not looking to bring tackle Anthony Castonzo to Gillette. After watching his matchup against North Carolina’s Robert Quinn, we don’t have the confidence that Castonzo can start right away as an NFL tackle.

Jake Locker

QUARTERBACKS: We’ve seen Jake Locker of Washington mock-selected by prospective Pats fans in the first or early second round. Except for trade scenarios, we don’t want to see any QBs picked until at least Round Five. I mean, come on. That’s obvious. Or “obvi,” as the kids are saying.

Heaven help me, I just don’t get the kids.

PASS RUSHERS: The Patriots lack a pass rusher in the same way the moon lacks gravity: what’s there will hold you, but it’s less than what you really need. Some of the names being floated around on the team’s behalf make us nervous. For example, Aldon Smith of Missouri has good size (6-4, 263) but not-all-that-great strength (20 bench reps of 225) or quickness (4.5 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle). Declaring early for the draft after his sophomore year, he’s also greener than Kermit.

Dontay Moch of Nevada has tremendous speed (4.4 40) and production (22 tackles for loss in 2010), but at 6-1, 248, it’s hard to imagine him setting the edge in New England’s 3-4 defense.

While we like the leverage of Akeem Ayers of UCLA (6-3, 254), he failed to impress at the combine. A slow 40 (4.81) and a weak bench (18 reps) take him off our list.

RUNNING BACKS: New England needs a running back the same way I need a workout – if I continue without one, it doesn’t bode well for the future. That said, Daniel Thomas of Kansas State has left our draft boards due in part to a slow 40 (4.63), but mostly because of nagging injuries that have prevented him from displaying his quickness. While he remains on our radar, his current rank as a second-rounder looks too risky right now.

Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech has been posited as a first- or early second-round pick, but for whatever reason I don’t see it (that means good news, Ryan: you’re going to Foxboro!). He has solid quickness (4.18 in the shuttle) but only so-so speed (4.63 40); he’s also a smaller guy at 5-9, 212 pounds. His 2009 highlight reel looks impressive (the first three minutes of it feature the BC defense, by the way) but we wonder how well his game will translate from the ACC to the NFL.

WIDE RECEIVERS: First and foremost comes Jon Baldwin of Pittsburgh. The Brobdingnagian ballplayer (6-4, 228 pounds) failed to impress scouts at the combine, running dull routes, showing little quickness, and missing too many catches. While his athleticism intrigues, his lack of fundamentals frightens.

Tandon Doss of Indiana (6-2, 200) was unable to participate in the combine due to double groin surgery (Good gracious: two groins?). He looks like a solid, versatile receiver; however, so does Julian Edelman. If Doss puts up the kind of 40 time that makes him a downfield option, that’s just fine. If not, New England needs to look for something beyond what they already have.

Greg Little of North Carolina looks better on paper than a winning lottery ticket. At 6-2, 230 pounds, he ran a 4.5-second 40, leapt 41 inches and completed the 3-cone drill in 6.80 seconds. All remarkable. One problem with bringing him to Gillette, though: don’t the Pats already have a gifted, raw receiver out of UNC in Brandon Tate? As a third-rounder, there’s more than a Little temptation here (get it? So funny), but the team needs to stay away from another developmental project and look for a pass-catcher who can contribute from day one.

So, what mock Pats players chafe your chaps? Let us know in the comment section below.

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