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New England Patriots 2012 Draft Preview

The Patriots are in a very unfamiliar draft position, as a franchise known for stockpiling picks comes into this year's event with just six selections total. Four of them lie in the opening two rounds, however, after extracting premium choices from New Orleans and Oakland in exchange for moving down in last season's draft, and there's a good possibility the defending AFC champs delegate most of them towards improving a defense that ranked 31st overall in both total yards allowed and passing yards surrendered in 2011. Bolstering the pass rush may be Bill Belichick's most specific objective after last year's leading sackers, Mark Anderson and Andre Carter, either left via free agency or weren't re-signed, and an athletic prospect with the versatility to harass the quarterback as either a 3-4 outside linebacker or a down lineman would be hard to pass up. Though safety Steve Gregory and veteran nickel back Will Allen were brought in this offseason, a secondary that was too often exploited by enemy passers could still use some additional support. New England also loaded up on experienced receivers during the signing period, but they're mostly short-term fixes and shouldn't preclude the club from grabbing a developmental-type who offers potential down the road. And as always, expect the Pats to be active on the trade front with the intention of recouping some of their lost late-round picks.

2011 Record: 13-3

Top Needs: OLB, S, WR

First Three Picks: No. 27, No. 31, No. 48

Number of Selections: 6 (1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4)

RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2011 - Nate Solder (OT, Colorado); 2010 - Devin McCourty (CB, Rutgers); 2009 - none; 2008 - Jerod Mayo (LB, Tennessee); 2007 - Brandon Meriweather (S, Miami-Florida); 2006 - Laurence Maroney (RB, Minnesota); 2005 - Logan Mankins (G, Fresno State); 2004 - Vince Wilfork (DT, Miami-Florida), Benjamin Watson (TE, Georgia); 2003 - Ty Warren (DT, Texas A&M).