INDIANAPOLIS - As we dive further into the 2012 draft class, it's worth noting that two perceived positions of need for the Patriots - outside receiver and edge pass rusher - are fairly well-stocked. Whether that makes the Patriots leap is another issue entirely. Bill Belichick said the edge rushers in the 2011 class were as good as he'd ever seen and the Patriots didn't pluck one in the first three rounds. But, as Patriots personnel man Nick Caserio explained, the talent is there in a draft stocked with pre-senior talent.
"This is the most underclassmen I think that actually asked for an evaluation from the league," Caserio said at the NFL Combine. "Theres depth at more positions relative to others. Id say receiver is a position of strength. The offensive line is a position of strength. The front seven is a position of strength. A lot of the players, front seven especially that were down at the Senior Bowl, are some of the better players in this draft. I think its a good draft. Like every year, each position has a little more depth or balance relative to others. Thats kind of where it is right now as we sit here at the combine.
With the Patriots playing a base 4-3 defense to begin the 2011 season then shifting to more 3-4 later in the year, Caserio was asked if scheme mattered in terms of deciding where to rate players. A good question. Caserio was a little vague in his answer though, saying they'll look at versatility. "You look at the front seven in general terms because you could really shift back and forth depending on whether it was the team or opponent we were playing," Caserio explained. "At the end of the year, we were playing a little more odd fronts. We played, I think, 65, 70 percent of the snaps were sub defense. Were a multiple team, so, you look at those front seven players in general terms and then you get them into your program and figure out where their skill set is best going to be utilized."One place the Patriots are well-stocked is the interior defensive line with young players like Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Ron Brace and Myron Pryor (although Brace has been a bit of a disappointment). One spot that's very weak in this draft is safety. And the Patriots are very thin at that spot.