Logan Mankins is the only guard Bill Belichick has drafted in one of the first three rounds over the last 10 years. And now, Mankins is the reason why Belichick might put extra priority on that position again in this draft.
There's still no telling whether or not Mankins will be around in 2011, but the Patriots might be better off assuming he's gone. Under that notion, the top-two guards on the depth chart — Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell — went undrafted, which shows how little dedication Belichick has placed on the position in the draft.
If Belichick bucks that trend, he might prefer Florida interior lineman Mike Pouncey.
The 6-foot-5, 303-pounder started 45 games at Florida, including 28 at guard, 13 at center and four on the defensive line.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Pouncey is considered one of the two best guards in the draft class, and he plays very similarly to his brother, Maurkice, who had a Pro Bowl rookie season in 2010 with the Steelers. Like many at the position, Pouncey can play guard or center, which will give the Patriots plenty of flexibility in the event of an injury at any of the three interior positions.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
Pouncey could go anywhere from the middle of the first round to early in the second round, and if they probably wouldn't go after a guard until the 28th pick. Some analysts don't believe Pouncey is as good as his brother, and the family name could be inflating his draft stock. Also, as noted earlier, Belichick doesn't give draft priority to interior linemen.
Potential Impact in 2011
If Mankins is out of the picture, Pouncey and Connolly would be the leading candidates to start at the two guard position, with Connolly likely staying on the left side and Pouncey going to the right. If Mankins returns for a full season, Connolly and Pouncey will compete for the starting job at right guard.
What The Locals Are Saying
Pouncey deals with the natural comparisons to his brother.
Where Can the Patriots Expect to Draft Pouncey?
If a team takes Pouncey before the Patriots pick at No. 28, they should just tip their cap and be fine with that. There's no guarantee the Patriots will take a guard with one of their first three picks, but they shouldn't do it any earlier than late in the first round or early in the second. There is, however, a good possibility Pouncey will be off the board by the 28th pick.
Every day through April 28, NESN.com will spotlight one player the Patriots could draft with one of their first three picks.
Friday, April 1: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
Saturday, April 2: North Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Quinn
Sunday, April 3: Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward
Monday, April 4: Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones
Tuesday, April 5: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
Wednesday, April 6: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
Thursday, April 7: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
Saturday, April 9: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi