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Jim McBride

A mock draft for the Patriots, looking at their needs and who’s available

Notre Dame defensive lineman Jerry Tillery.
Notre Dame defensive lineman Jerry Tillery.(mark j. terrill/AP)

Bill Belichick has a boatload of picks as the NFL opens its annual three-day, three-ring circus known as the draft Thursday night in Nashville.

Though the Patriots have plenty of needs, it’s unlikely the man in charge of the roster will use all of his league-high 12 picks. Belichick will be able to fill some immediate holes while also being able to flip some current picks to stockpile selections for the future.

For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll make the whole dozen. Let the mocking commence.

Round 1

No. 32 overall: Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame.

Tillery is a physically imposing and power-packed player with wide shoulders and long, strong arms. The 6-foot-6-inch, 295-pounder has excellent quickness and will slither through gaps and double-teams and get into the backfield with regularity.

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Tillery also can anchor against the run and has decent speed on back-side pursuit.

He fills an immediate need as New England will not have defensive tackles Malcom Brown (Saints) or Danny Shelton (free agent) back. His body type and athleticism suggest that Tillery could fill a role similar to Trey Flowers, playing both inside and on the edge depending on the package.

Round 2

No. 56 overall (via Chicago): Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama.

Another immediate need is addressed, as Smith can help fill the gaping hole created by Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. Smith (6-2, 242) is more of an H-back, more tight end than an in-line blocker. He is an above-average athlete who runs sharp routes and has excellent body control.

Smith had an outstanding senior season for the Tide (44 catches, 710 yards, 7 touchdowns) but it was his only real production, so he’s still a bit raw.

No. 64 overall: Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame.

The Patriots head back down the road to South Bend to pluck a receiver who really surged during his senior season and then blew everyone’s socks off with his performance at the Combine, which included an awesome 6.77 time in the three-cone drill.

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Boykin is a big body (6-4, 220) with excellent athleticism who has plenty of tread left on his tires. He has the speed to play the perimeter and the size and quickness to slide inside.

Round 3

No. 73 overall (via Detroit): Amani Hooker, S, Iowa.

An athletic and muscular last-line-of-defense bully with excellent speed. Hooker was such a playmaker that the Hawkeyes revamped their defense to implement a new hybrid safety/linebacker spot for him.

Hooker has top-notch instincts and pre-snap recognition skills. His aggressive nature (maybe too aggressive?) gets him in trouble at times, but the same was said about Rodney Harrison, too.

No. 97 overall (compensatory): Ryan Finley, QB, North Carolina State.

The Wolfpack continue to churn out quality signal callers, and this 6-4, 213-pounder is the latest. Finley reads through progressions in a flash and has a quick and accurate delivery.

He doesn’t have the strongest arm in this class and his athleticism isn’t elite, but both likely will improve as a pro. Seems like a great student for Josh McDaniels’s offense.

No. 101 overall (compensatory): Martez Ivey, OT, Florida.

A massive man with a wicked arm span, Ivey also has light feet, making it really difficult to get around him quickly. An SEC warrior, he lands direct effective punches on rushers, further delaying their path to the quarterback.

Martez has dealt with a ton of injuries (knee, shoulder, ankle), which raises red flags. He has come back from them all, however, which speaks volumes about his toughness.

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Round 4

No. 134 overall: Jonathan Ledbetter, DE, Georgia.

A pure bull rusher off the edge, the 6-4, 280-pounder has tremendous lower-body strength and really powerful hands. Ledbetter has a nice array of pass-rush moves to free himself from even the biggest blockers.

Round 6

No. 205 overall (compensatory): Bryce Love, RB, Stanford.

After a historic junior season (a school-record 2,118 yards), Love decided to go back to school, but calamity ensued when he was bitten by a nagging ankle injury and a torn ACL. If he is allowed to continue to rehab and possibly sit out his rookie season, he could be the steal of this draft.

Round 7

No. 239 overall (via Philadelphia): Terry Godwin, WR, Georgia.

A tremendous athlete (he was an Atlanta Braves draft pick in 2015) with speed to burn, Godwin produced receiving, rushing, and passing touchdowns for Georgia. The 5-11, 184-pounder could be employed in a variety of ways in New England’s offense.

No. 243 overall (via Kansas City): Blessuan Austin, CB, Rutgers.

With 12 picks, a Scarlet Knight was a given. Austin is another player with an injury background (he missed most of his last two seasons in Jersey with knee woes), but he has upside. When healthy, the 6-1, 198-pounder has the length to drape receivers and the strength to reroute them.

No. 246 overall: Dare Odeyingbo, DT, Vanderbilt.

A very strong and aggressive player who uses good technique and leverage to get under blockers’ pads and drive them back. Could add size to his frame (6-1, 279) and become a versatile rotational lineman.

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No. 252 overall (compensatory): Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan.

A bit of a project, the 6-8, 265-pound converted quarterback will need some coaching up as he continues to learn the position. Has decent athleticism and a giant catch radius. Could develop into a huge red zone weapon.

More NFL Draft coverage:

■  Ben Volin: If history is any indication, the Patriots will make a trade on draft weekend. In 19 previous drafts with the Patriots, the only time Bill Belichick didn’t execute a trade was in 2004.

■  Volin: Patriots can afford to take chances in draft because of Brady and Belichick

■  Volin: The long-term health of the Patriots may be riding on this year’s NFL Draft

Position-by-position prospect scouting reports:

■  Defensive backs: Virginia’s Juan Thornhill seems to have a sixth sense at safety

■  Linebackers: Texas LB Gary Johnson may lack size but not credentials

■  Offensive linemen: Battle-tested at Ohio State, Isaiah Prince ready for next step

■  Running backs: After injury-prone senior year, Stanford RB Bryce Love may be a sleeper pick

■  Receivers: Notre Dame’s Miles Boykins moves far up in the receiving line

■  Quarterbacks: Duke’s Daniel Jones could be a fine understudy to Tom Brady

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■  Tight ends: Jace Sternberger is no Gronk, but there are similarities

■  Defensive linemen: Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery is everything you want in a defensive lineman


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.