Prototypical Patriots: Griffin's athleticism makes him intriguing fit at corner

Prototypical Patriots: Griffin's athleticism makes him intriguing fit at corner

The Patriots may soon find themselves back in the cornerback market even after adding free-agent cover man Stephon Gilmore this offseason.

There's no guarantee that Malcolm Butler will be in the fold in New England in 2017, and even if he is, it's safe to say that no team -- no matter how flush with cover men they may be -- will turn its nose up at a good player at the position. It's simply too important. 


This year's draft class is loaded with talented corners, which means that Bill Belichick and his staff could watch a first-round player slip deep into the second round and potentially make a move to add him to a group that already features Gilmore, Butler, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones and special teams standout Jonathan Jones.

What do the Patriots typically like to draft at cornerback? They have a track record of grabbing great athletes with sound footwork who are willing tacklers. If you have experience playing man-to-man as well as zone, that's a plus. If you can play inside and out, that will also earn you points. Of course, production in big-time conference and special teams ability won't hurt you either.

There are so many draftable corners in this year's class that we've broken them up into two groups: Those who look like they'd be better fits primarily in the slot with the Patriots, and those who look like they could handle responsibilities outside the numbers for Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. 

Today we'll handle the outside guys, and on Monday we'll provide you with some names who could make their livings inside.

This is the third installment of a 12-part pre-draft series where we're looking into Prototypical Patriots at a variety of positions. To catch up on our first few cracks at this, head here for linebackers and here for safeties.

Sidney Jones, Washington, 6-feet, 186 pounds: Thought to be one of the draft's best corners before tearing his Achilles at Washington's pro day, Jones could slip into the second or third rounds and be looking at a redshirt rookie season. His 4.47-second 40-yard dash and 7.02 three-cone drill at the combine weren't elite markers of athleticism, but his toughness and his instincts to mirror receiver routes would make him an easy fit in New England if he makes a full recovery. The Patriots likely won't have a shot at top-end corners in this year's draft like Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley and Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, but if Jones slips because of his injury, they could end up with a Day 1 talent on Day 2.

Kevin King, Washington, 6-foot-3, 200 pounds: The Patriots don't typically draft the tallest, longest corners available, but they may be willing to make an exception for King. Despite his size, he's still one of the most explosive athletes in the class, which he proved in Indy when he ran a 4.43-second 40, jumped 39.5 inches in the vertical, and recorded top-notch times in the three-cone (6.56 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (3.89 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.14 seconds). Other long corners in this draft -- Florida's Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor, West Virginia's Rasul Douglas and Clemson's Cordrea Tankersley, for example -- simply don't bring the same kind of athleticism to the table. Keep in mind, even when the Patriots have acquired bigger corners, whether it's Gilmore, Rowe, Aqib Talib or Ras-I Dowling, they've all tested out as special athletes.

Fabian Moreau, UCLA, 6-feet, 206 pounds: Another corner who was injured during his pro day -- he suffered a torn pectoral while bench-pressing -- Moreau is an intriguing talent whose health could force him down draft boards. Athletically he checks every box -- 4.35-second 40, 38-inch vertical, 136-inch broad, 6.94-second three-cone -- and his technique has steadily improved as he's made the transition from running back to the defensive side of the football. He appears to carry with him all kinds of potential, and in a spot like New England -- where he may be able to take a back seat for a season -- could thrive. 

Cameron Sutton, Tennessee, 5-foot-11, 188 pounds: Sutton reportedly went through a private workout for the Patriots during the pre-draft process, and it's not hard to see why they'd be interested. Had it not been for a fractured ankle he suffered early in his senior year, he would have been a four-year full-time starter in the SEC. He's been touted as a strong leader and he's one of the most productive punt returners in this draft. He might eventually end up inside, but he could be a little light at the moment to play that spot in New England where its expected that slot corners will be effective against the run and against bigger targets in the passing game. Athletically he's not as freakish as some others in the class, but his 40 (4.52 seconds) and three-cone drill (6.81 seconds) fall into the range the Patriots have accepted in the past. 

Howard Wilson, Houston, 6-foot-1, 184 pounds: When Belichick went to speak at a coaches clinic hosted by Texas coach and former Houston head man Tom Herman, he might've had the opportunity to ask about this fascinating prospect. Howard's length, fluidity in coverage and strong ball skills should have defensive minds salivating, but he played just one season as a full-time starter, leaving some question marks as to what he might've done had he stayed in school for one more year. His long speed (4.57-second 40) could be better, but he's among the quickest corners in the draft (6.68-second three-cone, 3.94-second 20-yard shuttle), and he's a fearless tackler. Perhaps a move to the slot will benefit him down the line, but sticking a long, ball-hawking corner like this on some of the NFL's bigger wideouts will be an enticing opportunity for his next coach.

Shaquill Griffin, Central Florida, 6-feet, 194 pounds: Griffin is a first-round caliber athlete who could come off the board late thanks to all the talent in this year's crop. He was a top-five corner at the combine when it came to the 40 (4.38 seconds), the 60-yard shuttle (11.62 seconds), the vertical (38.5 inches) and the broad jump (132 inches). He was a top-10 performer in the three-cone drill (6.87 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.14 seconds). He had four picks and 15 pass breakups last season and is thought to be a dependable tackler. Even if he can't find the field defensively early on, his aggressive style and athleticism could make him an early special-teams contributor.

Brandon Wilson, Houston, 5-foot-10, 198 pounds: This is another prospect who made his way to Gillette Stadium recently for a visit, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. No surprise there. Why? He was a three-way player for the Cougars, and some experts believe he's such a good athlete that he has the ability to contribute at any or all of those spots at the next level. He had one of the more impressive pro-day workouts in the nation this year, running a 4.36-second 40-yard dash, jumping 41 inches in the vertical, 133 inches in the broad jump and benching 225 pounds 24 times -- eye-popping numbers for a 5-foot-10, 198-pound human being. Even if he never cracks the top of the depth chart at any of the positions listed here, he's so fast and explosive that he would seem to be a natural covering kicks. The Patriots may be even more focused than usual on the kicking game in this year's draft as both Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner hit contract years in 2017.

Jamal Agnew, San Diego, 5-foot-10, 185 pounds: At just about every position, there's a late-round prospect who receives little buzz but looks like a great match for the Patriots. For me, Agnew is that guy at corner. He barely cracks the physical measurements that the Patriots typically draft at the position, but he's an eye-popping athlete -- he ran two 40s in under 4.4 seconds at his pro day, beat the seven-second mark in the three-cone, broad-jumped 125 inches and got 16 reps on the 225-pound bench -- with a strong resume as a return man and a history of making plays coverage. He racked up 11 career interceptions and broke up 48 passes at San Diego, and against the run he doesn't hesitate to seek out contact. He'll be tabbed by some as a slot corner because of his size, but like Sutton, he may be a bit slight to take on that role in New England. Outside though? That could work. Small school . . . small frame . . . great athlete . . . good ball skills . . . aggressive run-supporter . . . overlooked during the pre-draft process . . . Remind you of any other Patriots corners you know?

Patriots confirm coaching changes, front office promotions for 2020 season

Patriots confirm coaching changes, front office promotions for 2020 season

The puzzle pieces of the New England Patriots' coaching staff and front office have fallen into place.

The Patriots saw turnover in both departments this offseason, as longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired while director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort joined the Houston Texans as their director of player personnel.

The club also welcomed some new faces, including former Los Angeles Rams offensive assistant Jedd Fisch (the team's new quarterbacks coach) and ex-Cleveland Browns executive Eliot Wolf.

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So, how have the coaching staff and front office changed since last season? The Patriots have unveiled their 2020 media guide, which confirmed the new roles of several staffers.

Here's a rundown of the notable changes:

- Troy Brown officially is on staff as a running backs and kick returners coach. The former Patriots wide receiver will work with head running backs coach Ivan Fears and special teams assistant Joe Houston.

- Director of pro scouting Dave Ziegler has been promoted to assistant director of player personnel, reporting to director of player personnel Nick Caserio. He'll essentially fill Ossenfort's former role.

- Tyler Hughes, who reportedly joined the team in June, is listed as an "offensive assistant." Hughes most recently was the head coach at Bountiful (Utah) High School.

- Vinnie Sunseri joins the Patriots as a defensive assistant after spending the 2019 season as a graduate assistant for Nick Saban at Alabama. Sunseri had a brief stint in New England as a player during 2016 training camp.

- Wolf's official title is "scouting consultant." He served as Cleveland's assistant general manager in 2018 and 2019 after 14 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

The Patriots go through personnel changes every year, but 2020 presents a unique challenge: Not only has COVID-19 prevented staff members from meeting in-person, but the club has lost a lengthy list of core veterans to free agency (Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, etc.) and opt-outs (Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, etc.) this offseason.

Head coach Bill Belichick isn't one to make excuses, though, so expect his staff to be hard at work this week as the Patriots begin on-field training camp work at Gillette Stadium.

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NFL opt outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Six New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (Aug. 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (Aug. 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (Aug. 2)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB CJ Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)