2020 NFL Draft: Prototypical Patriots fits at cornerback
When it comes to drafted defensive backs, the Patriots have largely taken athletes who have tested very well — whether it was at the combine or at their pro days. But this year, it's harder than ever to know exactly where certain prospects fall on the athleticism spectrum.
With a drastically different schedule at the combine, laid out for prime-time television, many players opted to skip certain portions of the athletic tests. Others skipped them altogether, thinking they'd have a chance to record numbers at their pro days.
Now that those pro days are wiped out, we're dealing with less information than usual at this time of year. Still, we can try to peg Patriots fits based on their heights and weights, their college résumés and the programs from which they hail. Here are the corners we've tabbed this offseason as "prototypes" for New England.
Jaylon Johnson, Utah
6-feet, 193 pounds
Johnson seems to be as good a fit as any with the information we have. He meets the mark from a height and weight perspective, his vertical (36.5 inches) and his broad jump (124 inches) are good enough, and he's agile. His 4.13-second short shuttle is solid, as is his 7.01-second three-cone drill. He's not as quick as most highly-drafted Patriots corners under Bill Belichick (in the 6.75-second range in the three cone), but no corner hit that mark this year. Not one. There wasn't a corner to break 6.8 in the three-cone for the first time since at least 2006. Makes you wonder just how seriously the late-night testing impacted players this year.
A first-team All Pac-12 selection and a second-team All-American, Johnson is a physical corner who played a lot of man-to-man defense for the Utes. (He played more Cover 1 than any other coverage, per Pro Football Focus.) The Patriots aren't in dire need of corners, but he'd certainly fit.
Kristian Fulton, LSU
6-feet, 197 pounds
The Patriots typically draft corners who measure at least 5-foot-10, 183 pounds. They like them to run a 4.5-second 40 or quicker. They draft 'em quick, too. Fulton (6.94-second three-cone, 4.36-second short-shuttle) might not have the elite change-of-direction skills the Patriots typically look for, but he checks a lot of other boxes.
His speed (4.46-second 40) will play, as will his size. He played almost 60 percent of his snaps in press coverage at the line of scrimmage, and 40 percent of his snaps came in Cover 1, according to PFF. That sounds like a Patriot. Fulton also forced an incompletion on 29 percent of his targets last season. He cheated a drug test and was suspended three years ago, but if he checks out character-wise, he looks like a fit in New England.
CJ Henderson, Florida
6-feet, 204 pounds
After Ohio State's Jeffrey Okudah — who would've made this list if he wasn't such a lock to be gone within the first few picks of the draft — Henderson is perhaps the next-best of this year's cornerback bunch. He ran a blazing 4.39-second 40, and is generally regarded as one of the best athletes available at the position.
For teams in the middle of the first round looking for man-to-man defenders, Henderson will likely be high on their list.
Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn
5-foot-10, 198 pounds
No three-cone drill. No short shuttle. No matter. Igbinoghene is an athlete. Both his parents were Olympians who competed for Nigeria in the 1992 Summer Games. He ran a 4.48-second 40 at the combine and had impressive jumps as well (37-inch vertical, 128-inch broad).
With 32-inch arms and plenty of experience in press (52 percent of his snaps) and Cover 1 (more snaps than any other coverage, per PFF), he looks like the type of sticky, no-nonsense corner the Patriots would appreciate. His ball skills will keep him from going on Day 1 (one career interception), but he'll find a role both defensively and in the kicking game wherever he lands.
A.J. Terrell, Clemson
6-foot-1, 195 pounds
Terrell's last game with the Tigers — during which he was beaten repeatedly by LSU's Joe Burrow — wasn't how he wanted to end his collegiate career.
But the big-picture snapshot of his time at Clemson was much more positive. A two-year starter and an All-ACC honoree last season, his size and speed (4.42-second 40-yard dash) make him one of the more promising players at the position in this class.
Darnay Holmes, UCLA
5-foot-10, 195 pounds
We first encountered Holmes' name last year when watching some of N'Keal Harry. Holmes cut off Harry's slow-developing slant, picked off the pass, and took it back for a touchdown. Though giving up plenty in the way of size, Holmes wasn't shy about being aggressive against Harry or other bigger Pac-12 wideouts (eight career picks).
Holmes, who clocked a 4.48-second 40, offers return ability as well, which would likely increase his value at One Patriot Place. He graduated from UCLA in less than three years, per NFL.com, with a degree in African American Studies.
Troy Pride, Notre Dame
5-foot-11, 193 pounds
Pride was one of the few corners in this class who started to sniff the straight-line speed and agility combination the Patriots are typically after at this position. A four-time state champ in track and field in high school, it comes as no surprise that Pride's deep speed is his calling card. Per PFF, he allowed just six of 38 deep (20 yards or more) targets to be completed in his college career.
For a team like the Patriots that is all about limiting explosive plays, drafting someone like Pride (4.40-second 40, 6.94-second three-cone drill) makes sense. Pride was second at the Senior Bowl in terms of forcing incompletions (three) in the 1-on-1 drills, according to PFF.
John Reid, Penn State
5-foot-10, 187 pounds
Speaking of great athletes... Reid lit up the combine and hit almost every marker the Patriots like. His 4.49-second 40, 36.5-inch vertical and 129-inch broad jump were all solid. His 6.95-second three-cone was good enough. His 3.97-second short shuttle was insane (95th percentile), and his 20 reps on the bench were nothing to sneeze at either (91st).
A data sciences major, Reid should have no problem processing information at the next level.
Essang Bassey, Wake Forest
5-foot-9, 191 pounds
Amik Robertson of Louisiana Tech has gotten plenty of attention as perhaps the most talented undersized (5-foot-8, 187 pounds) cover man in the class. Bassey, who had a rough go of it at the Senior Bowl, might not be quite the unshakable shadow. But he's an inch taller and he looks like the better athlete (4.46-second 40, 4.13-second short shuttle, 6.95-second three cone, 39.5-inch vertical).
He's played a lot of football (more snaps than any corner in the class over the last three seasons, per PFF), and he's had more pass breakups (35) than anyone else. That combination of experience and athleticism could play in the slot in New England.
Josiah Scott, Michigan State
5-foot-9, 185 pounds
How critical is an inch, really? We've identified 5-foot-10 as, generally, where the Patriots draft their corners when it comes to height. But there are a handful of 5-foot-9 burners in the class who look like legitimate pro prospects.
Scott did not do agility drills at the combine — disappointing because the way he plays would indicate he would've tested well in that area — but he clocked an impressive 4.42-second 40. A sound tackler despite his size, Scott is young and should still be improving as a player; he turns 21 on April 5. His teammates nicknamed him "The Gnat" according to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, because of his "pesky, persistent coverage talent and playing style."
Javelin Guidry, Utah
5-foot-9, 191 pounds
Another undersized corner on the list. He's a shade under what the Patriots have typically taken at this position, but his 4.29-second 40 time (99th percentile) makes him the type of rare athlete that the Patriots would take a chance on.
A sure tackler who's well-acquainted with the weight room (21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, 94th percentile), Guidry is considered to have strong football character. He should make his living — at least to start — as a special-teamer at the next level.
Javaris Davis, Auburn
5-foot-8, 183 pounds
Sound familiar? Diminutive corner out of Auburn who ran in the 4.3s, played inside and outside for the Tigers secondary, competitive, looks like a special-teamer... We said the same things about Jonathan Jones back in 2016.
Like Jones, Davis will have to win a gig on "teams" to stick on a roster. Then maybe he'll have an opportunity to put his speed (4.39-second 40) and toughness on display as a slot corner.
Michael Ojemudia, Iowa
6-foot-1, 200 pounds
Based off his performance in Indy alone, he looks like an ideal match for New England given his height, weight, speed (4.45-second 40) and quickness (6.87-second three-cone drill, 4.21-second short shuttle).
His instincts might be lacking a tad, according to some evaluators, but it's hard to find athletes with that size and those movement skills. As a developmental prospect, hailing from a program Belichick respects, Ojemudia could end up hearing his name called by the Patriots.
Reggie Robinson II, Tulsa
6-foot-1, 205 pounds
Another long-limbed corner who can move. Those guys don't grow on trees. Robinson has 32-inch arms and ran a 4.44-second 40 to go along with an impressive 132-inch broad jump (95th percentile) and a 4.18-second short shuttle. He picked off four passes last season and was top-15 in the country in forced incompletions (14, per PFF).
A little handsy (eight penalties), Robinson has plenty in his technique to remedy. Someone who could potentially be coached up into a player, Robinson might be worth a late-round pick.
Kindle Vildor, Georgia Southern
5-foot-10, 191 pounds
Vildor, like many others on this list, didn't meet the mark as far as the three-cone drill goes. He finished that up in 7.14 seconds at the combine. But his other numbers were good enough that he'd be worth a late-round flier.
His 40-yard dash time (4.44 seconds) was strong, but his 1.49-second 10-yard split was elite (96th percentile). His jumps were outstanding — 39.5 vertical (90th percentile), 133-inch broad (97th percentile) — and his 22 bench reps (96th percentile) were also impressive. The two-time All-Sun Belt Conference selection should be available on Day 3.