For the Patriots, cornerback falls into the category of positions they could address . . . but don't have to. Trading for Jason McCourty earlier this offseason gave Bill Belichick some proven depth at the position with Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones already on the roster. And if Cyrus Jones can bounce back from injury to give the Patriots anything defensively, that would be a plus.
Still, you can never have too many corners. And there are a handful in this draft class who fit the Patriots profile. When it comes to cover men Belichick has drafted highly in the past, there are certain physical traits he's after: You should be at least 5-foot-10 and weigh at least 183 pounds; you should run at least a 4.5 (though Logan Ryan and Darius Butler were outliers there); you should clock at least a 6.75-second three-cone (though, again, Butler was slow there); you should have a 4.21-second short-shuttle or better; you should jump at least 33 inches in the vertical and 116 inches in the broad.
If you're a good tackler, if you can play inside and out, if you can play man and zone, if you have clean footwork? Those improve your chances of being taken by the Patriots even more.
PROTOTYPICAL PATRIOTS - Previously in the series:
- QBs: Rosen, Lauletta check plenty of boxes
- TEs: Time to pick up some Gronk insurance
- WRs: Adding more options to a crowded field
- RBs: They can always use a good one
- OL: Daniels, Wynn would build on interior strength
- LBs: Vander Esch, Evans offer different strengths
- DEs: Hubbard, Ejiofor look like Belichick's type on the edge
- DL: Could Belichick dip into 'Bama pipeline for interior DL help?
Let's get to some of the prospects in this class who hit most, if not all of those requirements . . .
PROTOTYPES IN RANGE
DENZEL WARD, OHIO STATE, 5-11, 183
Speed to burn (4.32-second 40), explosive athleticism (134-inch broad jump), and experience under both Urban Meyer and Greg Schiano? Ward is undersized by some standards, but the Patriots have no issue with taking sub 6-foot corners. They'd have to trade up to draft Ward, but he might be worth it depending on how far he falls.
JAIRE ALEXANDER, LOUISVILLE, 5-10, 196
Alexander hasn't received nearly as much as his college teammate Lamar Jackson in terms of being a good fit for the Patriots, but he's one of the best fits in the draft class for New England -- regardless of position. An injury last season may bump him down draft boards, but the Patriots could view any type of slide as a chance to pounce on the aggressive, confident, and extremely quick (4.38-second 40, 6.71 three-cone, 3.98 short shuttle) cover man.
JOSH JACKSON, IOWA, 6-0, 196
Another coaching connection here for Bill Belichick. Jackson had an incredibly productive year under Kirk Ferentz as a pass-breakup machine. He doesn't meet every athletic marker the Patriots like (4.56 40, 6.86 three-cone), but they might make an exception in order to acquire a player with good size and arguably the best ball skills in the class. He may not make it to No. 23.
MIKE HUGHES, CENTRAL FLORIDA, 5-10, 189
Hughes didn't necessarily nail the 40 (4.53 seconds), but he checks just about every other box the Patriots have drafted in the top-100 before at this position. Is he a late first-rounder? An early second-rounder? He's tough, but he'll need to take to the coaching he gets at the next level in order to refine his game.
ISAIAH OLIVER, COLORADO, 6-0, 201
Another corner with projectable traits, Oliver has rare length (33.5-inch arms) and size to play press-man on the outside. A decathlete during his freshman season at Colorado, he was named a first-team all-conference corner last season even though his year was shortened due to a leg injury. Oliver also has some punt-return experience.
DUKE DAWSON, FLORIDA, 5-11, 197
Dawson has experience playing in the slot, which the Patriots will like, and he's accustomed to seeing some of the best competition in the country. He has the size the Patriots like from their "star" corners, and he tested well (4.49-second 40). He reportedly made a visit to the Patriots during the pre-draft process and could warrant a Day 2 selection, though his shuttle (4.39 seconds) and three-cone (7.02 seconds) from his pro day were not great.
IMPERFECT BUT INTRIGUING
Both Anthony Averett and Tony Brown could end up piquing Bill Belichick's interest in this draft. They meet the size requirements of Patriots corners, and they obviously come from the most well-respected college program at One Patriot Place. Athletically, they miss the mark in a couple of areas, but maybe Belichick is willing to look past that. Averett's vertical (31.5 inches), three-cone (6.93 seconds) and short shuttle (4.4 seconds) don't quite meet the standards of top-tier Patriots cornerback picks of the past. Brown's vert (31.5) and three-cone (6.78) are also a shade below the ideal marks in New England.
DONTE JACKSON, LSU, 5-10, 178
One of the fastest players in this year's draft class, Jackson is a little light compared to other Patriots corners Belichick has drafted early. In all likelihood, there's another team out there who would be OK with selecting Jackson before the Patriots are.
MJ STEWART, UNC, 5-11, 200
Stewart can cover and play the run. He can play zone or man, inside or outside. Sounds like a Patriot, right? And he may be. But he doesn't hit many of the athletic measures set by other top-tier Patriots draft picks (4.54-second 40, 6.9-second three-cone, 4.28-second short shuttle). His explosiveness is solid, though (35-inch vert, 118-inch broad).
HOLTON HILL, TEXAS, 6-2, 196
Physically, Hill has just about everything a team could want in a boundary corner. (Though, from a Patriots perspective, his vertical jump and three-cone marks were a little underwhelming.) But there are questions about his maturity that will knock him way down draft boards. He could become a roll-of-the-dice, high-upside pick late in the draft if he's still available on Day 3.