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We kick off our series of 2015 draft roundtables with talented writers Ned Brady, Adam Bogdan and Liam Cunningham!

We start off by taking a look at one of the positions most believe is a significant need for the Super Bowl champion Patriots - Cornerback!


1. How high do you view the Pats need at Cornerback, and where do you see them addressing that need?



Adam Bogdan (@PatriotsInform)

I view CB as their third highest need, behind OG and DT. Even though it is their third highest need, the value that the top few corners have are high enough to be worth spending a first round pick on. If someone like Byron Jones is there at the end of the 1st round, and the DTs are still on the board, they may grab a CB and then see if the DTs could make it down to them in the 2nd round.

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Ned Brady (@therealnedbrady)

While the Patriots have a full stable of capable depth options at corner, there's a glaring need for a top corner following the offseason departures of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. The likes of Malcolm Butler, Bradley Fletcher, Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan could all be candidates to start, but (with the possible exception of Butler) none of them should spend extended time covering #1 receivers. With depth at the position already established, I have minimal interest in adding a mid-round prospect who won't be a significant upgrade over what they already have. If the Pats are to address the position in the draft, I would hope it would be with an early pick (preferably first round) and on a prospect with the talent to step in and contribute right away. Don't rule out the Pats dipping into their stable of draft picks (5 in the top 101 picks) to land a veteran starter via trade either.


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Liam Cunningham (@LC_NEP)

I view cornerback as the team's second highest need at this time, behind only offensive line. I anticipate the Patriots will address one of these positions in the first round. The latest I see the Patriots selecting a cornerback or safety is the second round.



2. Who do you view as an ideal fit at Cornerback in the first round?


Adam Bogdan (@PatriotsInform)

Byron Jones has everything I look for in a CB. His athleticism is off the charts, his size (6'1" 200 lbs) is ideal, and he is a high character individual on and off the field. His tape backs up his numbers, and he is still developing and learning the CB position due to playing as a safety for his first half of his college career. Jones isn't afraid to press a WR, or come down and hit a RB. Despite the Patriots looking relatively set at CB, I see Jones as someone who could command #1 WRs better than what we currently have on the roster due to his size and athleticism.


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Ned Brady (@therealnedbrady)

If he's falls to 32, there won't be a more talented option on the board than Washington's Marcus Peters. A physical cover corner who shadowed top receivers in college, Peters would likely be battling Michigan State's Trae Waynes for first corner drafted if not for his issues with a new coaching staff in 2014, which eventually led to his midseason dismissal from the team. However, Peters clearly has the talent to be a top corner and the tape to back it up. I'll be writing about him later this week as our "Eye on the Draft" series moves on to the cornerback position.

Even if Peters is gone (the Ravens are amongst the teams interested in him), the Pats could have a number of attractive options on the board. UConn's Byron Jones has shown elite athletic traits throughout the pre-draft process, and his combination of smarts, versatility and leadership make him an ideal program fit. Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson is one of the draft's top cover corners, although he'd probably need to bulk up to provide the run support Bill Belichick demands from the position. Finally, LSU's Jalen Collins has the athletic traits to develop into a shutdown guy, and could fall to the Patriots pick due to a recently broken foot.


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Liam Cunningham (@LC_NEP)

My ideal fit at cornerback is UConn's Byron Jones. Jones stock has been rising steadily, beginning at the combine when he set the world record in the broad jump. He did not run the 40 or bench press at the combine due to a shoulder injury, but dominated both at the UConn Pro Day, for which the Patriots were in attendance.

Jones has elite measureables and was a three-year starter at UConn. He is considered an extremely high character player and natural leader who can fit into multiple schemes.

Injecting his youth and athleticism into the secondary will serve to fill the void left by the departures of Darrelle Revis and Brandom Browner.

If the Patriots were to select Trae Waynes, the consensus best corner in the the draft, they would have to make an aggressive manuever upwards as he is expected to be selected anywhere between 9th and 20th.

If the Patriots do not select Jones with the 32nd pick, I could see them taking Marcus Peters of Washington, who Pro Football Talk mocked to the Patriots yesterday.

3. Should the Pats wait until Day 2 to address this need, who do you view as possible fits?


Adam Bogdan (@PatriotsInform)

This is risky. With CB being a hot position in this year's draft, it is unlikely that the top tier guys will last very long. That being said, if the Patriots go elsewhere in round one, there are a few potential candidates in the 2nd or 3rd round. One would be PJ Williams, who guaranteed he wouldn't be picked in the 1st round thanks to his DUI arrest. Many experts had pegged him as a potential Patriots pick at 32 before the arrest. Another guy to look at is Eric Rowe. Despite many people thinking he could be a better safety than corner, his physicality and skills would still work at CB.

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Ned Brady (@therealnedbrady)

Utah's Eric Rowe has shot up draft boards recently, with the Patriots amongst the teams showing a lot of interest in the hybrid corner/safety. Rowe has an intriguing physical skillset, including the size (6'1", 205) to match-up with bigger receivers, and his positional versatility and strong tackling will certainly appeal to Belichick. If the Patriots want him, they'll likely have to trade up from their 64th overall pick, as it's looking increasingly unlikely that he'll get past the Eagles in the second round. Rowe is another guy I'll be profiling this week in our "Eye on the Draft" series.


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Liam Cunningham (@LC_NEP)

Doran Grant of Ohio State is a name to keep an eye on as a potential middle round fit for the Patriots at the position. A first team All Big-10 selection, Grant is a press coverage specialist who is considered a middle round prospect who seems like he could fit well with the Patriots.

Ronald Darby and PJ Williams are two Seminoles who could be nice fits with the Patriots as well. The team has been checking out some FSU players, but the focus has mainly been on O-Lineman. Williams is considered one of the best pure coverage corners in the draft, but will likely be available in the 2nd/3rd round.


4. Give us a late round sleeper who could emerge as a surprise contributor in camp


Adam Bogdan (@PatriotsInform)

Justin Coleman is a guy who has the size and athleticism to contribute on Sunday's. His film isn't perfect, and his hands make it clear why he was a CB and not a WR, but his skills make him someone who could make it onto the roster. His 40 time in the 4.5's isn't sexy, but his 3 cone drill, bench, and vertical are all worthy of note. He could be used as a nickel corner to utilize his quickness and limit the exposure of his limited straight line speed.


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Ned Brady (@therealnedbrady)

I typically look for three things in later round prospects: physical traits that could be developed down the road (i.e. Zach Moore last year), immediate special teams contribution, or a niche skill set that can bring value if utilized correctly. With that in mind, Miami's Ladarius Gunter has the size (6'1", 202) to develop into a guy who can check bigger receivers. A physical, willing tackler, Gunter would also contribute right away on special teams, which is where his initial value will likely come from at the next level.


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Liam Cunningham (@LC_NEP)

Kevin White of TCU is an intriguing player who is projected to go somewhere in the 4th or 5th round. His name has been linked to the Patriots so he is not exactly a deep sleeper, but someone the team could select if they choose to address this position later in the draft.

Julian Wilson of Oklahoma is projected to be a 7th round pick or undrafted free agent, but is an interesting player to watch. Brandon Browner's best attribute was his physicality and size, and Wilson is someone who fits that mold at 6'1", 205 pounds. He disappointed at the Combine but performed better at the OSU Pro Day, and could prove to be a late steal for a team with needs in the secondary like the Patriots.


5. The Patriots have always been intrigued by players who fall down draft boards for reasons (typically either injury or off-the-field concerns) unrelated to on-field ability. Name an intriguing prospect that fits this bill at Cornerback.


Adam Bogdan (@PatriotsInform)

One guy that would be a steal in the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th would be Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Once seen as a 1st round pick, he suffered a knee injury in practice the week before the Rose Bowl and hasn't been able to participate at the combine. At 5'9" 195 lbs, he doesn't have ideal size, but he is the definition of a playmaker with 18 takeaways over his career at Oregon. With his size, it is unlikely he would ever be able to be a true #1 CB to match up against bigger WRs, but against smaller WRs or in a zone scheme, he could thrive.

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Ned Brady (@therealnedbrady)

Two prospects jump out at me that fit this category: Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Florida State's PJ Williams. Ekpre-Olomu entered 2014 as a projected first round pick and backed that up with a consensus All-American season, only to have his stock come crashing down after suffering a major knee injury prior to Oregon's playoff game against FSU. That combined with his lack of prototype size (5'9", 192) could push him all the way to the third round. While he's unlikely to contribute next season, he'd be a great value in the that range as a "stash and develop" pick who could make a major impact in 2016.

Williams is another case altogether. A physical press corner with athleticism to turn and run in man coverage, Williams was amongst my top candidates for the Pats first round pick before recent news of his DUI severely damaged his draft stock. It's a complete mystery where he'll go now, although it would be shocking if he remains in that late first-early second round range he was originally projected in. His situation recalls that of Dennard in 2012, whose draft stock fell dramatically due to off-the-field trouble, and Williams could become a major value pick if he lasts into the third round or lower. Take his car keys away from him at night, and you have a tough, physical corner who fits what the Pats typically look for from the position.

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Liam Cunningham (@LC_NEP)

Byron Jones, who I have identified as my top fit for the Patriots at the position, missed most of his senior season with a torn labrum, but that is not affecting his draft stock in the least, as he continues to climb up draft boards.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu once played in 40 straight games at Oregon and was considered a top cornerback in the nation before tearing his ACL in practice in December of 2014. The injury is expected to prevent him from being ready for the start of the 2015 NFL season. Once projected as a 1st or 2nd round pick, he is now being mocked in the 4th or 5th round and could be a chance the Patriots are willing to take. After all, they used their first round pick last season to select a guy who has torn both of his ACLs.

Michael Saver 4/14/2015 11:48:00 AM Edit
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