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The offseason departures of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner undoubtedly left a big need on the Patriots roster for a top corner. The team appears to be fairly deep at the position, with free agent signees Bradley Fletcher, Chimdi Chekwa and Robert McClain joining Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard, Justin Green and Dax Swanson in a crowded depth chart. However, asking any one of those guys to match up with top receivers (Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Marshall, Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, TY Hilton and Antonio Brown are all looming on the 2015 schedule) appears to be a risky scenario. Perhaps Malcolm Butler can build on the impressive flashes from his rookie season and develop into a quality starter, but even that is a major projection at this point. We've all seen the impact adding a top cover corner has had on the Patriots defense, first with Aqib Talib, then with Revis, and entering the season without a top option is a major risk in the modern, pass-happy NFL.

Corners capable of matching up with top pro receivers are rarely available by the last pick of the first round, but Washington's Marcus Peters could be an exception. Few dispute Peters' physical talent; he has the size and athleticism to match up with star receivers, and did so successfully at the college level, where he held opposing quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 38.1% over the past two seasons. Despite his obvious talent, Peters' draft stock took a hit when his issues with new coach Chris Peterson and his staff led to his November dismissal from the program. It's obvious that Peters has some immaturity issues, and his emotional volatility hurt him at times on the field. Still, the same could be said of Aqib Talib, and the Patriots were able to harness his considerable talents to transform their defense. Peters has the ability to have a similar effect.

Measurables:

Ht: 6'0"
Wt: 197
Arm length: 31 1/2"
Hand size: 8 3/8"
40 time: 4.53
Bench: 17
Vert leap: 37.5"
Broad jump: 121"
3 cone drill: 7.08
20 yd shuffle: 4.08
60 yd shuffle: 11.26

College statistics:



Professional comparison:

NFL.com compares Peters to the aforementioned Talib, a comparison which holds water on and off the field. Like Talib, Peters is a physical corner who relishes the challenge of matching up with receivers. That fiery, competitive on-the-field demeanor appears to fuel him when he plays well, but like Talib his emotions occasionally get the best of him and lead to penalties or mental mistakes. Like Talib, Peters is undeniably a lockdown corner when he's on, using his combination of length, size and athleticism to hassle his opponents all game long.



Strengths:
  • Physical, press-man corner
  • Plus size and length for the position
  • Often tracked the opposition's best receiver in college
  • Excellent ball skills- wins often on 50-50 balls
  • Solid, aggressive tackler
  • Confident/cocky disposition necessary for position
  • Athletic enough to turn and mirror in coverage
  • Shows potential as a blitzer (see run blitz at 3:45 mark)
Weaknesses:
  • Character question marks- was dismissed from UW program midseason
  • Behavior/respect issues with Peterson's coaching staff must be looked into closely (he was allowed back on campus for UW's Pro Day)
  • Hothead whose intensity and emotions sometimes get the better off him on the field
  • Gets handsy when beat, will draw some flags down the field
  • Much better in press than off coverage (see Strong's touchdown vs off coverage at 1:15 mark)
  • Average deep speed
  • Inconsistent footwork and technique
Projection: Middle to late first round

Peters is one of the draft's biggest wild cards. Most agree that his talent and production would have him a top 15 pick and in contention with Michigan State's Trae Waynes if not for his off-the-field issues. However, those issues are very real and will likely push him into at least the 20s, where he'll be amongst Kevin Johnson, Jalen Collins and Byron Jones in the next tier of corners behind Waynes. While Peters comes with his baggage, he's also one of the top on-the-field prospects at a premium position. It will only take one team to say the talent is worth the risk, and it will be shocking to many (myself included) if he falls into Day 2.

Will the Patriots draft him?

Odds are, they won't get a chance to. Top corners almost always get drafted in the first round, regardless of baggage (Aqib Talib again stands as an example of this), and it's hard to imagine Peters lasting all the way to the 32nd pick. There's a lot of smoke surrounding Peters and the Ravens, who pick at 26, have a need at corner, and certainly have shown a willingness to gamble on volatile personalities. The Browns, Saints, Jets and 49ers have also shown plenty of interest.

With that said, the Pats are surely doing their homework on Peters in case his issues are enough to scare away other teams. This is what makes Peters so difficult to project draft-wise; his draft stock hinges on interview performances, accounts from former teammates and coaches, and other information that the public wont be privy to. There was a report that Peters performed poorly in his combine interviews, but I'm not going to put much stock in that, as plenty of false reports come out during this time intended to push prospects down the board. In spite of his flaws, Peters arguably has the highest upside of any corner in this draft, and the physical skill-set to be exactly the type of player missing from the Patriots defense. Whether they draft him will depend on how much they think they can reign him in, and whether a team picking in front of them beats them to the punch.

Ned Brady 4/15/2015 03:09:00 PM Edit
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