The Patriots have a promising group of cornerbacks, led by youngster Devin McCourty and veteran Leigh Bodden, so that position won’t be a top priority in this month’s draft. It might not even be in their top five.
But head coach Bill Belichick has proven he’ll draft talent over need, and there are scenarios in which Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara could slide into the middle of the first round. Some believe Amukamara could be a top-seven pick, while others aren’t sold on him.
If the Patriots are in the former category, would they get aggressive if they see him slip lower than expected?
The 6-foot, 206-pounder was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2010, but he didn’t have a single interception, which is as telling as anything. In four years at Nebraska, Amukamara had five interceptions, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, four sacks, 27 pass breakups and 181 total tackles.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
The Patriots will be more than happy to enter the 2011 season with their current crop of corners, so Amukamara would be a luxury pick. Since the Pats have three picks in the top 33, they can afford to use one of them on the best player available, regardless of the positional need.
Some believe Amukamara has the potential to be a No. 1 cornerback, and if the Patriots subscribe to that philosophy, they’d be more than happy to snag him. Remember, no one believed they would draft a cornerback in the first round in 2010, and that worked out well. It’s possible Belichick would want a little more insurance after Bodden suffered a pair of injuries last August.
Amukamara could also make the move to safety, and his positional flexibility would make him an intriguing option for Belichick’s defense.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
Again, it’s because they don’t need a cornerback, while they do have some needs on the offensive line, defensive line, outside linebacker and maybe running back and wide receiver. And while it’s possible Amukamara could slide to No. 17, it’s not overly realistic. Belichick would have to surrender some assets to move up the board.
Potential Impact in 2011
Amukamara could start for almost any team in the NFL, but he would at least be a nickel back for the Patriots. If he took on that role in the slot, it would allow Patrick Chung to slide back into a more traditional safety position on a regular basis. If the Patriots took Amukamara, it wouldn’t be with 2011 in mind — it would be about pairing him up with McCourty for the long haul.
What The Locals Are Saying
Amukamara’s college career started with a position change.
Where Can the Patriots Expect to Draft Amukamara?
It’s extremely hard to imagine Amukamara would fall past Houston at No. 11, meaning he’ll most likely go in the 7-11 range. But again, it’s been tough to scale the interest level on Amukamara, so it’s unclear how teams feel about him in the top third of the first round. If the Patriots love him, though, they’d have to trade up, and they most certainly have the assets to do that.
Every day through April 28, NESN.com will spotlight one player the Patriots could draft with one of their first three picks.
Friday, April 1: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
Saturday, April 2: North Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Quinn
Sunday, April 3: Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward
Monday, April 4: Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones
Wednesday, April 6: Alabama running back Mark Ingram