The Patriots’ need for a cornerback hinges on one important decision New England must make between now and the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Patriots have to decide whether they will trade cornerback Malcolm Butler. If they do, cornerback might vault up to their No. 1 need in the draft. If they don’t, it becomes a secondary (no pun intended) need, since the Patriots will have three starting-caliber cornerbacks in Butler, Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe.
If the Patriots trade Butler, they’ll almost certainly wind up with another high pick — potentially a first-rounder — in the draft. If they don’t, Patriots fans might riot.
Here are some players who fit the Patriots’ typical draft standards at the position with each of their selections.
Round 3, 72nd Overall Pick: Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
There’s good reason to compare Witherspoon to Richard Sherman, as Pro Football Focus did in their Draft Edge breakdown.
He’s 6-foot-3, 198 pounds and ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash with a 40.5-inch vertical leap, 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump, 6.93-second three-cone and 4.13 short shuttle. He also allowed a 50.9 passer rating against in 2016, according to PFF, with a 31.8 percent catch rate on 88 targets.
Round 3, 96th Overall Pick: Shaquill Griffin, UCF
Griffin is another fantastic athlete. At 6 feet, 194 pounds, Griffin ran a 4.38-second 40 with a 38.5-inch vertical, 11-foot broad jump 6.87-second three-cone and 4.14-second shuttle.
He let up a 63.4 passer rating against and 39.7 percent catch rate on 73 targets. He’s also a solid run defender, per PFF.
Round 4, 131st Overall Pick: Howard Wilson, Houston
Wilson, who’s 6-foot-1, 184 pounds, is slightly slower than a typical Patriots cornerback. He ran a 4.56-second 40-yard dash. But his three-cone, at 6.68 seconds, and 3.94-second short shuttle were lightning quick for his height.
Wilson let up a 44.6 passer rating and 48.1 percent catch rate with five interceptions on 81 targets.
Round 5, 163rd Overall Pick: Brian Allen, Utah
Allen is another big, fast, quick cornerback in the 2017 draft. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and ran a 4.48-second 40 with a 38-inch vertical, 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump, 6.64-second three-cone and 4.18-second short shuttle.
He allowed an 86 passer rating in 2016.
Round 5, 183rd Overall Pick: Brandon Wilson, Houston
Wilson also showcased freak athleticism at his pro day. He ran a 4.40-second 40 with a 41-inch vertical and 11-foot, 1-inch broad jump.
He let up a 95.8 passer rating but also contributed on offense and as a returner on special teams.
Round 6, 200th Overall Pick: Nate Hairston, Temple
Hairston ran a sub-7-second three-cone at 6 feet, 196 pounds. He let up a 51.8 passer rating and didn’t allow a touchdown in 2016, per PFF.
Round 7, 239th Overall Pick: Sojourn Shelton, Wisconsin
Shelton, who’s 5-foot-9, 177 pounds and ran a 6.83-second three-cone, is a slot option.
Undrafted Free Agent: Xavier Coleman, Portland State
Coleman is a small-school guy who impressed at his pro day with a 40-inch vertical, 10-foot, 6-inch broad jump and 4.15-second short shuttle.
Potential First-Round Pick: Kevin King, Washington
The Patriots might be drooling over King’s 6.56-second three-cone at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. He had a 3.89-second shuttle with a 39.5-inch vertical and 4.43-second 40.
King didn’t allow a touchdown in 2016 and allowed just a 55.6 passer rating and 50 percent catch rate.
Other fits include Ohio State’s Gareon Conley, Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie, UCLA’s Fabian Moreau, Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, Southern Utah’s Josh Thornton, LSU’s Tre’Davious White, USC’s Adoree Jackson and Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis.
Conley, Awuzie, White, Humphrey and Jackson also are first-round options.
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