FOXBORO, Mass. — Cornerback Devin McCourty models his game after Darrelle Revis, believes in strong play on special teams, has watched film with Bill Belichick and went to Rutgers with Belichick's son. It sounds like McCourty was made for the Patriots, who selected him Thursday night with the 27th pick in the NFL draft.
McCourty will have his work cut out for him in New England. The fan base expected the Pats to improve their pass rush in the first round of the draft, and the selection wasn't exactly a big hit with the fan base. He's a very solid player who could be a nice fit with the Patriots when it's all said and done, but all eyes will be on New England's action in Friday's second and third rounds.
The 5-foot-10, 193-pounder was a three-year starter and registered six interceptions, 27 pass deflections, six blocked punts and one blocked field goal. In his last 39 games, opponents only completed 88 of 250 passes (35.2 percent) thrown in McCourty's direction. He also returned one kick for a touchdown and notched 49 tackles on special teams.
McCourty specializes in zone coverage, which should make him even more intriguing to the Patriots, and he's got the skills to match up man to man, too. He is a little undersized, but that's the norm for Pats corners. Yet, the Patriots already have Darius Butler, who was pretty good in coverage during his 2009 rookie season but was often held out of the lineup against bigger, more physical wide receivers.
Finally, McCourty is considered a pretty electric special teamer, both in covering and returning kicks. The Patriots have two good kick-coverage guys in Sam Aiken and Kyle Anderson, but they definitely need some jump in the return game.
Leigh Bodden is the Patriots' best cornerback, so McCourty will fall in line with the next tier of players — Shawn Springs, Darius Butler, Jonathan Wilhite, Terrence Wheatley and Anderson. This could lead to the eventual release of Springs or Wheatley. McCourty looks like a similar player to Butler, so it's worth wondering how the rookie will earn playing time over the second-year guy. And Belichick really likes Wilhite, so McCourty is looking like a third- to fifth-stringer at cornerback as the roster currently stands.
The Patriots traded down twice — starting at No. 22, moonlighting at No. 24 and eventually landing at No. 27 — adding a third- and fourth-rounder in the process (but also unloading a later fourth-rounder), so they'll have a little more versatility in the middle of the draft. New England also passed over Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant, so it's clear they weren't high enough on him.
Still, it was extremely curious to see the Patriots pass over a few front-seven players who could have fit a much more significant need. Texas defensive end/outside linebacker Sergio Kindle, Penn State defensive lineman Jared Odrick, TCU defensive end/outside linebacker Jerry Hughes and Clemson outside linebacker Ricky Sapp were all on the board when the Pats made the 27th pick. Now, keep in mind the Patriots have three second-rounders and can trade up to take Kindle or Sapp, who are still on the board. If they come away with either one early Friday night, the McCourty selection won't seem so out there.
"I actually ran to the bathroom. My brother heard my phone ring, and he came banging on the door and said, 'Answer the phone. Answer the phone.' As soon as I got out of the bathroom, I answered the phone and was talking to Coach Belichick."
–McCourty, who didn't expect to get selected with the No. 27 pick and was taking a detour from his draft viewing
(Photo courtesy of CollegePressBox.com)