Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has proven he'll take any player at any position at any point in the draft, regardless of his team's depth chart at the time. That's been especially true at cornerback.
The Patriots have drafted a cornerback in the first or second round in the last four drafts, and they could very well address the position early again this month. After all, with four picks in the first two rounds and very few holes on the depth chart, the Patriots have the luxury of flexibility in the draft.
It won't matter that they've got an All-Pro first-round pick in Devin McCourty and last year's second-rounder in Ras-I Dowling, whose potential is a great unknown due to a hamstring injury. And that's not even including Kyle Arrington, who tied for the league lead with seven interceptions last season.
That's where Janoris Jenkins comes into play. The North Alabama cornerback is as talented as they come, but off-field issues have crushed his stock. Would the talent be too difficult to ignore if he fell into the Patriots' laps at the end of the first round?
Jenkins is the focus of the fourth installment of a 26-day series that will highlight draft prospects who could land with the Patriots at the end of April. Maybe the prospect fits perfectly in the range of their 27th and 31st picks. Maybe he's intriguing enough for them to make a rare move up the board. Or maybe it's a player who could be available in the mid-30s, causing the Patriots to, gasp, trade down.
The 5-foot-10, 193-pounder had two interceptions, four pass breakups and two fumble recoveries, and he averaged 21.7 yards per punt return last season at North Alabama, which is a Division II school. Jenkins had eight interceptions, 33 pass breakups and two forced fumbles in three seasons at Florida.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
On the field, Jenkins has everything a team would want in a cornerback, and he's aggressive and instinctive enough to make some big plays, which the Patriots need in their secondary. When Jenkins was at Florida, he was projected as a top-10 pick before getting the boot from head coach Will Muschamp. However, Jenkins was recruited by Belichick's good friend, Urban Meyer, who could provide the inside scoop in regard to the cornerback's question marks.
The great unknown is the Patriots' plans for McCourty (and maybe even Dowling) at safety. If Belichick wants to move one of those players to safety, he'll more than likely invest highly on a corner. And lastly, if Jenkins can't crack the starting lineup on defense, he's got the makeup of a good special teamer who could get on the field in that capacity.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
Jenkins has been arrested a few times, and he was charged twice for pot possession, which got him the boot from Florida. He's also got four kids with three women, so there's more than enough reason to question his maturity. With all that in mind, it's tough to blame any team that removes Jenkins from their draft board.
Potential Impact in 2012
Jenkins has enough talent to start for the Patriots right away, even if they have to move him around from the outside to the slot in nickel packages. With Jenkins' talent and the common thinking that Belichick can reign in a player with off-field problems, there's enough reason to think he would thrive right away.
Likelihood Jenkins Is Available at No. 27
It's a complete unknown. Jenkins might be the second most talented cornerback in the draft, and that could make him a top-15 pick. But with a handful of good corners who should be available in the top 40, it wouldn't be surprising at all if teams simply don't want to deal with Jenkins. If the Patriots like Jenkins, their biggest problem might be the Bengals, who pick twice in the top 21 and clearly don't care what their players do when the stadium lights are off.
Each day in April, NESN.com will spotlight a player the Patriots could take with one of their first-round picks.
Thursday: Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus
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