Patriots NFL Draft Fits: Marcus Peters, Byron Jones Among Top Cornerbacks

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Bill Belichick doesn’t have the greatest track record of drafting cornerbacks.

It appears the New England Patriots are going into the 2015 NFL draft looking for a top cornerback after allowing Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to walk in free agency. The Patriots are deep at the position, with Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Robert McClain, Bradley Fletcher and Alfonzo Dennard, but they lack a true No. 1 option who can cover bigger, stronger receivers.

Past top picks at cornerback, like Ras-I Dowling, Darius Butler and Terrence Wheatley, didn’t work out with the Patriots, and 2010 first-round draft pick Devin McCourty was moved to safety after up-and-down results at his original role.

So now the Patriots could roll the dice again. Luckily for them, there seems to be a plethora of appealing options who are big, fast and excel in press coverage.

Check out some top options for the Patriots at the No. 32 overall pick:

KEVIN JOHNSON

Size: 6 feet, 188 pounds
Athleticism: 4.52-second 40-yard dash; 41.5-inch vertical leap; 10-foot, 10-inch broad jump; 3.89-second short shuttle; 6.79-second 3-cone drill
SPARQ Ranking: Fourth
Stats: 2014: 12 games, 44 tackles, one interception, six passes defended; Career: 47 games, 189 tackles, seven interceptions, 38 passes defended
How he fits: Johnson has great height, and he’s one of the best athletes at his position. He has a slight frame and was overpowered at times in college, which could only get worse in the NFL. He played off the line at Wake Forest but showed solid man-coverage skills. He’s a smooth athlete who can flip his hips easily and run with most receivers down the sideline.

MARCUS PETERS

Size: 6 feet, 197 pounds
Athleticism: 4.53-second 40-yard dash; 37.5-inch vertical leap; 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump; 4.08-second short shuttle; 7.08-second 3-cone drill
SPARQ Ranking16th
Stats: 2014: Nine games, 30 tackles, three interceptions, seven passes defended; Career: 35 games, 95 tackles, 11 interceptions, 27 passes defended
How he fits: Peters is a strong, physical cornerback with the prototypical attitude for his position. His fiery personality had him clashing with Washington coaches and eventually had him dismissed from the program, but his teammates supported him at the NFL Scouting Combine and stuck up for him to NFL scouts. Peters is best as a press-man cornerback. He’ll have to be careful about being too physical in the NFL with stricter illegal contact penalties. He’s only an average athlete and his lack of elite agility can bite him against more precise route runners. He excels against big, physical receivers, and he has the confidence to take on the best players. He’s also a sure tackler who will contribute in the run game.

BYRON JONES

Size: 6-foot-1, 199 pounds
Athleticism: 4.36-second 40-yard dash; 44.5-inch vertical leap; 12-foot, 3-inch broad jump; 3.94-second short shuttle; 6.78-second 3-cone drill
SPARQ RankingFirst
Stats: 2014: Seven games, 24 tackles, two interceptions, four passes defended; Career: 43 games, 222 tackles, 8 interceptions, 21 passes defended
How he fits: Jones has prototypical size and is one of the best athletes to ever enter the NFL. His 12-foot, 3-inch broad jump is a world record and broke the previous NFL Scouting Combine record by eight inches. He looks natural sitting low in his stance at the line of scrimmage, and he’s physical out of the snap. Jones is an impressively smooth athlete for his size. His biggest concern is durability, since he missed half of UConn’s season with a shoulder injury. Jones has excellent character and should be off the board in the first round. He allowed just a 26.3 passer rating during his senior season, according to Pro Football Focus.

ERIC ROWE

Size: 6-foot-1, 205 pounds
Athleticism: 4.45-second 40-yard dash; 39-inch vertical leap; 10-foot, 5-inch broad jump; 3.97-second short shuttle; 6.70-second 3-cone drill
SPARQ RankingSecond
Stats: 2014: 12 games, 59 tackles, one interception, 13 passes defended; Career: 47 games, 261 tackles, three interceptions, 36 passes defended
How he fits: Rowe played his first three seasons at free safety for Utah before moving to cornerback for his senior year. He seems much better suited for cornerback than safety and has the size, athleticism and skills to play in press-man coverage or in a Cover-3. He’s one of the best athletes in the draft and plays like a faster, slightly smaller Brandon Browner.

RONALD DARBY

Size: 5-foot-11, 193 pounds
Athleticism: 4.38-second 40-yard dash; 41.5-inch vertical leap; 10-foot, 9-inch broad jump; 4.14-second short shuttle; 6.94-second 3-cone drill
SPARQ RankingFifth
Stats: 2014: 14 games, 43 tackles, zero interceptions, four passes defended; Career: 42 games, 79 tackles, two interceptions, 16 passes defended
How he fits: Darby is slightly undersized, but he plays bigger than he’s listed. He doesn’t get out-muscled by bigger wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and can keep up downfield. He has elite speed and athleticism and was rarely targeted by opposing quarterbacks. Teams have questioned his ball skills and ability in run support. He also has some character question marks.

Patriots’ 2015 NFL draft fits: Defensive tackles, running backs, cornerbacks, wide receivers, linebackers

Thumbnail photo via Scott Olmos/USA TODAY Sports Images

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