Patriots Draft Trends: Small, Athletic Cornerbacks Typically Selected


Feb 16, 2016

When it comes to drafting cornerbacks, Bill Belichick certainly has his type.

Based on 16 years of draft history, the New England Patriots head coach prefers his homegrown cornerbacks under 5-foot-11 and around 190 pounds with elite athleticism across the board. He cares less about length than he does about speed, agility, explosion and hand size.

Check out every cornerback the Patriots have drafted since Bill Belichick was hired as head coach/general manager in 2000:

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Here are some observations based on those numbers:

— Christian Morton and Ras-I Dowling were the only players selected over 6 feet. There was a theory the Patriots would begin looking for bigger cornerbacks after Dowling was selected in 2011, but that hasn’t been the case through the draft since that pick.

— Leonard Myers and Jemea Thomas are the only corners who had a 40-yard dash over 4.5 seconds and a 3-cone over 7 seconds.

— Logan Ryan is the only player with a broad jump less than 10 feet and a vertical leap under 35 inches.

— The Patriots only have drafted one cornerback in the first round, and that player, Devin McCourty, was moved to free safety.

— The Patriots haven’t had tremendous overall success drafting cornerbacks, missing on Brock Williams, Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite, Darius Butler and Dowling with early picks.

— Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, McCourty and Ryan were hits for the Patriots.

Here’s how the average measureables of the Patriots’ drafted cornerbacks stack up against the NFL standards:

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— The Patriots appear to put a clear emphasis on the 40-yard dash, 3-cone drill, vertical jump and broad jump.

Malcolm Butler is conspicuously absent from this list because he was added as an undrafted free agent in 2014. But just for fun, let’s look at the testing numbers from his March 2014 Pro Day at Alabama:

Height: 69.75
Weight: 187
40 Yard Dash: 4.62 seconds
20 Yard Dash: 2.75 seconds
10 Yard Dash: 1.62 seconds
3 Cone Drill: 7.20 seconds
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.27 seconds
Bench Press: 13 reps
Vertical Jump: 33.5 inches
Broad Jump: 118 inches

Butler clocked in and measured below the NFL’s and Patriots’ averages in every category. That helps explain why New England didn’t use a draft pick on Butler, and why the team ran him through those same drills in a post-draft workout in Foxboro before electing to sign him as a rookie free agent.

Butler expressed disappointment in his testing numbers early in the 2014 season, insisting he’s more athletic than his Pro Day showing. His private workout with the Patriots must have gone significantly better than that  Pro Day.

Undrafted Tennessee product Justin Coleman was signed by the Patriots in September 2015 after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings. He quickly earned the Patriots’ slot cornerback role as a rookie.

Belichick said late in the 2015 season that Coleman didn’t always flash on tape in college, but he had the athleticism the Patriots desire.

Check out his measureables:

Height: 70.625
Weight: 185
Arm Length: 31.25 inches
Hand Length: 9.375 inches
40 Yard Dash: 4.53 seconds
20 Yard Dash: 2.60 seconds
10 Yard Dash: 1.54 seconds
3 Cone Drill: 6.61 seconds
20 Yard Shuttle: 3.98 seconds
Bench Press: 20 reps
Vertical Jump: 37.5 inches
Broad Jump: 124 inches

Coleman only doesn’t meet the Patriots’ averages in weight, 40 time, vertical leap and broad jump. His elite 3-cone and short shuttle more than make up for his slight shortcomings, however.

Butler and Ryan likely will be the starting cornerbacks again in 2016, and Coleman did enough during his rookie season to have the inside track for the slot role. The Patriots also have Leonard Johnson and Darryl Roberts, the most athletic cornerback they’ve ever drafted, coming back next year. Belichick could look to add another cornerback in this year’s draft, however, since Butler and Ryan’s contracts are up after next season. If they do draft a cornerback, you’ll know what players they’ll likely target after this month’s NFL Scouting Combine. will go position by position to analyze the Patriots’ draft trends prior to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine.

Thumbnail photo via Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports Images

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