Leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, we’ll find fits at every position and in every round for the New England Patriots. Next, we’ll take a deep dive on cornerbacks.
Normally, these 2020 NFL Draft previews are about filling needs for the New England Patriots. The Patriots don’t currently have a pressing need at cornerback with four starting-caliber players and a 2019 second-round pick on their depth chart.
So, we’re acknowledging that pretty much any of these picks would frustrate Patriots fans. That being said, it’s not a great year for the Patriots to draft a cornerback anyway. They have very high standards when it comes to taking cornerbacks. Here’s their entire draft history at the position:
The Patriots value speed and agility heavily when drafting cornerbacks as you can see based on New England’s average drafted testing number vs. the NFL’s average at the position.
Now here’s this year’s cornerback class and their measurables from the NFL Scouting Combine or pro days:
Only one cornerback fits the Patriots’ average threshold in the 3-cone drill and only four players have a short shuttle timed better than New England’s average at the position. Only two players ran a sub-4.5 second 40-yard dash, sub-7 second 3-cone and above-average short shuttle. One of them, Essang Bassey, won’t be included in this preview because of his issues with missing tackles.
So, here are cornerbacks who fit the Patriots’ standards based on their measurables and play:
FIRST ROUND: Kristian Fulton, LSU
He’ll likely be gone by the 23rd overall pick, but he impressed with a 4.46-second 40-yard dash and 6.94-second 3-cone at the combine. He can play as a press-man cornerback and in zone coverage. The Patriots require that type of versatility from their defenders.
SECOND ROUND: Jaylon Johnson. Utah
The Patriots love taking defensive backs in the second round. They’ve actually used their last four second-round picks on safeties and cornerbacks. The last second-round pick they used on a non-defensive back was on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014.
Johnson had one of the lowest missed tackle rates in college football last season. He never allowed a passer rating over 57.6 in a college season. He ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, 7.01-second 3-cone and 4.13-second short shuttle. Those testing numbers might be close enough for the Patriots.
THIRD ROUND: Troy Pride, Notre Dame
Pride ran a 4.4-flat 40 and 6.94-second 3-cone. He can stick with any receiver with his speed.
FOURTH ROUND: Michael Ojemudia, Iowa
Ojemudia had an extremely low missed-tackle rate, which the Patriots should love. He mostly played zone at Iowa but has the size and athleticism to stick in man, as well. His 4.45-second 40-yard dash and 6.87-second 3-cone were impressive for his 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame.
FIFTH ROUND: L’Jarius Sneed, Louisiana Tech
Sneed played cornerback for his first three college seasons before moving to safety as a senior. We’d move him back to cornerback. He’s 6-feet, 192 pounds and ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash.
SIXTH ROUND: John Reid, Penn State
He’s a fantastic slot option at 5-foot-10, 187 pounds with a 6.95-second 3-cone drill and blazing 3.97-second short shuttle.
SEVENTH ROUND: Madre Harper, Southern Illinois
Harper wasn’t invited to the combine, but based on his pro day numbers, he’s our top fit for the Patriots. He’s 6-foot-2, 196 pounds and ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash with a 6.88-second 3-cone drill, 4.25-second short shuttle, 40-inch vertical leap and 11-feet, 2-inch broad jump. His 33 7/8-inch arms are incredibly rare for his position.
He started his college career at Oklahoma State but was dismissed from the team. He might be a character risk, but it’s one worth taking for his combination of size, length and athleticism. He had 14 pass breakups in 2019.
We’d support the Patriots taking two former Salukis in Harper and Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn.