The Oregon Ducks’ defensive backfield has piqued the New England Patriots’ interest ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft
Two Oregon cornerbacks — Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir — recently had virtual pre-draft meetings with the Patriots, according to Justin Melo of The Draft Network.
Graham is the more highly regarded of the two Ducks DBs. A three-year collegiate starter, he ranked third in the FBS with 21 passes defended as a junior in 2019 before opting out of the 2020 season. Graham returned to the field at the 2021 Senior Bowl and performed well, according to reports out of Mobile.
Pro Football Focus’s Mike Renner compared the 5-foot-11, 188-pound cover man to former Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, praising his footwork, poise and aggressiveness at the catch point while knocking his lack of straight-line speed.
“You can chase higher-end athletes in this class, but Graham may very well end up being one of the more reliable corners taken,” Renner wrote in PFF’s 2021 draft guide, projecting Graham as a third-round prospect.
PFF has Lenoir pegged as a sixth-round pick, suggesting he’s better suited to play safety at the NFL level due to his lack of length and athleticism. Renner called the 5-11, 195-pound Lenoir “arguably the best tackling corner in the class.”
“Sadly, we never got to see him in a true safety role, as that’s his best spot in the NFL,” Renner wrote.
Lenoir, a senior who closed out his college career with 34 consecutive starts, initially opted out of the 2020 season before reversing course and deciding to play. He tallied 30 tackles and one interception during Oregon’s abbreviated seven-game campaign.
With Stephon Gilmore’s contract situation unsettled and J.C. Jackson (restricted) and Jason McCourty (unrestricted) both set to hit free agency, cornerback is a potential need for the Patriots this offseason.