The Patriots do not need a cornerback as their roster is currently constructed, but it’s pretty easy to see New England could use another cover-man as early as next season.
JC Jackson is on a one-year deal as a restricted free agent, and Stephon Gilmore’s contract also runs out after the 2021 season. Only cornerbacks Myles Bryant, Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills and Joejuan Williams are signed past next season.
There could be four cornerbacks worthy of being selected in the first round available to New England as the Patriots sit at No. 15 overall.
Here’s how the Patriots have drafted cornerback in the past:
— 14 out of 21 cornerbacks drafted by the Patriots who ran a 40-yard dash completed it in less than 4.5 seconds
— 15 of the 19 cornerbacks drafted by the Patriots ran a three-cone drill completed it in less than 7 seconds
— 13 of the 19 cornerbacks who ran a short shuttle completed it in less than 4.2 seconds
— The Patriots have drafted just two cornerbacks with a broad jump under 10 feet or a vertical jump under 35 inches.
So, those seem to be the sweet spots.
We devised a metric to rate each 2021 NFL Draft prospect?s fit in New England. Here’s this year’s crop of cornerbacks sorted by Arif Hasan of The Athletic’s composite draft rankings.
Now let’s rank the Patriots’ top fits by that metric which standardizes and weights pre-draft testing measurables to New England’s preferences:
Here’s one potential selection per round:
First Round: Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
Horn and fellow top cornerback Patrick Surtain II didn’t run the three-cone or short shuttle, but the two otherwise are great fits from a size and testing standpoint. Horn is the son of former Pro Bowl wide receiver Joe Horn. Surtain, as you might have guessed, is the son of former Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Surtain.
Either would be a good fit in New England, but Horn is listed because Surtain is expected to be selected before No. 15.
Horn let up just a 54.9 passer rating in 2020, per PFF.
Second Round: Eric Stokes, Georgia
Stokes is 6-foot-1 and ran a 4.31-second 40-yard dash with a 6.96-second three-cone drill. He let up just a 43.6 passer rating in 2020, per PFF.
Third Round: Paulson Adebo, Stanford
Adebo opted out for the 2020 season, but he’s known for his ball-hawking skills at 6-foot-1, 198 pounds. He hits the Patriots’ thresholds in his 40-yard dash, three-cone and short shuttle.
Fourth Round: Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas
Rochell is one of the best athletes in the cornerback class. A small-school guy, he let up just two touchdowns in his final three seasons at Central Arkansas.
Fifth Round: Marco Wilson, Florida
Wilson is the single best fit from a size and testing standpoint among cornerbacks. He tore his ACL in 2018 and was held without an interception in 2020 while letting up three touchdowns.
Sixth Round: Tay Gowan, Central Florida
Gowan is a bit of an unknown with just one full year of FBS tape. He started his career at Miami (OH), left for Butler (Kan.) Community College, transferred to UCF and then opted out for the 2020 season when his daughter was born premature. He’s 6-foot-1 and ran a sub-4.5-second 40-yard dash and sub-7-second-three-cone drill.
Seventh Round: Brandin Echols, Kentucky
Echols began his college career at wide receiver before moving to cornerback at Northwest (Miss.) Community College. He let up just four touchdowns in two seasons in the SEC after transferring in 2019.