Like Mel Kiper, Bucky Brooks believes the Patriots will go defense in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. But, unlike his ESPN colleague, the NFL Media draft guru has New England selecting a cornerback instead of an edge rusher.
In his latest mock draft, Brooks predicts the Patriots will take Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth at No. 21 overall. Of course, there is a real possibility that New England loses star corner J.C. Jackson to free agency this offseason.
Here’s what Brooks wrote of his choice:
“The potential loss of pending free agent J.C. Jackson could prompt the Patriots to select a scheme-friendly cover corner with outstanding skills.”
Regardless of whether Jackson leaves, the Patriots need to add another high-level corner before next season. Whether they use the draft to address the need remains to be seen.
Booth generally is viewed as a first-round talent, though he slots behind Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner and LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. in the cornerback prospect rankings. Here’s a scouting summary from NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein, who compared Booth to one-time Pro Bowler Jackrabbit Jenkins:
A press/zone combo corner with good size and length, Booth plays with an urgent, competitive nature. He has the strength, balance and foot agility to press and slow the release. He has limited starting experience, though. He will need more development to prevent route specialists from manipulating his feet and hips. Booth has the ball-tracking and play strength to find and maintain top-dog positioning through catch tries. He’s more effective in off coverage underneath than tight man. He needs to play more football, but his ball-hawking instincts, burst to close and toughness in run support will be very appealing for zone teams looking for an upgrade at cornerback.
It’s unclear whether New England plans to meet with Booth at this week’s NFL Scouting Combine. However, the Patriots already have met with multiple top receiver prospects, fueling speculation they could use the 21st pick to bolster their offense.