The New England Patriots reportedly are taking a closer look at the top interception artist in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes has a pre-draft visit scheduled with the Patriots, according to a report Tuesday from Jon Sokoloff of WCBI News. The Patriots previously met with Forbes at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Forbes displayed elite ball skills in the SEC, grabbing 14 interceptions over the last three seasons and returning a whopping six of them for touchdowns. Forbes also was, as Pro Football Focus’s draft guide put it, “unbelievably dominant in man coverage in 2022,” grabbing as many interceptions in man (three) as he had receptions allowed.
That combination of ball skills and man coverage ability align with what the Patriots traditionally have looked for in their cornerbacks, though they gravitated more toward zone coverage in recent years. At 6-foot-1 with a 79-inch wingspan, Forbes also would add some much-needed height and length to a New England cornerback group that mostly relied on sub-6-foot players last season.
Forbes’ 4.35-second 40-yard dash ranked in the 92nd percentile among cornerbacks, and his jumps were solid, as well (69th percentile vertical; 64th broad).
The one drawback is Forbes’ weight. He was just 166 pounds at the combine, lighter than any non-kicker/punter in Indianapolis, and his lack of play strength made him a less-than-stellar run defender.
Would that be a sticking point for the Patriots? They used mid-round picks on a pair of undersized cornerbacks last year, taking Marcus Jones (5-foot-8, 174 pounds) in Round 3 and Jack Jones (5-11, 171) in Round 4. But Forbes is lighter than both despite being several inches taller.
Here’s how Lance Zierlein described Forbes in his NFL.com draft profile:
Forbes is long, can run and has a talent for taking the ball away, which means he has a chance to become a coveted cornerback. However, his wire-thin frame does not work in his favor. Forbes’ instincts and recognition are fun to watch. He pounces on quick-game throws and has the ball skills to take the ball away. He’s highly capable in all forms of zone coverage and operates out of press-man, but is inconsistent matching the release and staying in phase with routes through sharp cuts. His slender build and lack of tackle strength will make him a target for opposing running games. Forbes could become an early starter with quality ball production, but teams might need to expect some up-and-down performances.
With Jalen Mills reportedly planning to move to safety, cornerback looks like one of the Patriots’ top draft needs. Forbes is projected as a Day 2 pick.