Devin McCourty and Sterling Moore project to be two of the top options on a Patriots' cornerback depth chart that looks to improve in 2012.
SB Nation's Ryan Van Bibber has ranked each of the NFL's cornerback corps from 1-32. The Patriots, not surprisingly, aren't ranked very high on the list. Van Bibber placed them at 24th in the league, calling Kyle Arrington their best player:
Picking "the best" from this group is really more like picking the least offensive. Keep an eye on Alfonzo Dennard, a seventh-round pick this year who was once regarded as a first-round pick before a rough Senior Bowl and a pre-draft run-in with a cop. Arrington, Devin McCourty and Ras-I Dowling could start the season seeing most of the snaps at corner.
I disagree with Van Bibber that Kyle Arrington is the team's "best" cornerback. Even after a down 2011 season, I fully expect Devin McCourty to rebound in 2012 and be the team's best at the position. There's no doubt that Arrington out-performed McCourty last year, but unlike some, I'm not down on McCourty's long term future in the NFL. I still think he's a Pro Bowl caliber cornerback.
As for the Patriots' ranking of 24th, I might have ranked them a tad bit higher, but it's really not hard to question why Van Bibber had New England ranked so low, considering the historically terrible pass defense the Patriots had in 2011. While I think that the Patriots' struggles to stop the pass had to do with a variety of team factors and not just the cornerbacks, it's a natural reaction to hand them the blame.
That being said, I could really see this unit having the chance to rebound in 2012. The Patriots certainly have some talented cornerbacks. As it stands now, McCourty and Arrington represent an average to slightly above-average duo. However, should a player such as 2011 2nd round pick Ras-I Dowling emerge, the unit could really improve. As Van Bibber pointed out, Dennard is another guy to watch. I'd also throw out Sterling Moore, who really impressed down the stretch in the postseason, and could be a factor in the slot.
At a minimum, this group has average talent a solid amount of depth. However, if the group can take the strides that it's capable of doing, they could definitely be ranked in the top half of the league come 2013. I'll take that.