The second in a series looking at the Patriots' 2011 NFL Draft picks, and the roles they might play for the Patriots next year.
Name: Ras-I Dowling
Drafted: 2nd Round, 33rd Overall
Projected Stats: 14 GP, 2 Starts; 33 tackles, 8 PD, 2 INTs
Projected Role: A big, physical cornerback, Ras-I Dowling projects as an outside or boundary cornerback in the Patriots defensive system. While the Patriots could try moving him around, based on his skillset, I believe he fits best on the outside and not in the slot. However, I could see the Patriots experimenting with him as an extra defensive back in a safety-esque role at times. Regardless, I think Dowling will be the Patriots' top back-up boundary cornerback. I think he could see some time there at the nickel possibly with Devin McCourty covering the slot. I do not think he will overtake Bodden this year (or even next), although I do think he will give him some rest. With his size, he will have an immediate impact on special teams. My only concern with Dowling is his ability to stay healthy. I have him missing two games next season. However, if he can avoid injury, he could have a pretty nice impact next year.
Bottom Line: Top back-up at boundary CB in 2011, starter by 2012/13