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Patriots Rookie Projections: Ras-I Dowling

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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

School: Virginia

Position: Cornerback

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