The New England Patriots could be on the market for another cornerback if they are unable to reach a deal with CB Malcolm Butler and opt to trade him for draft picks. We have enough information from former scouts under head coach Bill Belichick to understand a general idea of how the Patriots rank their cornerback prospects.
“I did a breakdown of him and four-five of the other defensive backs that were in that second-third-fourth-round projected area and he was the top 'disruptor' on the ball -- caused fumbles, pass breakups, interceptions,” Robinson explained. “I did an Excel document and a heat [map], with numbers and kind of did a ranking, with weighted values. It really just kind of crystallized my opinion of the player.”
This practice seems to be integral to the Belichick scouting process because a scout that used to work under Belichick with the Browns had the following message about cornerbacks:
"A good barometer for corners: how often does he get his hands on the ball? Bat downs, tips, INTs. So in college, you take their best two seasons, you add up their numbers of picks and numbers of pass break ups and you rank the top 15 guys...you'll get a sense of who has the best ball skills in the draft."
There are clearly other important needs for a cornerback. They must have good instincts, foot quickness, hip quickness, closing speed, tackling ability, and mental toughness, too.
But with both of these statements in mind, I went through the prospects ranked in rounds 2-5 and looked at how many disruptive plays- pass breakups, interceptions, forced fumbles- that player generated over their best two seasons in college to see if any diamonds in the rough might appear.
It appears that 25 disruptions is the mark for players to rank in the top 10. Most of these players are already well known prospects inside the top t0, like Washington CB Sidney Jones (29), Clemson CB Cordrea Tankersley (29), Florida CB Teez Tabor, Colorado CB Chidobe Awuzie (26), and USC CB Adoree’ Jackson (26). Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis leads the draft class with 36 and would be a higher ranked prospect if he didn’t have a domestic violence charge.
Here are the top 10 prospects:
t-10. USC CB Adoree’ Jackson, rounds 1-2
t-10. Colorado CB Chidobe Awuzie, rounds 1-2
t-10. Tennessee CB Cameron Sutton (26), rounds 3-4
Sutton is a 5’11, 190 pound cornerback that started every single game in his four years at Tennessee. He runs a solid 6.81s three cone and has experience in man coverage and offers potential in the slot, despite spending a lot of his time on the sideline. He would have had more disruptions, but teams avoided throwing his way after a 17 disruption sophomore season and because he broke his ankle in the third game of his senior year.
9. Miami (FL) CB Corn Elder (27), rounds 4-5
Elder is 5’10, 183 pounds and entered college as a running back. He is destined for the slot due to his height and because of his strong, physical tackling ability, but also because he lacks high-end speed.
t-7. Florida CB Teez Tabor (28), rounds 2-3
t-7. Colorado CB Ahkello Witherspoon (28), rounds 2-3
Witherspoon is the lesser-known teammate of Awuzie that stands at 6’3, 198 pounds, with an incredible 4.45s 40 yard dash, 6.93s three cone time, and an explosive 10’6 broad jump. A whopping 23 of his disruptions came in 2016, easily the highest total of all the prospects.
t-5. Washington CB Sidney Jones (29), rounds 2-3
t-5. Clemson CB Cordrea Tankersley (29), rounds 1-2
4. Middle Tennessee CB Jeremy Cutrer (30), rounds 4-5
Cutrer is a tall 6’1, but a willowy 170 pounds. He has explosive closing speed, but lacks high-end speed in the open field. Titans GM Jon Robinson and Lions GM Bob Quinn watched his pro day, so he’s definitely on the Patriots radar.
3. San Diego State CB Damontae Kazee (32), rounds 4-5
Kazee has 52 career disruptions over his four seasons, the most of every player I looked at. The cornerback stands at 5’10, 184 pounds and was named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in each of the past two seasons. He’s a willing tackler with great angles and burst, but might not have the best deep speed.
2. Central Florida CB Shaquill Griffin (34), rounds 4-5
Griffin is 6’0, 194 pounds with a blazing 4.38s 40 yard dash, exceptional 11’ broad jump, and a very good 6.87s three cone. Griffin is a strong run defender when asked to play close to the line and sniffs out screens better than most.
1. Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis (36), rounds 3-4
The Patriots could be interested in Griffin, Kazee, Cutrer, Elder, or Sutton on day three of the draft, and might look at Jones, Witherspoon, or Tabor with their 72nd overall pick. I think that Kazee or Elder could be an excellent fit for the Patriots in their slot defensive back role.