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Scout on Malcolm Butler: You can’t be an elite corner if you don’t cover bigger receivers

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Who is the most overrated Patriot heading into 2017?

As part of his ongoing series, CSNNE’s Mike Giardi spoke with scouts, players, and executives about the most overrated player on the New England Patriots. I’ll share what each gave as their response and then throw the question to the comments section.

One scout said CB Malcolm Butler and argued, “If you’re an elite corner in this league, you have to be able to cover all kinds of receivers. He can’t. You don’t put him on Julio Jones in the Super Bowl. He doesn’t draw AJ Green. Sure, he has the quicks to step inside and deal with Antonio Brown, but there’s no size disadvantage. To me, that’s why you don’t pay him the money [Stephon] Gilmore got.”

The Patriots matched up Eric Rowe or Logan Ryan against both Jones and Green, while Ryan earned the draw against Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Marshall, DeAndre Hopkins, and Larry Fitzgerald. Butler faced Antonio Brown and Jarvis Landry, sure, but the scout’s point stands. The Patriots don’t ask Butler to cover the top opposing receiver and went out to sign Stephon Gilmore; that raises questions of how the team views him as a #1 cornerback.

Butler’s weak performance against the Texans certainly didn’t help the argument.

Another scout listed RB Mike Gillislee, questioning his ability to remain healthy all season. Gillislee was held out for a game in the middle of the 2016 season with a hamstring injury and that injury has resurfaced early this camp; he also dealt with a concussion and a foot injury. The Patriots have to hope that his rotational role will help him stay healthier during the season.

The third scout mentioned LB David Harris, saying that the linebacker has declined in his old age and the scout would have preferred Shea McClellin or Kyle Van Noy to see expanded roles.

“I don’t think [Harris] runs well,” the scout explained. “I know he doesn’t cover well. If I saw him out there and trusted my quarterback, I’d have him spread it out and isolate Harris. Guaranteed to scheme him right off the field. We’ve been able to do that in previous meetings. I can’t imagine it will get any better.”

The team executive was much more diplomatic in their analysis, saying that a player that thrives in New England might not thrive elsewhere due to scheme. When pushed to listed a player, the exec named “Kony Ealy, but not because of a scheme fit. He didn’t get it coming out of Missouri. Then Carolina gives up on him. Why would I trust him now?”

Ealy got off to a bumpy start in New England, but he seems to be the front runner to start opposite of Trey Flowers as the inside defensive end (whether by ability or process of elimination is up for debate).

Out of Butler, Gillislee, Harris, and Ealy, I’ll be the first to admit to driving the Gillislee Hype Train to levels probably not in line with his eventual production. James White will probably lead the running backs in snaps and every day that Gillislee is sidelined with a hamstring injury is another day or Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis to siphon off early-down snaps.

I don’t know where the expectation consensus lies for Harris and Ealy, but I think both are going to be contributors, not dominant forces; I have a hard time considering either “overrated” when their ratings are so neutral.

I think that Dwayne Allen is a name worth mentioning because while I think he’s better than what he’s put together in Indianapolis, the difference between he and Martellus Bennett is greater than what is being discussed. Allen is a solid receiver and could fit in seamlessly, but he has one good year of blocking (2014) out of his past four and his reputation seems to be running on the fumes of his outstanding rookie campaign. He’s been less of Martellus Bennett and more of Scott Chandler.

Who do you think is the most overrated Patriot heading into 2017?