The New England Patriots should address some potential holes on their defense in the 2018 NFL Draft and depending on the contract status of Malcolm Butler, cornerback should be towards the top of the list.
Stephon Gilmore will be the Patriots top cornerback in 2018, followed by Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, and Cyrus Jones. Both Joneses are on the injured reserve and Rowe wil be a free agent after 2018 so cornerback is definitely a need.
Pro Football Focus, which grades every snap of every college game, released their second mock draft of the season and gave the Patriots a player to boost the secondary.
32. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13-3): CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
There’s a good chance that CB Malcolm Butler moves on in free agency, leaving a hole at outside cornerback in New England. Oliver has great size and he does a fine job of staying on top of deep routes and making plays on the ball. He’s broken up 23 passes on only 146 targets during his three years at Colorado.
Oliver is the fourth cornerback to go in the first round of this mock draft after Alabama CB Minkah Fitzpatrick (#4 to the Cleveland Browns), Iowa CB Josh Jackson (#11 to the Miami Dolphins), and Ohio State CB Denzel Ward (#26 to the Atlanta Falcons).
Oliver is prototypical Patriots cornerback from a size perspective at 6’0, 195 pounds and is an impressive athlete, too. He was recruited to Colorado as both a wide receiver and cornerback, but more impressive he competed for Colorado’s Track & Field team in the decathlon, finishing 4th in the Pac-12. The decathlon involves 10 different track & field events, from sprints, to distance running, to long jumps, to hurdles, to throwing events, and he did well in all of them.
Bill Belichick loves multi-sport athletes and Oliver certainly fits the bill.
Oliver was the third cornerback on Colorado’s depth chart in 2016 behind second round pick Chidode Awuzie and third round pick Ahkello Witherspoon, but still managed to get on the field. He emerged as a better prospect than the other two when he finally received starting time in 2017.
Teams simply avoided throwing the football at Oliver because he got his hands on so many targets, which is why his interception count was low.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller considers Oliver the “biggest sleeper” at cornerback in the draft and rates him third overall at the position, while NDS services rate Oliver as the 10th cornerback in the draft and peg him as a second or third round option.
Cornerback certainly seems like a popular first round option for the Patriots with Auburn’s Carlton Davis another popular option. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots went cornerback and quarterback, in some order, with their first two picks of the draft.