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Latest SB Nation 2018 Mock NFL Draft has the Patriots drafting a cornerback

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Alabama v Auburn Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

While they’re still focused on the playoffs, the New England Patriots have a handful of needs heading in to 2018, especially depending on how the team addresses their in house free agents. Defensive tackle and linebacker are needs regardless of the free agents, while running back, tackle, and cornerback could elevate in priority depending on the status of Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, Nate Solder, and Malcolm Butler.

SB Nation’s Dan Kadar believes that Butler could leave the Patriots next season and land a nice open market contract and that New England could address that vacancy in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

31. New England Patriots: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn

In hopes of getting a big money, multi-year contract, Malcolm Butler could leave New England after the season. If he does, the Patriots would find his replacement in a draft that surplus of cornerbacks. Davis was a star for Auburn this season, breaking up 11 passes and intercepting a pass.

Davis is a 6’1, 205 pound three-year starter in the SEC and is sure to have the attention of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Davis started as a true freshman in the strongest defensive conference in college football and was named Second Team All American in 2017 for his standout performances against some of the top wide receiver prospects.

He collected 29 defended passes and 4 interceptions, along with 3 forced fumbles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and half a sack over his three years as a starter.

“Long and athletic, Davis is at his best up close in man-to-man coverage, showing the aggressive hands to latch onto receivers and disrupt their timing, as well as the smooth hip turn, acceleration and quick throttle-down to blanket in coverage,” NDS Scouting writes. “These cover skills, along with a penchant for big hits and reliable open-field tackling likely will result in a first-round selection.”

The Patriots had success with another former Auburn cornerback in Jonathan Jones, so it wouldn’t be out of character to dip back in the same well to add Davis to the roster.

If Butler leaves in free agency, the Patriots would have Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, and Cyrus Jones on the roster; Johnson Bademosi would be a free agent worth retaining, too.

There would definitely be room for Davis with Rowe projected to be a free agent after the 2018 season, Jonathan Jones a restricted free agent, and Cyrus Jones unproven at the NFL level.

What do you think of this mock selection?