What are the New England Patriots going to do with J.C. Jackson? That, above all else, is the question that should be on everyone’s minds this offseason when it comes to the construction of the 2022 Patriots defense.
Things have gotten… interesting, over the last few weeks regarding Jackson’s status with the team. He’s entering unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career, and just about everyone in the world knows that his market is going to be robust. New England hasn’t revisited extension talks with Jackson since deciding to table them prior to the 2021 season. According to Jackson himself, that hasn’t sat well.
“I guess they feel like they don’t need me,” he said. “I guess I can’t be that important to them. I know I am, but they’re not showing me.”
That statement isn’t exactly ideal for Patriots fans. If New England doesn’t pony up the large chunk of change that it will take to keep their Pro-Bowl corner, they’ll be forced to make a few moves to try and replace the massive amount of production that Jackson brings to the table. Drafting this man could be a start.
Name: Andrew Booth Jr.
School: Clemson (Junior)
Opening day age: 21
2021 stats: 11 games, 37 tackles, 5 passes defended, 1 interception
Size: 6’0”, 200lbs
Expected round: 2nd
Strengths: Andrew Booth Jr. is a box checker. What does that mean? Well, it means he does just about everything you could ask out of a prospect at the cornerback position.
Starting with physical attributes, it’s easy to see why Booth Jr. was a five-star recruit coming out of high school. He’s a tremendous athlete who’s 40 yard dash time will only be diminished by his broad jump and short shuttle time. He’ll excel in all of those events while possessing the ideal size that teams will be looking for.
Booth has a really cool background. Former 5-star athlete who excelled as a WR/CB in high school. Had D1 offers at both positions and was an academic standout.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) February 23, 2022
He also floats. pic.twitter.com/IjJWBZmh2O
In addition to his athletic prowess, Booth Jr. showed out as a press man corner for the Clemson Tigers throughout his collegiate career. Able to use his size and strength at the line of scrimmage, his style of play closely resembles that of Jalen Ramsey albeit at a less productive level. He’s a challenger with the makeup speed to allow him to take some chances. As an added bonus, Booth Jr. is also one of the best tacklers I’ve seen in this class regardless of position.
Booth is a really good tackler. Love watching a football player do football player things. pic.twitter.com/naUhHipldW— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) February 23, 2022
This is the type of player who will find his way onto the field early and won’t relinquish much playing time once he gets it.
Weaknesses: This isn’t exactly the most technically proficient cornerback we’ll talk about during draft season. Booth Jr. got away with relying on his athleticism at the collegiate level and struggled to show great improvement in his technique. It will be a real concern for a lot of teams, but the Patriots’ pedigree of cleaning up deficiencies in their defensive backs should help make them feel more comfortable making a move for a guy like Booth Jr.
An injury history that includes a number of soft tissue ailments isn’t exactly an inviting thing either for such a sought after prospect. NFL teams will need to believe in their medical and strength staffs for it to make sense taking a shot on Booth.
What would be his role? Likely to be taken within the top 50 picks come April, Booth Jr. is viewed by many as a future number one cornerback. Depending on how New England handles J.C. Jackson’s free agency, he could be thrust into that role a lot sooner than expected.
In a perfect world Booth Jr. would be eased into an NFL system as its second or third cornerback on the depth chart before eventually rising to become THE guy. That being said, the NFL world is far from perfect.
Does he have positional versatility? Booth Jr. is one of a very small number of cornerbacks in this draft with the ability to play in the slot as well as outside. Fortunately for the Patriots, they have both Jonathan Jones and Myles Bryant under contract next season so they likely wouldn’t need to rely on Booth Jr. to play that role if he found his way to New England.
Who’s his competition? The Patriots have a number of tier two cornerbacks under contract for 2022. Jalen Mills, Joejuan Williams, Myles Bryant, and Shaun Wade are all expected to compete for the CB2 spot in training camp. Andrew Booth likely wouldn’t have trouble jumping all but Mills to become a part of New England’s rotation.
Why the Patriots? In an effort to keep Patriots fans from getting super sad, we’ll stop hammering home the J.C. Jackson situation. No matter what they do with Jackson, drafting and developing a talented cornerback should be a top priority. Andrew Booth has one of the highest ceilings in this class and is very much in play at 21.
Why not the Patriots? If J.C. Jackson is retained, the need for a cornerback becomes less of an issue. They could then focus their early draft efforts on building around Mac Jones on offense and in the front seven on defense.
Verdict: If he’s available at 21, I’d bet a large chunk of change that New England looks to add Booth Jr. to their roster. It’s a big fat yes.