J.C. Jackson is on the fast track to free agency, and the expectation is that he will cash in on a big money deal with someone other than the New England Patriots. That puts cornerback at the top of New England’s offseason priorities list.
As we head into free agency, the Patriots’ cornerback room doesn’t look like one that will strike fear in the hearts of many opposing quarterbacks. Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, and Shaun Wade are the current full-time corners on New England’s roster. Mills is the only one in that group to start more than one game in 2021, while Jones is coming off of season ending shoulder surgery. It’s safe to say they’ll be looking for some help this offseason.
A couple of weeks back we talked about Andrew Booth Jr. as a potential long-term fit to take over the number one role on New England’s defense. That is the premier option in the draft, but what if they address the number one spot in free agency? That would allow them to look at the cornerbacks in the 2022 draft class as depth options, and Cam Taylor-Britt may be the best one of the bunch.
Name: Cam Taylor-Britt
School: Nebraska (Junior)
Opening day age: 22
2021 stats: 12 games, 51 tackles,11 passes defended, 1 interception
Size: 5’11”, 196lbs
Expected round: 3rd
2022 #Patriots Draft Target Thread— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) February 9, 2022
CB Cam Taylor-Britt#Nebraska #GBR
(5’10” - 200lbs)
A scheme versatile outside corner with long arms and a knack for getting involved in the run game, Cam Taylor-Britt checks all of New England’s boxes at cornerback. pic.twitter.com/1aUBfXzWLJ
Strengths: Cam Taylor-Britt brings an unbelievable amount of physicality to the cornerback position. His play could draw some comparisons to Jalen Mills, as both players are at their best covering short areas or being confined to the red zone. In addition to his physicality playing well into those short area cover skills, it shows up in run support. Taylor-Britt may be the best tackler of the entire 2022 cornerback class. He’s got a quick trigger and really moves well through the trash.
Taylor-Britt was a fan favorite of #HuskerNation and a captain in 2021. It’s easy to see why, dude is a hunter. He frequently makes plays at the LOS and has a quick trigger to the ball out of coverage.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) February 9, 2022
Check out #5 at the bottom of your screen. pic.twitter.com/HHqS5rk4IA
Another thing to like about Taylor-Britt’s game is his scheme versatility. He’s equally effective in man or zone defense, having the necessary instincts to excel in zone coverage while possessing the physical attributes to keep up in man. As a zone coverage player, Taylor-Britt plays with a high football IQ. He has little wasted movement in his lower half which allows him to peel and stick while switching. In man, his length and makeup speed are very impressive. He has a second gear and uses his long arms to get into passing lanes. It’s the stuff you can’t teach that helps him excel in that area.
Taylor-Britt’s most intriguing attribute is his range. Not so much his ability to cover space on the ground, but his ability to get his hands on anything that comes within 5 yards of him.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) February 9, 2022
Don’t get me wrong, these balls are under thrown, but he’s still covering a ton of ground. pic.twitter.com/R59CLVafsP
Weaknesses: Although Taylor-Britt has top tier straight line speed, his short area agility is below par. He struggled to play off man coverage because his change of direction skills just weren’t where they needed to be.
Instead of harping on the little things like subpar ball skills or an ultra-aggressive demeanor, I think it’s better to just reiterate the one glaring concern. Inability to smoothly change direction is a huge knock on what otherwise would be a first-round prospect. It is something that can be improved upon but that’s not going to happen overnight and there is a limit to how much better he can get in that area. While other players have a lengthy list of drawbacks, Taylor-Britt has just one. It just may be inexcusable for some teams.
What would be his role? Even if they had a top 10 pick, the Patriots aren’t going to be able to get an immediate number one cornerback from this year’s draft class. The guys in their range need a little bit of time to develop.
As things currently stand, Taylor-Britt would compete for a plug-and-play role depending on where the Patriots defense finds themselves on the field. Long-term, he’ll be the perfect complement to a true number one cornerback.
Does he have positional versatility? I mentioned scheme versatility in the strengths section of this article, but an often overlooked area of Cam Taylor-Britt’s game is his positional versatility. He’s not a player that you can drop back to safety, but he can certainly slide inside to serve as a nickel option for just about any defense. His slot game is different from most, he uses his arms to jam smaller receivers up, opens his hips and forces them to beat him with speed. Most of the time, that doesn’t work. Above all else, this is his greatest strength as a player.
Who’s his competition? As mentioned above, 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. Taylor-Britt would likely be added to that group early on. It won’t take much for him to eventually surpass that though.
Why the Patriots? Take all of the Patriots cornerback needs off the table. Cam Taylor-Britt is a versatile cornerback with long arms and a physical demeanor. That’s the definition of a Patriots cornerback.
Why not the Patriots? Can’t seem to think of a reason why the Patriots wouldn’t draft a cornerback this year. If they go with one of the top guys in round one, then Taylor-Britt likely will no longer be an option. Other than that he’s on the board.
Verdict: If it’s a cornerback, it’s a yes. Add him to your list of potential Patriots targets.