The New England Patriots have a J.C. Jackson sized hole to fill on their defense.
Jackson’s five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers leaves the Patriots without a Pro-Bowl level cornerback since the days of Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs. Given this fact, many believe the Patriots’ biggest need comes in finding a cornerback.
Instead of trying to find a reason to dispute this fact, we’ll agree. New England’s going to need to add a true number one corner if they want to compete in a conference that has loaded up on talent this offseason. If they’re going to draft one, it needs to be done in 2022. Even if you don’t believe there’s a way to contend this season, taking the ‘year too early’ approach allows rookies some time to develop and find their footing.
This man is the first player that comes to mind when you think of prospects that will need time to develop and find their footing at the next level.
Name: Kyler Gordon
School: Washington (RS-Junior)
Opening day age: 22
2021 stats: 12 games, 50 tackles, 7 passes defended, 2 interception
Size: 6’0”, 194lbs
Expected round: 2nd
2022 #Patriots Draft Target Thread— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) January 27, 2022
CB Kyler Gordon
(6’0” - 200lbs)
A two time member of @BruceFeldmanCFB’s Freaks List, Kyler Gordon is the NFL Combine’s next superstar. pic.twitter.com/OOUC1B1pb9
Strengths: This player is the walking embodiment of a dynamic athlete. His numbers didn’t and won’t blow you away, but they combine to make a player that can do just about anything you’d need him to do on the football field. We’ll touch on his positional versatility later, but it certainly deserves mention with his other strengths.
The single best trait that Gordon possesses is his closing speed. The plant and drive ability that he has is second to none in the class. His speed translates when closing and helps him get his hands on the football. He’s likely going to be used as an off-man corner early on in an effort to highlight that ability.
Gordon was a steady improver throughout his college career. He went from a raw athlete who could run with receivers, to running their routes for them.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) January 27, 2022
When he stays technically sound, there isn’t a corner in the class that puts themselves in a better position to win each rep. pic.twitter.com/nZYx19aGJj
Though some don’t view these things as strengths, I believe it’s important to highlight his willingness to get physical and the urgency in which he plays with. He’s fasty to the ball and he does a great job of initiating contact. Little things that aren’t a given.
Gordon is far from just an athlete. He likes to get in the mix as a tackler, serving as one of Washington’s better run defenders in 2021.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) January 27, 2022
He won Washington’s special teams MVP award in 2019 and 2020, as well as winning the “Husky Excellence Award” in 2021. pic.twitter.com/SKb77ktCqT
Weaknesses: Gordon doesn’t do a great job of continuously playing with good technique. He’ll have a stretch of 5-10 plays where he looks like a superstar, but it takes just one to pull him back down to earth. This is one of those things that can be fixed, but not through anything but the player themselves. He needs to trust his keys and eyes more than he does right now. The second an NFL quarterback sees him second guess himself, it’s a wrap.
What would be his role? We’ve said the same thing for pretty much every cornerback we’ve covered so far this offseason. New England won’t put pressure on them to become their top corner right away, but that will certainly be the expectation in year two and beyond.
Does he have positional versatility? When I watch Kyler Gordon play football I see a young Antrel Rolle. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Rolle was the eighth overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals. After failing to break out on the outside, he eventually moved inside to play nickel for Arizona before making one last position switch and settling in as one of the league’s best safeties.
It would be near impossible to predict that kind of path for a player, but Gordon shares a ton of traits with Rolle and has shown the ability to move around when asked. There’s no doubt that Gordon has the physical tools to adapt to any role asked of him in the secondary.
Who’s his competition? Though he’ll be taken as early as some day one starters, I don’t quite believe Kyler Gordon is ready. Like the Terrence Mitchell’s, Joejuan Williams’, and Shaun Wade’s of the world, he’ll come in to compete for rotational reps behind Jalen Mills with the hope that he can eventually develop into that number one guy.
Why the Patriots? Given the state of New England’s cornerback room, it would be easy to make a case for any of the top cornerbacks in this class. What sets Gordon apart is the positional versatility and potential to develop into a star at multiple spots. It’s almost likely buying a lottery ticket that is three times as likely to hit.
Why not the Patriots? The only reason you don’t take a player like Gordon is because he doesn’t fit a need for you. That’s not the case with New England, he’s exactly what they should be hoping for.
Verdict: The New England Patriots have no room to pass up on drafting good football players. It’s a yes.