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Patriots meet with several top cornerback prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine

New England is taking a close look at a deep position group.

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The New England Patriots already made some investments at their cornerback position last year, but it would not be a surprise to see even more additions to the group this offseason. Without a clear No. 1 option on the perimeter, after all, the team appears to be in the market for some upgrades — upgrades that might be coming early in the draft.

At the very least, the team is doing is due diligence. The Patriots, after all, met with several top cornerback prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week.

Among the players the team was in contact with are several potential first-round picks: Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr., Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes, and South Carolina’s Cam Smith all revealed during their media availability that they had spoken to Patriots representatives at the Combine, or are scheduled to do so.

Gonzalez and Porter Jr. are the big names on that list. Arguably the two best cornerbacks in this year’s draft, they appear to be realistic candidates for the Patriots in the first round. Both are outstanding athletes with an intriguing combination of size, athleticism, instincts, and ball skills; the two look like quality starters from Day 1, even though New England might have to trade up from No. 14 to get a shot at them.

Forbes and Smith, meanwhile, project as fringe first-round options. They do have upside and might become contributors during their rookie campaigns as well, but are not as ready-made to make an immediate impact as Gonzalez or Porter Jr.

In addition to the first-round candidates, the Patriots also met with a few mid-to-late-round prospects — including Alabama’s Eli Ricks and LSU’s Jay Ward.

New England meeting with all of these players, and others, is no surprise. The Combine offers teams an opportunity to get an up-close look, with cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino among the Patriots coaches in town for the event; he took part in the defensive back meetings alongside members of the team’s scouting department.

Of course, interviews are not necessarily a sign of a team’s draft intentions. The Patriots, for example, are trying to get as comprehensive a picture as possible both for the draft and potential upcoming trade or free agency opportunities as well as future matchups.

Defensive backs will go through their measurements and on-field workouts at the Combine on Friday. NFL Network will broadcast live starting at 3 p.m. ET.