Coming off a rather disappointing 8-9 season, the New England Patriots have plenty of potential for improvement. They already addressed some areas of need so far this offseason, but will now look to add long-term stability and additional playmaking ability through the NFL Draft. With 11 selections in hand, Bill Belichick and company are in a good position to do just that.
How they will ultimately use those picks remains to be seen. However, there are several players who would fit what they are looking for both at positions of need and at other spots all over the roster.
In our Patriots Draft Targets series, we will be taking a close look at some prospects we believe might be falling into that “fit” category. Today, let’s assess a projected mid-round defensive back.
Name: Cory Trice Jr.
Position: Outside cornerback/Box safety
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6’3 2/8”, 206 lbs, 77” wing span, 32 3/8” arm length, 9 3/4” hand size
Workout numbers: 4.47s 40-yard dash, 4.06s short shuttle, 6.7s 3-cone drill, 35 1/2” vertical jump, 11’0” broad jump, 17 bench press reps, 9.65 Relative Athletic Score
Playing both football and basketball growing up, Trice developed into a standout defensive back during his career at Christian County High School in his home town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. He was rated as a three-star recruit coming out of high school and received scholarship offers from several colleges at the FBS and FBC level — Purdue being one among them, and the team to successfully bring him aboard.
Trice’s career with the Boilermakers started in a redshirt capacity followed by him making the move from safety to cornerback. The position switch paid off and he went on to start 26 games over the next four seasons — registering five interceptions and 20 pass breakups along the way. His best season came in 2022: while he had to shake off some rust after missing 10 total games the previous year due to ankle and knee injuries, he started 13 games and was named a honorable All-Big Ten mention.
Expected round: 3rd-4th
Strengths: Trice offers a rare combination of size and athleticism. He stands at 6-foot-3 and 206 pounds, but also has good burst and quickness and can adapt quickly to the player he is covering. An experienced press-man defender, he has the proper upper-body strength and stout base to complete jams at the line of scrimmage. His long arms and active hands furthermore help him disrupt opponents through the stem of their routes, and make him a player capable of covering plenty of space. He also has shown he can reach in and break up passes.
Trice, who offers experience as a safety from his time in high school, is a relatively scheme-flexible player: he can perform in man coverage shells and follow players around if need be, but also has the spacing, anticipation and awareness to succeed in zone looks. He also comes down the field with a purpose when asked to defend the run, and is a sure tackler. Per Pro Football Focus, he missed only four of his 126 career tackle attempts (3.2%).
Love Trice him as a potential day 3 steal— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) April 19, 2023
Rare size + athleticism, scheme versatile, flashing great spacing in zone, and defends run/screens like the former safety he is
Also comes with special teams experience https://t.co/CZssUw7DkG pic.twitter.com/NQMIcQAZJ9
Weaknesses: Trice’s size is a blessing and a curse. He has a tendency to keep his pads high, and has to get more fundamentally sound not to lose leverage against NFL-level players capable of capitalizing on inconsistencies in that area. In general, he is somewhat raw despite having spent five years at Purdue; his technique and ability to play the ball to come away with turnovers instead of pass breakups can be improved upon.
He also is not the fastest player, and both his 40-yard dash (4.47s) and 10-yard split (1.58s) at the Scouting Combine looked rather pedestrian. In addition, he has some question marks on his injury history: Trice’s junior campaign in particular was an issue and he appeared in just two of 12 possible games that season; he first dealt with a high ankle sprain and later tore the ACL in his left knee — an injury that also had an impact on his 2022 senior season.
What would be his role in 2023? The Patriots’ secondary is a work in progress in several spots, and one of those is outside cornerback. Besides Jack Jones, who had a very good rookie season in 2022, no player is guaranteed a spot on the depth chart. Trice would therefore come in and immediately get an opportunity to compete for playing time. It would not be a surprise to see him earn a key rotational role or even become a starter right out of the gate, despite potential growing pains.
What is his growth potential? Trice’s combination of size and athleticism gives him a good foundation to work from. His main potential for growth would therefore lie in his technique: keeping his shoulders consistently low, improving his jam against NFL players, winning with technique rather than athletic superiority. If he shows proper development in those areas, he could very well develop into a solid starter by Year 2.
Does he have positional versatility? To a degree, yes, given that he arrived at Purdue as a box safety rather than a cornerback. However, 83.4 percent of Trice’s defensive snaps last season — 547 of 656 — saw him align on the outside of the defense. He moved into different positions relatively rarely: he played 79 snaps as a box safety (12.0%), 20 in the slot (3.0%), and 10 on the line of scrimmage (1.5%).
What adding him would mean for the depth chart: Whether he comes off the board late on Day 2 or early on Day 3 is immaterial to his roster outlook: he would be on the 53-man team regardless. As such, adding him to the equation would mostly hurt those players who are also competing for playing time at outside cornerback. Players such as Jalen Mills, Shaun Wade, Quandre Mosely and Rodney Randle Jr. would be put under even more pressure with Trice joining the group.
Why the Patriots make sense as a landing spot: The Patriots have a definitive need at outside cornerback, and Trice might be able to come in and start right away. He also has shown that he can play at a serviceable level both in man and zone looks, is an able and willing run defender, and has special teams experience. All in all, he ticks plenty of boxes.
Patriots contact: N/A
Verdict: The Patriots are in the cornerback market from their first selection in the draft on. If they miss out on the top prospects available, however, Trice would be an intriguing consolation price of sorts. He comes with more question marks than, say, a Christian Gonzalez or Devon Witherspoon, but his frame and fluidity make for a player worth keeping an eye on in the middle rounds.
Would Trice be a good fit for the Patriots? Where do you think he will be drafted? Please head down to the comment section to discuss!