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2022 NFL mock draft: Patriots pick a cornerback after losing J.C. Jackson in free agency

Related: How will the Patriots replace J.C. Jackson?

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NCAA Football: Alabama at Florida Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The first week of free agency is not over yet, but the New England Patriots are currently facing plenty of questions at some key positions. One of those is cornerback, where the departure of Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson left the team dangerously thin.

The Patriots have multiple options to bolster their current group, including selecting a cornerback early in next month’s draft. If the team opts to go that route, Florida’s Kaiir Elam projects as one of the best prospects available at the position is.

He also is the pick in Trevor Sikkema’s latest mock draft over at Pro Football Focus:

21. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: CB KAIIR ELAM, FLORIDA

With the loss of J.C. Jackson, the Patriots will certainly have cornerback in their first-round priority list. They simply have to have more bodies at corner on the depth chart.

Elam really surprised people when he ran an official 4.39 40-yard dash at the Combine. For a 6-foot-1 corner with long arms who loves to play press-man coverage, speed was really the only major concern with him.

After losing Jackson and signing free agent Terrance Mitchell, the Patriots’ outside cornerback group consists of Mitchell, Jalen Mills Joejuan Williams, Shaun Wade and special teamer Justin Bethel. Needless to say that more reinforcements are needed, especially to fill the starting job opposite Mills.

Elam projects as a starter at the next level, after showing that he can successfully shadow opposing X-receivers while at Florida. He might be a bit over-aggressive at times and recently struggled with injuries, but his success at the SEC level makes him a player to watch late in the first round.