By Chris Warner
Let’s look at some possible 2012 additions who could bolster New England’s defensive backfield.
Last season the Patriots’ lineup of DBs went through a revolving door, if said door was hooked onto some super-fast thresher. Has-beens, Never-weres and Someday-might-bes helped contribute to a consistently poor passing defense that never seemed to form a cohesive unit.
While some of those players shall remain, a rookie signing would supplement a thorough housecleaning and possibly give opposing quarterbacks the least bit of apprehension that 2011 lacked.
The Patriots have two picks in the first round (27 and 31 overall), two in the second (48, 62), one in the third (93) and one in the fourth (126). They traded away their fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks.
DAY ONE (Round One)
Overview: If the Patriots want safety help, they should look here, as there’s a major drop-off in talent after Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith and Alabama’s Mark Barron. While we’re on that topic, let’s get right to it:
Mark Barron, Alabama (6-1, 213). Though not the fleetest of foot (4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash), Barron made plays constantly for one of the strongest defenses in the nation. Coach Bill Belichick will get all the scouting he needs from longtime pal and football friend for life Coach Nick Saban.
Speaking of the Crimson Tide…
Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama (6-2, 186). Ditto to the above. In New England, shutdown corners are like dodo birds: we understand they existed at one point but they haven’t been seen in years. Kirkpatrick knocked down nine passes in 2011, impressive by itself but especially when considering how often opposing QBs tried to avoid him.
DAY TWO (Rounds Two and Three)
Overview: It seems that the early rounds contain those that have either raw talent or on-field production. Below we see an example of each.
Josh Robinson, Central Florida (5-10, 199). Robinson’s so athletic he could join the Olympics; you’d just have to create an event for him. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds, completed the 20-yard shuttle in 3.97 seconds, jumped 38.5 inches and finished the 3-cone drill in 6.55 seconds. His technique has been questioned – after this performance, however, his ability has not.
Brandon Taylor, LSU (5-11, 209). A meh 40 (4.58 seconds) won’t hide the fact that this safety had 71 tackles and two interceptions on one of the best defensive backfields in college football last year.
DAY THREE (Rounds Four through Seven)
Overview: Here we discover that there’s no diving into this draft’s DB pool because it’s far too shallow. Not a lot of excitement in this area of the draft, but careful research (and, let’s face it, some luck) will garner a productive back at the pro level.
DeQuan Menzie, Alabama (5-11, 202). The crimson-tinted tide of prospects continues, because if we just stick with Alabama guys, Belichick’s bound to pick one of them, right? Menzie played corner for ’Bama, submitted a jaw-dropping (in a bad way, that is) 4.74-second 40 at the NFL combine, then improved that number to 4.59 at his pro day. A versatile corner who led the team with 11 pass breakups and could provide depth on Day Three.
Brandon Hardin, Oregon State (6-3, 216). Hardin’s a big fella who runs well for his size (4.43 40 and 6.88 3-cone drill). Has battled injuries in his career, including a broken shoulder that kept him out of football his senior season. Tallied 63 tackles as a junior cornerback in 2010. Projects to safety in the NFL.
UNDRAFTED ROOKIE FREE AGENTS (UDFAs)
Overview: Every position seems to have talent at the far end of the draft, and that talent can extend over the edge. For defensive backs, though, this looks like a rough “Day Four,” as few fringe players have performed well enough during pro days to generate much buzz. A couple of exceptions below…
Jerron McMillian, Maine (5-11, 203). After running a respectable 4.56-second 40 at the combine, McMillian flashed at his pro day (almost literally) recording a 4.35. Add solid quickness (6.69 3-cone) and explosiveness (39-inch vertical) and McMillian may have tested himself onto draft boards. If not, after 92 tackles (including 11.5 for loss), the local collegian should get a chance to show his stuff in Foxboro
Johnson Bademosi, Stanford (6-1, 198). New England loves smart football players; Stanford’s a solid place to look for them. Bademosi has notable size, speed (4.43 40) and power (40-inch vertical). Settled in at corner for the Trees (seriously, what the hell is Stanford’s mascot?) with seven pass breakups in 2011 and has been considered an NFL free safety.
Our Call: The more we review what position the Pats should draft where, the stronger we feel that they need to address DB early. A rookie with the physical ability and experience to contribute early (and improve as the season progresses) would go a long way toward locking down a stout defense – something New England has missed for the past few years.
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Email Chris Warner at [email protected]