A year ago, most people thought the Patriots would target a pass rusher with their first-round pick.
What did we learn? Bill Belichick is unpredictable.
Instead he selected Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty, a player known as a special teams demon with good athleticism.
Boy did he prove us wrong.
McCourty turned out to be the best player in the young secondary, snaring a team-high seven interceptions which earned him a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie.
As good as he was, the rest of the corners were inconsistent at best. 2009 second-rounder Darius Butler couldn’t keep his starting job, Kyle Arrington was an overachiever and Jonathan Wilhite went on IR.
While I don’t expect the Patriots to select another cornerback in the first round, I could see them targeting one in the second or third round with their extra picks.
The draft’s two elite prospects – LSU’s Patrick Peterson and Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara – are expected to be top 10 picks, but here some other options the Patriots could have on their board:
1. Brandon Harris, Miami: The Florida native arrived at “The U” as a five-star recruit and was immediately thrown into the fire. Although he struggled as a freshman, he had a great sophomore season with 15 passes defended and two interceptions. Harris earned second-team All-ACC honors as a junior after batting down eight passes and picking off one. While he is small at 5-foot-9, 191 pounds, Harris has good speed (4.43) and agility. He is also a dedicated teammate and is passionate for the game, which are definitely qualities that the Patriots covet. Harris may have slipped out of the first round due to the depth at other positions, but he could be available early in round two.
2. Aaron Williams, Texas: Brings a nice combination of size at 6-foot, 200 pounds. He ran a 4.51 at the combine which is an adequate time for a corner his size. Williams has a lot of experience playing for a big-time program, starting 23 games. Contributes on special teams as a punt returner and is a good tackler. Not the elite prospect that some make him out to be, but could be a solid No. 2 corner. Should be drafted early in round two.
3. Davon House, New Mexico State: Nearly same size as Williams, but ran faster at the combine in the mid 4.4s. He also has a lot of experience, starting since his freshman year. He developed into a shutdown corner and finished his career with nine interceptions. House is a physical player who tackles well and is a hard worker. Could be available in the late second or third round.
4. Curtis Brown, Texas: An absolute freak athlete, Brown stands 6-feet, 180 pounds and ran a 4.53, but had a vertical jump of 39 ½ inches. He is fluid in changing directions and had a great workout at the combine. He’s flown under the radar especially with Williams taking the spotlight, but he is the better athlete of the two. Has contributed as a punt returner, which is a plus. Looks like a third-round pick at this point.
5. Chimdi Chekwa, Ohio State: Blew up the combine by running in the 4.3s. Has above average size at 5-foot-11, 191 pounds. He suffered a bad wrist injury to end his senior season, but was one of the leaders on a good Ohio State defense. Has great closing speed and should excel in a zone system due to his ability to read routes and transition in and out of breaks. He’s a tough player whose athletic skills are intriguing. Should go in the third or fourth round.
Note: While Colorado’s Jimmy Smith has top-15 talent, I don’t see the Patriots looking at him due to his major character and maturity concerns.