2014 NFL Draft Corner Prospects: Potential Patriots

Kyle Fuller is the complete package at corner who is versatile enough to fit a man or zone scheme (Photo: US Presswire)

By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer

When healthy the Patriots have a solid duo at corner in Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard. However, because of injuries, off field issues or pending free agency New England may be looking to add a young corner to the mix via the draft. The mock drafts of most readers seem to feature the corner spot in the first three rounds.

Here are a few of the possibilities to keep an eye on. Some will be available for the Pats to take in the back half of round one or later, or in the case of Dennard, likely long gone. All these players have the skill set to thrive in a zone scheme with plenty of man to man mixed in, similar to what the Patriots play.

The Complete Package

CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan St.
5’11 190

The Spartans defense was tremendous this past season and Dennard is a major reason why. His size and fluid athleticism allows him to switch from a backpedal to chase mode effortlessly. Those qualities paried with his stellar anticipation skills have created a self proclaimed “No Fly Zone” accurately portraying how teams avoid attacking his side of the field. After making a late rise up draft boards it’s almost certain Dennard will not be available for the Pats to select. Then again ESPN Scouts Inc. breaks the mold and only ranks him #21 overall. So you’re saying there a chance?

vs Ohio St. 2013

> Great start to the game despite having any action his way because of stellar coverage. He played mostly tight press coverage but still blankets his man so well that Braxton Miller has nowhere to go with the football.
> After Miller checks down to Devon Smith Dennard, who was playing off, comes and strips the ball out, but it bounces out of bounds.
> Smith finally gets a step deep but Dennard is right on his tail and as Smith tracks the ball over his head Dennard is able to stick his hand in and prevent the catch.
> Dennard plays loose coverage by design and is able to come up quickly and tackle Miller at the line of scrimmage.
> Wide receiver Spencer runs a stop route at the sticks, but Dennard comes and meets him and is able to close and use an exaggerate wrap up where he violently brings his hands together as the ball gets to the receivers body knocking it free for an incomplete pass.
> Again matched up with Spencer one on one and stays right on his hip as he covers the post route, which is overthrown down field.

 

CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
6’0 189

Fuller is a versatile corner with the length and willingness to engage physically in run support to excel in a zone based system, but also the athleticism and ability to turn and run with receivers down field to function in man and press schemes. The Pats use both principles and love versatility on their players, especially defenders. At 6’0 189 the thin but long Fuller looks even bigger and does an excellent job using those long arms to extend and make plays to knock the ball away.

vs UNC 2013

> Does an outstanding job as the receiver takes a few steps off the line, hesitates and then runs a fly. Fuller stays with him throughout and jumps across the receiver to bat the ball down with his left hand.
> Comes to the line before the snap and rushes off the edge on the corner blitz. He does a good job of running the pass rush arc and gets very low but looses his leverage and ultimately his footing as he gets taken to the ground by the offensive tackle.
> He starts to follow the receiver heading from towards the middle of the field moving left to right. Once he notices the play is a reverse to the opposite side now coming his way he gets to about midway between the hash and the sideline and uses that good positioning to force the ball carrier inside and is able to hold him up enough issuing a slight shove to the turf.
> Plays way off coverage allowing the receiver to get to the sticks on a 3rd and 14, but comes roaring back to the ball and gets a nice hit on the receiver who is unable to complete the catch and can’t move the chains.
> Doesn’t make the play but shows some toughness and aggression in run support on the edge as he attacks low to erase the lineman.
> Later he gets blocked by a receiver who is out in front of a quick screen to the left, but fights off the block and is able to dive low and bring down the ball carrier.
> Defending the junior tight end Tabb he stays on his hip pocket as he heads over the middle on a possible slant. Fuller reaches out and gets enough of the ball to tip it and then bring it in for a pick after slightly juggling it.
> Makes his first clear mistake attempting to drive on the ball when in fact the receiver was running a stop and go. Allows him to get by him for a easy score.

 

Over-sized Hybrids

CB/S Antone Exum, Virginia Tech

6’0 224

Exum will get looks at both safety and corner due to his size, tackling ability and overall athleticism. It also helps that he played both positions in college. While not the fleetest of foot, the 6’0 Hokie shows the ability to turn and run with receivers down field. He’s at his best playing zone where he can read the play and see what’s in front of him, which also can showcase his tackling skills.

vs Clemson 2012

> Plays off of Sammy Watkins but once the ball is thrown he comes up and makes a sound tackle on two early plays.
> Lines up at safety and is unable to makes the tackle on Ellington as a blockers interferes enough to deny a clear path.
> Matched up one on one with Watkins who gets a half step but Exum stays with him and is able to break up the downfield pass nicely.
> Lined up off the line and Watkins comes across on a slant. After the ball is caught Watkins makes an improvised spin back to the outside which effectively shakes off Exum.
> Plays tight at the line on Watkins and shows a little bump and run. Exum stays with Watkins for the most part but because Sammy is talented and quick all he needs is the half a step he gets as Boyd throws a perfect ball dropping it over Exum’s shoulder for a solid gain. It was a complete pass but you can’t realistically ask for better coverage.
> Lined up as a safety as Boyd takes it on a designed run through traffic up the middle. Exum comes over and as Boyd is about to cross the front of the end zone he sticks his arm in and is able to pull it out of Boyd’s grasp.

 

CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
6’3 220

Immediately evident is the former wide out’s over-sized 6’3 frame, something scouts crave in a corner nowadays. Of course that size only has actual value if the prerequisite athleticism is also in place. SBJ really seems to still be adjusting to the defensive side of the ball, especially in terms of having a physical mindset. Despite a guaranteed size advantage he is tentative and rarely takes on tackles with the necessary aggression and physicality. His length and height to challenge taller receivers are valued but he needs considerable refinement understanding coverages and being disciplined and able to avoid biting on double moves.

vs Penn St. 2013

> Let Allen Robinson get free deep. He stayed with him well, but when Robinson paused and looked back. SJB stopped for a second and that allowed Robinson to get to open space. The ball was overthrown.
> On a few occasions SBJ did struggle to track Robinson deep, but that’s against a big time wide receiver prospect. He did do a great job of sticking with Robinson on an out route near the goaline that required him to react and change directions quickly while breaking on the ball to deflect it away.

vs Southern Miss 2013

> Read the play and jumped in front of a lazy square in by the wide out and takes it in for a score. > Shows a solid backpedal before breaking on an out route to challenge at the catch point and cause an incompletion.
> WR runs a pretty stop and go that catches SBJ flat footed for a split second, yet SBJ is able to getting going quickly and track him down field reaching up to knock it away.
> Twice he’s missed tackles diving low at the opponents feet without drawing much contact.
> Stays right with the WR as he runs a corner route to the back left end zone and high points it pretty well almost making the pick.
> Bubble screen in a two receiver set left where one is lined up directly behind the other. SBJ defeats the block dismissing the front receiver with some arm fighting and makes a quality form tackle around the waist.
> Lets a receiver get behind him as he tries futilely to make a play in front of him. Catch made and taken in for a score and Southern Miss’ first TD.

 

Versatile Sleeper

CB Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
6’0 185

Successful corners need to be good athletes with the flexibility and coordination to change directions quickly. They also need to be fast in order to keep up with receivers down field. Andre Hal has all those qualities. A smooth athlete with quick feet, speed and decent height he has the ability to play man or zone at the next level.

vs Ole Miss 2013

> Able to crash on a read option and help deliver a blow to QB Bo Wallace.
> Gets away with a little bit of a bump to impede Donte Moncrief on a go route, no call and it falls incomplete.
>Able to give Moncrief a big pop as another defender slows him up allowing Hal to come full speed and jolt Moncrief to the turf.
> Again matched up with Moncrief who is streaking across the deep middle. Hal follows him step for step then reaches across Moncrief’s body to knock the ball away. He was called for pass interference but ESPN’s Matt Millen is probably right calling it “good football”.
> Moncrief runs a lackadaisical stop and go to the end zone but Hal reads it and transitions smoothly from a backpedal to a run and gets to the catch point first giving the receiver no chance to make a play on the ball.
> Plays zone and is able to meet Moncrief and bring him down for a short game after a short completion.
> Pure man to man again against Moncrief and Hal is the first to recognize and knock the ball as it was going out of bounds short of the intended target.
> Jeff Scott runs the ball to the left as Hal is lined up to the right. Scott breaks free and races down the field. Hal stays with the play and comes across the field with good speed, dives to make the tackle but comes up just short as Scott scores the go ahead TD with just over a minute to play.

Other Options*

Keith McGill, Utah – 6’3 205

Louchiez Purifoy, Florida – 6’1 189

Deshazor Everett, Texas A&M – 6’0 181

Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma – 6’0 181

Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma St. – 6’0 194

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon – 5’10 190

Keon Lyn, Syracuse – 6’1 200

* Will be discussed in further detail in subsequent posts, but a hat tip to our knowledgeable readers

 

Tags: 2014 corner prospects, 2014 NFL Draft, Andre Hal, Antone Exum, Darqueze Dennard, Kyle Fuller, Stanley Jean-Baptiste

30 Responses to “2014 NFL Draft Corner Prospects: Potential Patriots”

  1. JMC says:

    Florio mentioned two good Patriots Free Agent signs for next season (today in unrelated stories)- TJ Ward and Emmanuel Sanders-

    • steve earle says:

      JMC, I like the idea of TJ Ward, we need a good SS. Bill made a bid for Sanders last April, 2.5 mil for one year when our receiving picture was less clear so wonder if he thinks Sanders is really that much of an upgrade now? I can’t read Bill’s mind so I don’t know but I’d think he would give the rookies another off season and training camp hoping for that second year jump. No disrespect to Sanders intended but doubt Bill would up the bid much now.

  2. JMC says:

    Standford should be the 2014 Rutgers for needs OL, TE maybe in the 3 or 4 and later rounds and maybe DT and linebacker if there is a prospect-

  3. MarcSluis says:

    Great comments as always. I totally hear the concern with Baptiste especially when the Pats, more than any other team, rely on the mental side of the game. Baptiste might not be a great fit, but his size and athleticism combo is elite, of course he’s incredibly raw as a prospect. Not sure he’d be the perfect fit, but if he’s available past the 5th, a possibility, its worth a gamble IF BB likes him enough physically.

  4. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    Justin is right on about a SS, I will be shocked if Bill keeps Gregory around another year. Exum mabe a good choice, but I like Tre Boston very much, Steve likes Ahmad Dixon, and I agree with Steve he looks good. The mocks I’ve seen have Boston or Dixon as about, 4th rounders.
    If you want a sleeper S, 6th or 7th round guy, look at Wisconsin’s Dazman Southward 6’1″ 208 runs a 4.5 40yd. This guy is a smart, football guy, who preforms well on the field, and has strong intangables for a D that plays some strong teams.

    • Justin says:

      Russell I’m a big fan of Boston too. He’s got good size at 6’1″ 205-pounds and has been very productive for the Tar Heels and I think he has the versatility to play CB in the nickel and dime packages. I don’t believe he’s a legitimate strong safety but he’s definitely a player I would enjoy seeing in a Patriots uniform.

  5. Daniel R. Martin says:

    As a tremendous fan of both the Patriots and the Falcons I can’t help but to feel as though the Pats’ D, prior to being plagued by injuries, were really outperforming their talent level. Much as the Falcons apparently were when they where the # 1 seeded team two of the past three seasons. I was excited about the additions of Adrian Wilson, Armond Armstead, T. Kelly, and the retention of Talib. I thought A. Wilson could provide not only veteran leadership, but the heavy hitting, intimidating presence the Pats have sorely lacked. To that end, I was disappointed when the Patriots front office didn’t elect to grab Bernard Pollard out of the bargain bin.

    I said all of that to say this: I recognize the patriots defense still needs to be greatly improved, as it has for more than half a decade. This is especially true in the secondary. However, I am not entirely confident that the plethora of defensive needs can be adequately addressed in one draft. I do think the defense is improved from seasons past. But, with the timeline winding down on Brady’s career, they need answers now. Which means talented free-agent acquisitions. Impact players. Not those that cost too much,are injury prone & produce less than his slot receiver counter-part that earns little more than the league minimum (GlassManDola).

    In the draft the Pats need to do whatever is necessary to get UNC TE Eric Ebron and/or Washington’s TE Safari-Jenkins. They revolutionized the two TE set. If the middle wasn’t clogged with Edelman (who should definitely be re-signed), “On-The-Mend-Ola,” Austin Collie & Vereen working as a receiver out of the backfield, I’d like to see them try a 3 TE set. Imagine the mismatches Gronkowski, Ebron & Safari-Jenkins could make all over the field. I wish Aaron Dobson didn’t transfer into Mr. Undependable. He can stretch the field and rarely dropped a catch in College. I still believe he and Boyce can produce.

    Aside adding some depth on the O-Line, the pats’ offense can return to top form with a healthy Gronk and an additional TE matchup nightmare. Gronk’s health will likely remove any chance of a 4th ring this year. His inability to stay healthy contributed heavily to our being dispatched in the AFC Conference game last year, and also likely cost us a Superbowl title in 2011 as well. Therefore, I not only would like to see Hernandez’s replacement drafted, but Gronk’s backup also. If Gronk can stay healthy, having 2, maybe even 3 big bodied TE’s on the field will make our line almost impenetrable, and will also give our offense a new look that is tough to game plan against.

    • steve earle says:

      Very interesting comments Dan. I agree we can’t address all our needs in one draft but as you point out the addition of another top TE can make huge matchup problems for defenses but no way we get two out of the three big three. Nice thought but! For a second TE I’d endorse Jacob Pederson, Wis. Good blocker in a run dominated offense but has shown he can be a good receiver also, just not given the chances. At #240 he has 4.65 speed. He’s projected as about the 4th rd so might be available.
      I’m thinking, hoping, our rookie WR’s will make that second year leap, they seem to have hit that 1st year wall. Nothing we can do about that now. Bill needs to trim some of the deadwood and get some cap space and pick up a couple or three good vets as you pointed out. Ditch about half our current DB’s and get another good CB and most importantly a real SS. I like Ahmad Dixon, Baylor. There he plays the hybred SS/LB plus he has good cover skills.
      There are so many needs they clash with the wants. Hope Bill finds a way to balance the two.

  6. acm says:

    I like your picks of Dennard and Fuller there. Think Exum could bring great value, depending on his Senior bowl/combine performance. Can’t measure his stock right now – could go anywhere between the 3rd and the 6th for all I know.
    Not a fan of Jean Baptiste, tbh. He has the physique but not sure about instincts, understanding of the game, etc, etc. Wouldn’t touch before 4th/5th round.

    Another CB I like this year is EJ Gaines (Missouri) … similar to Dennard imo without the 1st round price-tag. I think Gaines goes late 2nd and into the 3rd.
    As mentioned, Keith Mcgill deserves a look or two for his size and athleticism and while he is not quite up there with Dennard/Fuller, I think he would be excellent value in the late 3rd earlish-to-mid 4th. Can easily see the Seahawks grab him in the 3rd as a replacement for Browner.
    I am liking CB Brandon Dixon as a late round sleeper.

    Not many starter-material safeties in this year’s draft, imo. Tbh, Exum is the one player I hope they manage to get given his positional versatility and talent at both Cb and S positions.

  7. Justin says:

    In terms of safeties, I feel like the Pats need an enforcer. Devin McCourty is one of the most underrated safeties in the NFL, he’s very smart, a sound tackler, and doesn’t make many mistakes. A great free safety. But the Pats lack a true strong safety; an ultra-aggressive, smash mouth, hard hitting safety who can cover a tight end or come down in the box as an extra linebacker. We haven’t had one of those since Rodney Harrison. The signing of Adrian Wilson didn’t pan out, he looked terribly slow and old in preseason action and ended up on IR.
    The safeties in this draft class (and those who may declare for the draft) that I think could fill that role: Calvin Pryor, Dion Bailey, Ahmad Dixon, Ty Zimmerman, Craig Loston, Keith McGill, and Antone Exum.
    I may be reading too much into the role of the strong safety position in the Pats’ defense, but that’s just my opinion.

    • steve earle says:

      I don’t believe you are reading to much into the strong safety position even with the rule changes since Harrison. JH Tarboro and Russell Easterbrooks (below) have a nice descussion and list of prospects that could make a differance for the Pats. In a perfect world (or draft) I’d like to see BB take a CB and a Safety early in this draft. Keeping my fingets crossed.

  8. J H TARBORO says:

    An article was just written on the NFL Network about the Seattle Seahawks ability to develop large CBs and CB Keith Mcgill was metioned how Seattle dratfs cornerbacks.

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      Thanks J H Tarboro, McGill is very quitely moving up draft boards, and is a good CB. Some of the teams Utah plays, are not Alabama, or Ohio State, but McGill lines up against the best WR from every team they do play. Come draft day I think McGill and Fuller will be a solid 2-3 round guy.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        Thanks Russ, and hello from last spring draft season. There’s not as many large CBs in this draft class but there’s some big safties coming out this year.

  9. J H TARBORO says:

    CB Isaiah Lewis Mich. 5’10″ 205
    CB Torin Harris USC 6’0″ 190
    CB Rashaad Reynolds Oregon 5’11″ 190
    CB Bradley Roby Ohio
    CB Blake Countess Mich.

  10. MarcSluis says:

    Thanks, all great additions. I added most to the list and will discuss in more detail at a later date. Appreciate the feedback as always.
    One guy no mentioned is Keon Lyn of Syracuse who is not on anyone’s radar but has the size most zone heavy teams like.

    • Alex says:

      Do you still think we’re a mainly zone team?
      It seems like we play a lot more man when everyone is fit, and have a lot more success playing that way.

      I’d also have thought size is more valuable in man than zone. Whereas zone needs quick change of direction and closing skills, man needs size to press and athleticism to stick with receiver.

      Pierre Desir, Lindenwood 6’1 205 and Phillip Gaines, Rice 6’0 185 are another couple of interesting prospects to look at.

      • MarcSluis says:

        You are definitely right, I think the Pats play a lot of both or more accurately a mix as Russell said quite well. I was looking for guys with long arms and solid size because that’s a big trait Cover 2 teams look for and even though the Pats are not a classic cover 2 they use some of the principles.

        When you’re matched up one on one on the outside its great to have size to play press coverage but once the receiver gets by you it takes speed and quickness you usually find in smaller corners. But when you play press and drop into a zone that size is even more of an asset. But you have to be athletic as well like Talib.

        I think a lot of people mentioned McGill who fits that mold but I haven’t seen the level of physicality and tackling skills I’d prefer.

        From the sounds of it you guys seem to consider the Pats more man and zone, which is honestly the best way to describe it.

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      Lyn is injured good size, but some issues.

  11. Justin says:

    I think the they would have to trade up for Dennard though, I expect he’ll be long gone by the time they pick. Fuller is very intriguing though, love his size and ability. Some other guys to look for at the end of the first- early second- round are Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Bradley Roby, Lamarcus Joyner (my favorite CB in this year’s class), E.J. Gaines, Justin Gilbert, Aaron Colvin and Victor Hampton.

    • steve earle says:

      Justin, you and I are on the same page with Joyner. He would be a great addition to the Pats. Only Dennard is higher on my list of CB’s but he’s likely out of reach but if Bill trades down for another( high) 2nd Joyner would fit nicely.

  12. Jason says:

    Also – from FCS – check out North Dakota State University standout corner Marcus Williams. Incredible playmaker. Has made his biggest plays against FBS competition. They’re on ESPN2 tonight at 7:00 p.m. CST. Late rounds but will impress!

  13. steve earle says:

    Another corner prospect I’d consider is Deshavor Everett, Tex A&M, later rounds if he doesn’t return to school. Stright line speed reports isn’t great but he’s tough and aggressive so might make a better safety, still worth a look.

    If Dennard slips down to us in the 1st, which I doubt, he’s a no brainer. I like Fuller and Exum but would be leery of Jean-Baptiste until 3rd day. Russell likes Keith McGill and I trust Russell’s judgement’s so I’m putting McGill on my list

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      I Steve, I agree about Baptiste, I;m not sure he’s a good fit for the Patriots system,as he’s had academic issues. The Patriots D uses a mostly cover two, or “man help” CB system, not so much Zone or man coverage, it’s kind of a mix.
      For me the guy’s I feel fit the best in Bill’s system are;
      1 Fuller
      2 Dennard
      3 McGill
      4 Boston
      5 Desir (good call Alex)
      6 Exum

  14. Jeff says:

    Justin Gilbert seems to be a hot name… I’m curious what people think of his fit with the Pats. Count me in as someone who would love to see a corner taken in round 1, or round 2 at the latest, assuming they don’t need to really overdraft. I say grab a TE, maybe Scott Chandler, as your big move in free agency and grab a couple interior O-linemen in rounds 2-4. DT and SS can wait one more season.

  15. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    I would add to this list Keith McGill 6’2 1/2″ 208 runs a 4.49 40yd and is somewhat of a sleeper who has played S and CB for Utah. He was injured most of 2012, but has been a solid starter, who is a lock down CB for Utah.
    Exum is a great prospect, (injured) who missed time with a knee issue.






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