Potential Patriots: Six Early-Round Picks Who Could Improve Porous Secondary

Robert Lester Cam Newton

Robert Lester could be a Patriots target in the 2013 NFL Draft. (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope

If you’re a New England Patriots fan, you should be tired of hearing about the Patriots needing to draft cornerbacks and safeties in the upcoming year’s NFL draft. Unfortunately for the Patriots, bad secondary play continues to be a problem, and the personnel they currently have in the defensive backfield is plagued by substandard play.

Dating back to the 2007 NFL draft, the Patriots have drafted seven defensive backs in the first two rounds, including at least one in each of those six drafts, but the Patriots have yet to solve their secondary problems. Many of those players are no longer with the organization following disappointing stints in New England (Brandon Meriweather, Terrence Wheatley, Darius Butler) while others are underperforming (Patrick Chung, Ras-I Dowling).

Therefore, it isn’t just an expectation, but also a necessity, that the Patriots will draft another defensive back in the first two rounds in the 2013 NFL draft.

At cornerback, 2010 first-round pick Devin McCourty is a very talented playmaker but also far too inconsistent, while the team has yet to find another reliable cover corner, although 2012 seventh-round pick Alfonzo Dennard is showing impressive potential as a rookie. An even bigger problem, however, may lie at safety, where the Patriots are giving up far too many plays in the deep middle of the defense, and could let Chung, who has struggled mightily in pass coverage this season, walk at the end of the season as an unrestricted free agent.

An ideal first-round draft pick for the Patriots come April would be LSU free safety Eric Reid or Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, as those players both look like NFL stars at their positions, but although the Patriots are off to a disappointing start to their season, the Patriots should not realistically be in position to draft either of those players, who should be locks as top-20 draft picks should they declare.

Considering that the Patriots should be a postseason team and will therefore be picking late in the draft order, who are the best potential candidates as first- and second-round picks for the Patriots to draft next April? Here are six players who could help lead to a solution in Foxborough.

Robert Lester, S, Alabama

In my most recent mock draft, in which the Patriots are projected to draft from the No. 29 overall pick, Robert Lester is projected to be their selection. For a team in need of better pass defenders at the safety position, Lester would be a great fit as a late first-round pick.

Lester is a smooth cover safety who can line up as either a free safety or strong safety. He is a playmaker in the back end—he has 11 career interceptions at Alabama—but he also does not give up big plays in coverage.

Lester is a good athlete with fluid hips and good ball skills, while he is also a sound tackler and big hitter. Lester would be a big upgrade at safety in pass coverage, but the team would not lose anything in run defense by inserting him in their lineup.

If the Patriots are in the market for finding Patrick Chung’s replacement at strong safety this offseason, Lester would be a great fit. Add in the documented friendship that Patriots coach Bill Belichick has with Alabama coach Nick Saban, and it would not be a surprise for the Patriots to devote a first-round pick to a Crimson Tide defender for a second consecutive draft.

Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

Another likely late first-round draft pick who can play either safety spot and would be a big upgrade to the Patriots’ secondary is Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro.

Vaccaro has a great combination of size and athleticism for a safety. He is known for being a big hitter, and he can make plays all over the field, although he has some occasional trouble with missed tackles.

Vaccaro is a skilled cover safety who can cover the middle of the field and is very effective in slot coverage, and he will be able to keep up well with the speed of the NFL game. He has good ball skills and very good instincts.

Like Lester, Vaccaro would be a great fit to take over at strong safety for Chung, as he would be an upgrade in pass coverage, while the Patriots would lose none of the hard-hitting run defense Chung provides by switching to Vaccaro.

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10 Responses to “Potential Patriots: Six Early-Round Picks Who Could Improve Porous Secondary”

  1. Derek says:

    Jordan Poyer- Oregon State

  2. Dan says:

    No love for eric Reid?

    • Derek says:

      Read the first paragraph, realistically both Reid and Millner should be gone well before we draft, they will both be studs in the nfl.

      • Dan says:

        My bad, didn’t see that. I could actually see the pats drafting pretty high this year, the way they have been playing. I still have hope they will take the 32nd pick, but they could also very well be drafting top 20 next year. Too hard to tell at this point. They are one of the most talented teams, but look who they have lost to. AZ scares nobody, Seahawks have no offense, and we lost to the ravens before they got screwed by injuries, and they were a great team then. So I give them a pass on the ravens game. But losing to AZ? I know it was close, but it was freaking AZ! I have no idea what to expect from this team. They could be one of the best, or an average team on any given day. We will see what happens.

  3. Phil says:

    I saw you had Logan Ryan from Rutgers up in this list. I was intrigued so I turned the Rutgers vs. Temple game on. I may have watched 5 plays of Rutgers defense and already Logan Ryan stood out to me. I really like that guy and would love to see him in a Patriots uniform next season!

  4. Barry says:

    The Patriots need to either acquire a free agent cornerback or draft one in this years’ draft in order to slide McCourty to free safety.

    Dennard is a starting cornerback for this team in 2013 and beyond and don’t be surprised that he is opposite McCourty for a large part of the 2nd half of the year.

    I like Banks and Amerson as two of the four likely 1st round cornerbacks and I do think that Amerson is coming out this year. With that said, I want Xavier Rhodes, Florida State and so should everyone else.

    The pairing of Rhodes and Dennard as the Patriot cornerbacks would give them the best cornerback pairing since Law and Samuel and as important, would provide the Patriots with a nice safety pairing of McCourty and Chung as FS and SS.

    The talent of the 2013 NFL draft is growing with a nice crop of round 1-3 players beginning to take formation (i.e. Aberderris is rated as the 10th ranked wideout prospect as a 3rd round grade).

    If the Pats take Rhodes in the 1st round, their problems will be solved in the defensive secondary.

  5. manxman2601 says:

    What do you think of Amerson playing at safety. His elite measurables and eye for the ball would make him potentially very strong at that position.

    I suppose the knock on him at safety would be his run support and whether his reading of the game is good enough. Just one final point on Amerson – his dad is a Navy psychiatrist, just one thing BB might put in his favour.

    Three other safeties I hope they consider:

    LaMarcus Joyner – A junior who if he declares will be the best safety in the draft on the basis of instincts and positional intelligence. Only trouble is he’s 5’8″ but has long arms. Absolutely love Joyner.

    John Boyett – Injured for the season and maybe not much better than Patrick Chung but should be available in the 6th/7th because of his injury and would represent very good value

    Malcolm Bronson – Another injured for the season. Has reported 4.3 speed and hits like a steam train pulling carriages full of elephants. Pretty good in that CF role too.

    • DanHope says:

      The concept of David Amerson playing safety isn’t one I’ve thought about, but I like the idea. He has potential at that position, and his aggressive playmaking efforts may be better suited to playing safety, but he’d have to improve as a run defender. I’m sure with his measurables, that is something teams targeting a safety will look into.

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