New England Patriots Must Draft a Cornerback in Round One

Patriots Draft Cornerback
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Even after the additions of Super Bowl legend Malcolm Butler and veteran Terrance Mitchell, the New England Patriots need to draft a cornerback in the first round. It is not their top need, but it is their second. The foremost need is a guard, but they would still be able to get one in the next few rounds. They will not have that option at cornerback if they want the elite talent they will need. 

After the departure of Shaq Mason and Ted Karras last month, the interior line became the top priority. Fortunately, it has become one of the deeper positions in the draft now that more and more tackles are moving inside. According to Pro Football Focus, the third and fourth rounds are “swarming with talent,” which is not even considering some possible converts from tackle. 

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New England Patriots Must Draft a Cornerback in Round One

With questions surrounding Butler, who did not play last season after abruptly retiring, it would be best to draft a young corner. We still do not know why Butler retired other than he cited “personal reasons.” However, there were rumblings out of training camp in Arizona that he could not run anymore. The concerns were that his lost step would get magnified as wear and tear set in during the season. He may have gotten his legs back, the Patriots seem to think so, but an insurance policy in the form of drafting a young franchise corner would be ideal and set the team up for success in the future.

2022 NFL Draft is Top-Heavy at Cornerback

This year’s draft class of cornerbacks is one of the most top-heavy classes in recent history. There are only three elite corners, and they are likely to be drafted before the Patriots get to pick. The prospects drop significantly after them. However, the Patriots are still in a good draft spot to get a solid cornerback.

 Although the odds are slim that one of the three elite corners falls to the Patriots with pick number 21, they need to pounce on their opportunity if it presents itself. If the elite corners do not fall down the draft board, there will be two solid options to draft, Kaiir Elam or Andrew Booth Jr., and it would still be the best use of the pick. These guys have the potential to become shut down corners. 

There is another option; they could trade up and go after one of the elite corners. The Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints each have two picks in the middle of round one, and maybe one of them would be willing to trade back to the 21st pick. Otherwise, they are both poised to draft the exact elite players and positions the Patriots need, an elite corner and probably the best receiver fit for Mac Jones in the draft, Jameson Williams.   

First Round Cornerback Saves Salary Cap Space

Having an elite cornerback player on a rookie contract is a massive advantage in the NFL. Since skill position players earn the highest contracts, and the Patriots do not like high contracts, it makes more sense to draft them instead of paying them through free agency. This year they have a chance to trade up a few spots and draft one of the three elite cornerbacks, or stay and draft a solid cornerback like Elam or Booth Jr. 

There are always surprises in the draft. If an elite player falls down the board, a team will abandon their needs and take the elite player. That will throw the draft boards out of whack, and it may benefit the Patriots. Perhaps an elite player that they did not think was possible will fall to them like one of the defensive linemen from Georgia. Bill Belichick would not be able to resist that temptation, nor should he. Barring that minor miracle, the Patriots need to draft a cornerback in the first round. If they wait until the later rounds, they will likely draft an average cornerback, which will no longer cut it in the league or division.

 

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