John Limberakis evaluated prospects top-to-bottom and thoroughly studied New England’s draft history to find the best fits. In this second part of a two-part series, John looks at the defensive players likely to be on Bill Belichick’s draft board.
The Patriots’ defensive scheme going into the draft is unclear. While they have run a 3-4 man-to-man scheme the last few years, current personnel might be best in a 4-3 zone. They could continue to play single-high or transition to two-high. I will note if a prospect is a fit in one scheme or both.
Interior Defensive Line
The Patriots have starters at IDL for 2022 but multiple roles to fill in 2023, including nose tackle. Defensive tackle is thin at the top of the draft but has plenty of day 3 and UDFA options. There are two perfect defensive tackle prototypes for the Patriots early in the draft, Jordan Davis (Georgia), and Travis Jones (UConn). Jordan Davis is the freakiest of freaky freaks. He’s a perfect 10 Relative Athletic Score at 6’6”, 341 pounds with 34” arms. He can either two-gap or penetrate and is an exceptional run defender. He can play in any scheme and at nose or 3-tech. He has also shown ability as a pass rusher with an explosive first step and a powerful bull rush and quick arm-over move. He has two concerns coming out. He needs to develop more as a pass rusher and he has been snap-limited at Georgia, averaging 25 snaps a game and wearing out if used longer. Travis Jones reminds me a lot of a lighter Vince Wilfork. He’s a freak in his own right: 6’4”, 325 pounds with 34.25 inch arms and a 9.40 RAS. He has the best anchor in the class and both soak ups double teams and blows them up. He is the best run-defending tackle in the class and is scheme-diverse. He might never be a great pass rusher but shouldn’t be a slouch there, with good explosiveness and power and a nifty swim move. Unlike Davis he has great stamina and plays the whole game. Jones has the highest floor of any defensive tackle in the class, and a borderline Pro Bowl ceiling. He should start right away. Davis and Jones are round 1 or round 2 prospects.
Phidarian Mathis (Alabama) is a big (6’4”, 310 pounds), long (34.625” arms), and strong two-gapping run-stuffer. He has a handful of moves as a pass rusher to go with power but his burst and lack of explosion will limit his success in that role. His ideal fit with them would be playing the Lawrence Guy role on early downs in a 3-4 or 4-3 front. Perrion Winfrey (Oklahoma) is a good pass rushing and traits-based prospect who fits better as a 3-tech in a one-gap penetrating 4-3 scheme. With added weight and core strength he could play 3-4 5-tech but his anchor is so sub-par currently that it’s not clear it can ever be good enough to be a starter in that scheme. Winfrey might also get drafted earlier when teams take IDL pass rushers and if they aren’t playing a 4-3 one-gap penetrating scheme he probably won’t be on their board. Mathis and Winfrey are expected to go sometime mid-to-late day 2.
The rest of the defensive tackle prospects are day 3 and UDFA prospects. Eyioma Uwazurike (Iowa State) is another long (35.125” arms), big (316 pounds), and strong DL who is athletically limited. He lacks ideal burst or change of direction but he holds up at the point of attack and has a strong anchor. He is a good backup or rotational two-gapping run stuffer. He is a tactician but lacks the explosiveness to be an effective pass rusher. He needs to get better at lining up tackles and his short area deficiencies might always hurt him there. Jayden Peevy (Texas A&M) is a late round or UDFA version of Phidarian Mathis. He profiles best as a run two-gapping run stuffer, but Peevy is even less athletic than Mathis and plays sloppy and undisciplined at times. He is unlikely to contribute much if at all year 1. Noah Ellis (Idaho), D.J. Davidson (Arizona State), and Marquan McCall (Kentucky) are all good late round-to-UDFA options if they want to replace Carl Davis with a two-gapping, run-stuffing NT. Christopher Hinton (Michigan) is a late round or UDFA two-gapping 3- or 5- tech. LaBryan Ray (Alabama) is a UDFA IDL who can play some edge and also flashes the ability to defend the run and two-gap.
The Patriots have a glaring hole they have not filled since cutting Kyle Van Noy at edge. Edge defender is a position that has many definitions. I define an edge defender as someone who can play anywhere from 3-4 base-end/5-tech all the way out to 9 tech. If a prospect can play 5-tech I will note they have IDL versatility. This year’s edge class isn’t overflowing with depth at the top of the class, but is loaded everywhere else with a multitude of good fits for the Patriots, regardless of the scheme they run. Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan), Travon Walker (Georgia), Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon), and probably Jermaine Johnson (Florida State) will be gone before they pick at 21. If Johnson is there he is another prototype. Johnson excels against the run and the pass and is incredibly athletic and intelligent. If they decide to play a 4-3 defense George Karlafits (Purdue) offers them tremendous power and intensity from the edge. Karlaftis lacks ideal length and is only an average run defender. He can play on the interior as a pass rusher as well and if they lower their weight requirements for a 3-4 base end he could play that position.
The Patriots have six strong options on day 2. David Ojabo (Michigan) is going to fall down draft boards after rupturing his Achilles tendon during his pro-day. He has great burst and bend and an arsenal of pass rush moves and counters but he, like Josh Uche before him, had limited snaps in college, can’t consistently set an edge, and struggles as a run defender. He is best as a 3-4 OLB but could work in a 4-3 as a pass rushing edge. He’s high risk, but high reward. Losing a year when he already needs more seasoning to be a complete player is tough to swallow with an early pick.
Logan Hall (Houston) is a versatile 4-3 power edge, modern 3-4 5 tech, and can play on the interior defensive line on passing downs. Hall is large (6’6”, 283 pounds) and a dynamic athlete (9.40 RAS). If Hall bulks up he could be a 3-tech starter on a 4-3 team. He can both one-gap penetrate and hold up as a two-gapper against offensive tackles. He needs to improve his repertoire of pass rush moves but he has a nice bull rush, a high motor, and tremendous balance and short area quickness.
Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State) is another high-motor edge who is scheme-versatile. He might be best as an attacking 4-3 9-tech but has flashed the ability to uncork into offensive tackles and set the edge. As a pass rusher, he has a diverse set of initial moves but needs to add more counters. He has good length (34.125” arms) and athleticism (8.91 RAS) with great burst and bend. He should be a quality pass rusher and if he can improve his technique and add some core strength as a run defender he could be an even better Kyle Van Noy. He is better in a penetrating scheme but could be scheme-diverse.
Josh Paschal (Kentucky) is another prototypical Patriot but fits best in a 4-3 scheme. Paschal is a multiple year team captain, has a high motor, and is an excellent run defender. He is a classic power edge/IDL who needs to use his bull rush more as it is excellent. He also needs to get better with his hands as a pass rusher. He excels on twists and stunts. He can also play all over the defensive line. His high level outcome is Trey Flowers.
Cameron Thomas (San Diego State) is yet another high motor defender. Thomas can play on the interior defensive line on pass rushing snaps but should play outside the tackles as run defender and a pass rusher on early downs. He has good balance, bend, body-control, and burst. He fits better on a 4-3 penetrating team but if he adds functional strength could play a standup 3-4 OLB role. Like Paschal he is also excellent on twists and he needs to add more pass rush moves. Thomas isn’t a high end prospect but could be an average starter or good rotational player all along the defensive line as a pass rusher.
DeAngelo Malone (Western Kentucky) reminds me of Van Noy. He is a 3-4 standup linebacker and not a good fit in a 4-3 unless he is a designated pass rusher. He needs to add core strength against the run but will extend his arms and set the edge. He showed off his range and fluidity as an ILB and in coverage. He has a variety of pass rush moves but his speed-to-power is deadly already and he performs at a high level on twists and stunts. As an ILB blitzer, his burst downhill is excellent.
There are also rotational options and/or developmental starters on day three. Myjai Sanders (Cincinnati) is a designated pass rusher who is best in a 4-3. His speed-to-power is elite but his bend is non-existent and he has trouble finishing sacks because of it. He might be able to survive as a run defender in a penetrating scheme, but even then he doesn’t have the short-area quickness to mirror running backs to tackle them consistently.
Drake Jackson (USC) is a great athlete (8.6 RAS), and has the best natural bend and speed rush in the class. Jackson, however, is a finesse rusher, plays with no power, and is a liability against the run. If the Patriots want to try to develop an edge with that elite trait he could be a target for them late day 2 or day 3.
Micheal Clemons (Texas A&M) is already a good pass rusher but has to improve his core strength to be a better run defender. He will likely find his home on a 4-3 or 3-4 as a higher end DPR. Isaiah Thomas (Oklahoma) is a rotational interior defensive sub rusher or power rusher off the edge. His anchor is too weak to hold up as a 5-tech on early downs so his best path to being a starter is to lose weight and focus on his pass rush plan as a DPR. He does have rushing versatility and can attack from outside the tackle to over center.
Jeremiah Moon (Florida) is already an elite special teams coverage player with great length (35” arms), athleticism (9.2 RAS), and explosion. He is a 3-4 OLB/ILB hybrid who is tough against the run and a good processor but needs a lot more seasoning as a pass rusher. He should add weight to his frame. He is best in a 3-4 as a versatile toolsy prospect. Tyreke Smith (Ohio State) can’t hold up against the run to be a full-time starter. He has a variety of pass rush moves and is a good finesse rusher with speed. Christopher Allen (Alabama) is a former 4-star recruit who has had injuries derail his career in college. He’s a UDFA opportunity for them as he has some hybrid 3-4 OLB/ILB traits, but he needs significant development in every aspect of his game.
Off-Ball Linebacker (ILB)
The Patriots could use another ILB starter next to Ja’Whaun Bentley. Off-ball linebacker is a loaded position from top to bottom, apart from not having any blue-chip talent. This is a rare year for athletic linebackers who play at the size the Patriots draft in the first 3 rounds (240+ pounds). There have been statements from Player Personnel Director, Matt Groh, that the Patriots might be willing to trade some size for speed and athleticism at the ILB position. And they still have their thumper in Bentley to pair a lighter faster linebacker with. However, since Belichick arrived, no matter the scheme, they want their ILBs to be able to take on offensive linemen. Unless that changes then Nakobe Dean (Georgia), Devin Lloyd (Utah), Christian Harris (Alabama), Channing Tindall (Georgia), and Brian Asamoah (Oklahoma), should be off their boards, possibly Chad Muma (Wyoming), and Troy Andersen (Montana State) as well. While all of them would be fits in zone coverage roles, none of them profile to be able to take on offensive lineman at the current level they want for the position.
There are three 3-4 ILB options in the first 3 rounds who fit their profile. Leo Chenal (Wisconsin) is one of my favorite players in the draft and a prototype Patriot. Chenal is a sprint to the podium first round pick if not for his coverage. Even though he has every physical component of the athleticism to play in coverage (9.99 RAS, 4th best of all time at linebacker since 1987), he needs critical technical development and reps there to be even below average. His run defense, versatility, and pass rush are what makes him a unicorn. Chenal can play either the Kyle Van Noy role or the Hightower role on the Patriots defense. He is the best run defender and pass rusher in the class. He can play as an edge or even as an interior rusher or run defender. Chenal closed out the game for the Badgers vs Iowa as he defeated highly-touted prospect Tyler Linderbaum one-on-one as a run defender to make a TFL on 4th down playing as a defensive lineman.
Damone Clark (LSU) is unfortunately going to need a red shirt year for spinal fusion surgery just after the Combine. Clark was a top 50 talent before the surgery, but injury clouds his draft future and possibly career. He is a punishing downhill defender who is adequate in coverage with sideline-to-sideline speed. He dominated the Alabama offensive line in an impressive performance against top competition. Quay Walker (Georgia) has all the physical tools and athleticism of both a modern and thumper linebacker. He has good size (6’3”, 241), a frame that can add more weight, and elite athleticism (9.63 RAS). Walker has some processing issues and needs to be more consistent taking on offensive linemen. He needs more playing time but has Pro Bowl physical traits. Processing doesn’t always significantly improve, so there is risk with Walker with his potential reward.
Darrian Beavers (Cincinnati) is a high-cut hybrid ILB/OLB. Like Chenal he plays on the edge or as an off-ball linebacker. Beavers lacks short area quickness and that shows up as a tackler. He is a good processor and in his zone drops. He isn’t as athletic on tape as he tested (9.60 RAS) but he should perform like an above-average to average athlete. Beavers is smart, tough, and versatile and can play the Hightower role on the defense. He took on and shed offensive linemen and has the power and physicality they like.
On day 3, there are three good fits. Micah McFadden (Indiana) is a quality special teamer, a downhill thumper, and he can stack and shed offensive linemen. He didn’t play as fast as his testing would indicate (9.46 RAS) and he has processing issues. Mike Rose’s (Iowa State) tape and his testing don’t match up. He tested at an elite level (9.06 RAS) and has good size at 245 pounds. But he doesn’t play to his size and lacks consistent power at the point of attack. Even though he processes well, his change of direction is sluggish on tape and he has well below average short area quickness. He, like McFadden, is already a good special teamer. His size and special teams abilities will improve the 53-man roster. Brandon Smith (Penn State) is a truly special athlete who has the 9th highest recorded RAS since 1987 (9.97). He has prototypical size, 6’3” -250 pounds, and exceptional length, 34.625” arms. While he has day 1 athleticism, he has UDFA tape. His processing is awful and 180 pound wide receivers gave him the business as a run defender.
The Patriots might be set at strong safety, but with Jon Jones set to be a free agent after 2023 and coming back from injury as well as Myles Bryant’s athletic limitations, they could be interested in slot safeties/corner. They also might want an heir to Devin McCourty, who could retire as soon as the end of the season. There are multiple good fits for the Patriots at slot and free safety on each day of the draft. I’ll note the strong safety fits but leave no descriptions as it is a saturated position on the roster and they won’t devote draft capital to add to the room.
There are two free safety prospects who should go in the late first round to early second round. Daxton Hill (Michigan) is a lot like a slot version of Devin McCourty coming out. He is long (32.25” inch arms), fast (4.38 40), and agile (6.57 3-cone) with overall elite athleticism (9.06 RAS). He is a lockdown man slot corner who also can play free safety. While he only had limited snaps there he performed well and has the range and route recognition of a quality starter. He needs to add core strength in run support and against bigger slots but is a high-effort player who takes smart angles to the ball carrier and tackles well. With his length and ability to press and play man coverage from the slot position, he might also be able to be used outside against smaller, faster X receivers. That’s a project but he has the toolset to be a quality versatile starting defensive back. However, free safety and outside corner are still projections for him and the Patriots don’t take slot corners in the first round, so unless they trust his projections like I do he might not be on their board early.
Lewis Cine (Georgia) is another first or second round target at free-safety. Cine projects as a pure free safety in the NFL who can excel in single- or two- high coverage. Cine is highly intelligent and has great route recognition, awareness, and anticipation. Cine is a tremendous athlete (9.92 RAS) who is blazing fast and bursts downhill (his 10-yard split is an eye-popping 1.45). He takes good angles and is an exceptional tackler and run defender. Free safety isn’t usually a plug-and-play position but Cine could make an immediate impact day 1.
Jalen Pitre (Baylor) probably falls to the second round but he’s a top 32 player on my board (29th overall). Pitre is already a very good slot corner but what sets him apart from every other safety in this class is his otherworldly production as a run defender and pass rusher. In 46 career games he has 36 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, 10 passes defended, and 8 sacks. No other prospect has come out of college with 48 total sacks, interceptions, and tackles for loss. Pitre can play in the box even though he is light (189 pounds), and he showed off his free safety skills during the senior bowl. While free safety is a projection for him, his skills, intelligence, athleticism, and playmaking ability indicate he should be a quality starter there. Pitre needs to go to a team who will utilize him as a weapon and not pigeonhole him into a limited role.
Late day 2 or early day 3 the Patriots have three options for free safety who all profile better to a two-high role. Bryan Cook (Cincinnati) is a smart and tough free safety who is best in two-high but has the range for single high. If Cook plays in a single high system he might need time to develop better route anticipation as he only started for a year. Cook is a sound tackler and strong run defender who can also play in the box. Verone McKinley (Oregon) might fall due to his poor athletic testing (2.37 RAS), but he’s a ball-hawking free safety and could play the Duron Harmon role in split high. His run defense and tackling need improvement and he doesn’t have the range to play single high. If they go to a two-high zone scheme his ball hawking and intelligence in coverage should earn him a starting or rotational role. Nick Cross (Maryland) is an exceptional athlete (9.87 RAS) with excellent size (212 pounds) and already an impressive special teamer. He is a hard hitter but his tackling needs to be rebuilt in run defense. Cross also struggles with processing and in man coverage. He has the athleticism and special teams skills to keep a spot on the 53 and see if he can grow into a starting role.
Later day 3 they have two good options for free safety. JT Woods (Baylor) is blazing fast (4.36 40), athletic (9.53 RAS), and has good arm length (32.375” arms). He has average route awareness and anticipation but with his speed still was able to generate moments as a ballhawk in college. He needs to add weight and improve his tackling to be a full time starter. He also has room to grow with route awareness and anticipation. With his speed and toughness he should be a good special teamer. His coaches rave about his film study and work ethic. While he doesn’t play special teams now, he should in the NFL with his track speed. Percy Butler (Louisiana) is already an excellent special teamer. He has exceptional speed, 4.36 40, but like Woods is undersized and needs to add weight. Butler has processing issues and takes inconsistent angles in run support. He is a developmental safety who might never be more than a very good special teamer.
There are box safeties and/or special teamers who fit their profile but because box safety isn’t likely a priority for the Patriots I won’t spend time discussing them. Here is the list in order of my draft board: Jaquan Brisker (Penn State), Tycen Anderson (Toledo), Juanyeh Thomas (Georgia Tech), and Smoke Monday (Auburn). Brisker should go in the second round and the rest on day 3.
The Patriots could use a boost at corner, both at the top of the depth chart, and at the bottom for depth. Corner is perhaps the hardest position to anticipate their needs this year, because it is unclear if they want to move away from the single-high man-to-man scheme they’ve run recently. They could still utilize a single high coverage scheme with more cover-3. They could also shift to more two-high man-match quarters. The Patriots will take outside and slot corners on day 2 and the only outside corner they took in the first round was Devin McCourty. While they have taken others close to the top of the second round, they’ve never taken a corner where they currently are picking, at 21.
It is likely that Sauce Gardner (Cincinnati) and Derek Stingley (LSU) will be gone by 21. Gardner is perfect for cover 3 and is also a good match for their press-man scheme outside. Stingley has not been the same elite corner he was in 2019, but injury and team dysfunction have contributed to his lack of consistent play. He fits best in man-match quarters but is versatile to play anything. His run defense and physicality leave more to be desired but his coverage versatility and skill are worthy of early first round consideration.
Andrew Booth (Clemson) is a versatile corner who profiles better to press-man and press-zone schemes. He needs to improve his angles as a run defender and control himself as a tackler as he wants to punish runners. He embraces physicality and punishes receivers during routes and trying to make a catch. Booth has had multiple injuries over the years, including a recent sports hernia surgery, his second. Of the likely options at 21, he’s the cleanest fit for an outside press-man corner and can also play in press-zone cover-3. He has the movement skills, route recognition, and physical tools to be versatile but needs more development outside of Clemson’s scheme.
Trent McDuffie (Washington) can cover outside or slot receivers, but with only 29.75” arms lacks the desired length for a press-man or press-zone scheme. He is best in a man-match quarters scheme. McDuffie is one of the best corners in run support. McDuffie might not have the elite traits to ever be more than a very good second corner and for a zone corner has surprisingly little ball skills. He fits much better on a zone team.
Kaiir Elam (Florida) is going somewhere in the top 50 and could be on the Patriots board. He has the physical build and athleticism they would appreciate but he struggles as a tackler, in run defense, and with winding down or suddenly breaking horizontally. Those movement issues as a corner could prevent him from starting. He is also the most inconsistent corner of the top group and relies on being grabby at the top of stems, which won’t work in the NFL. If the Patriots think they can fix his tackling, shedding, and motor as a run defender and can live with his limitations in coverage he does enough well where he could be a fit.
Kyler Gordon (Washington) is another corner who should go somewhere in the top 50. He has inside and outside versatility and while he doesn’t have elite speed, 4.52 40, he does have an elite athletic profile, 9.69 RAS. He should be scheme-versatile but with his reaction speed and short area quickness he would fit best in a zone or man-match scheme. His run defense is also very good. He has one of the better all-around skillsets, but doesn’t excel in any one role or scheme yet.
When you look at various big boards you will find that day 2 and day 3 are all over the place for corner. Roger McCreary (Auburn) is a hard prospect to project. Only one corner in the last decade has been drafted with sub-29-inch arms. McCreary not only has 28.875” arms, but he also only ran a 4.5 40 and he is a mediocre athlete (5.48 RAS). McCreary’s profile translates best to a zone scheme or in the slot but he strictly played press-man on the outside in college. His best scheme is man-match quarters on the outside or, likely he is a versatile corner who plays mostly inside but can cover some smaller outside receivers. If the Patriots go to more zone or want a man-slot corner they could consider McCreary if they can get past his limited athleticism and physical traits.
Tariq Woolen (UTSA) is incredibly athletic (9.7 RAS), with great size (6’4”, 205 pounds), speed (4.26 40), burst (1.47 10-second split), and length (33.625” arms). He is high -cut and his sudden change of direction is clunky on tape and less than ideal in his testing (7.1 3-cone). He is scheme diverse but fits best in press-zone or zone schemes. He got better as a run defender as the 2021 season progressed, but that was not his strength. He falls for far too many feigns, jukes, double-moves, and cheese. His high end reps are highlight reel worthy with smothering coverage, but he is too inconsistent now to start.
Coby Bryant (Cincinnati) has a lot of experience in zone and fits best there in the NFL. He is good in run support and with route anticipation and awareness. His closing speed and burst are below average and he is a sub-optimal athlete for an outside starter (5.59 RAS). He struggled with wind-downs and sharp breaks. He should be a very good backup but might not ever be more than a low end starting CB2.
The next three corners could go anywhere from the end of the 2nd round to the late 4th or early 5th. Jalyn Armour-Davis (Alabama) was stuck behind multiple drafted corners in Alabama, so he is still raw playing the position. He is an above-average run defender who doesn’t lack effort but needs technique work shedding blocks. He is ideal in press-man and press-zone schemes. He has great speed, 4.39 40, but lacks sudden change of direction and needs to play more physically at the catch point. If he can improve his wind-downs and breaks and get more experience playing corner he should be a solid CB2.
Zyon McCollum (Sam Houston State) is another freak playing corner. He is tied for the most athletic corner since 1987 with a perfect 10 RAS. His speed (4.33 40), burst (1.46 10-yard split), 11-foot broad jump, and change of direction (6.48 3-cone) are all elite. McCollum is already an elite gunner and was a three time team captain. He has some ball skills and would profile well on a zone team but has the tools to play anything. He needs to add functional strength and clean up multiple aspects of his technique in coverage. He probably can’t start in year 1 but by year 3, ideally, he would be able to put everything together to be a versatile inside-outside corner.
Alontae Taylor (Tennessee) might be best as a safety in the NFL. If he stays as a corner he fits best on a press-zone team, but he might be able to develop into a press-man corner. He is a natural ball-hawk but he gambles too much in zone coverage and falls for fakes. He is overly aggressive which also bleeds into his run defense where he will take bad angles and tackle wildly. If he can play with more discipline and under control he has the speed (4.36 40), size (199 pounds), and length (32.25” arms), to play as an outside press corner or a safety.
The next four corners should go sometime between early to mid day 3 and might even sneak into the back of the third round. Joshua Williams (Fayetteville State) dominated his level of competition. His ideal fit is in a press-zone scheme, but he might be versatile. He’s tall (6’3”) and long (32.875” arms) with average speed (4.53 40). His change-of-direction is impacted by his footwork, which is often sloppy. He has eye discipline issues and needs to improve his route awareness and recognition in zone. And while he tries to engage in run support, his angles are bad and his tackling form needs work.
Joshua Jobe (Alabama) is tough as nails. He played the entire 2021 season on a bum foot that needed surgery. He is a hard hitter and fearless in run support. He might be best as a safety but he has the length (32.625” arms) and press ability to play in press-heavy schemes. He is already an excellent gunner and would at worst be a very good special teamer who can backup outside corner or free safety.
Damarri Mathis (Pittsburgh) can play in the slot or outside and has an outstanding physical and athletic profile (9.72 RAS). Mathis fits best in a press-man or press-zone scheme. Mathis is overly aggressive and is prone to grabbing and/or getting lost in coverage. He simply has too many coverage busts on tape. Mathis is tough and physical and a good run defender. If he can play with more discipline and clean up his coverage mental errors, he has the traits to be a CB2. But if he doesn’t improve he won’t be reliable, even as a backup.
Tariq Castro-Fields (Penn State) is another physical corner who makes too many mental mistakes. Castro-Fields is scheme-diverse and has good size (197 pounds), and excellent speed (4.38 40). He needs to improve his tackling form but, like Mathis, if he can play with more discipline, cut down on the mental errors, and not take the cheese, he should be a scheme-diverse backup. With his speed and physicality, he profiles well to special teams.
When reviewing Arif Hasan’s Consensus Big Board, I realized that I did not see a handful of day 3 corners. Some of the players I missed have already been in for a Patriots’s Top-30 visit, like Jack Jones (Arizona State).
There are still two corners later on in day 3 or in the UDFA period who I watched and think fit their profiles: Vincent Gray (Michigan) and Dallis Flowers (Pitt State). I am higher on Gray than most boards. Gray has modest speed (4.54 40), but he has long arms (32.375”), and is a capable press-corner. He is sound in run support but could improve his block shedding. He can be grabby, he lacks change of direction, he falls for fakes, and he doesn’t have adequate recovery. He should be a backup in either press-man or, preferably, press-zone. Flowers is another press-man or press-zone corner who likely is just a backup or member of the practice squad. He has kick return experience and is a high-motor, physical player who should profile to be a good special teamer. As a corner he is too grabby, and even though he has good length (32” arms), his jams leave a lot to be desired. In zone, he has inadequate route recognition and awareness. He has high end athleticism (9.52 RAS) and intensity, but needs extensive improvement in coverage to even be a backup.