Each week leading up to the draft, the Foxboro Blog crew will spend a week breaking down a position on the Patriots' roster. We'll start with a quick overview and then move onto a discussion involving potential draftees at that spot as well as free-agents that the Patriots may pursue. Up this week are the cornerbacks...
2010 Recap: The 2010 Draft got off to a surprising start when the Patriots selected cornerback Devin McCourty out of Rutgers with their first round selection. Many people were expecting Belichick to go with a linebacker like Sergio Kindle or choose wide receiver Dez Bryant as an "heir" to Randy Moss. It is safe to say that McCourty was far off the radar for most Pats fans, and the pick was met with a fair amount of skepticism. Little did anyone know that Belichick had made one of his best first-round selections of his career. Forget for a moment that McCourty wound up as a rookie Pro-Bowler, and just concentrate on how devastated the Patriots secondary would have been in 2010 were he not a part of the team. In training camp, the New England's top CB, Leigh Bodden was put on IR for a torn rotator cuff. Second-year player, Darius Butler, who everyone expected to make a big leap last season, seemed to regress and quickly lost his starting spot. Without McCourty, the Patriots would have been sending out Kyle Arrington and... yeah... week after week. As it stood, the Patriots gave up a ton of yards in 2010. I can't imagine how the season would have played out without McCourty.
To sum up 2010 for the cornerback crew, McCourty shone brightly, and Arrignton played admirably alongside him. There were certainly a fair amount of bumps in the road, given the relative inexperience at the position, but the secondary was able to bend and not break. Overall, their performance this past season gives Patriots fans a lot of reasons to be optimistic heading forward.
Returning Players: Kyle Arrington, Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler, Tony Carter, Devin McCourty, Thad Turner, Jonathan Wilhite
Patriots Free-Agents: None
2011 Outlook: Leigh Bodden's ability to bounce back from a year off will be a big key for the Patriots in 2011. Since he only tore a rotator cuff, as opposed to a more debilitating injury such as a torn knee ligament, one would think that he would be able to bounce back fairly well. If you pair Bodden next to McCourty, who should hopefully be as good, if not better, than he was his rookie year, that's a pretty powerful CB tandem.
Despite the fact that Kyle Arrington has proven to be reliable, I still think the Patriots should target another CB in the draft. Having three really strong corners would solidify the secondary and turn the defense into on that doesn't bend or break, just holds firm and gets the job done. If the right player is there, I could see Bill Belichick making a CB pick, even as high as the first round, although the 2nd or 3rd seems a bit more likely. With Bodden commanding a fairly decent salary, and Logan Mankins potentially eating up $10M, I find it highly unlikely that the Patriots will make a big free-agent move at the corner position on a player like Asomugha. Regardless of what additions are made, I think you'll see Bodden and McCourty playing the lions share of downs in 2011, and that's something that Patriots fans can feel pretty good about.