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Backed Into a Corner: Patriots Priority in NFL Draft?

New England needs a cornerback, but mock drafts warn a top prospect won't be available

A year ago the New England Patriots needed a quarterback and, presto, Mac Jones presented himself with surprisingly successful results.

This year they need a cornerback and ... not as simple.

Patriots - Daxton Hill
Patriots CB Jalen Mills
Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore

With former All-Pro Stephon Gilmore long gone to Indianapolis and a once-in-a-lifetime bolt of Brady unlikely to strike twice, the Patriots might need some luck in the NFL Draft. If the Patriots lined up for a game this week their starting cornerbacks would be Jalen Mills and ... hmm.

Terrance Mitchell? Malcolm Butler? Shaun Wade? Or, how about a talented rookie taken at No. 21?

Getting that cornerback at 21 might be trickier than landing Jones at 15 a year ago.

Cincinnati's Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner is a projected top-10 pick, and LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. and Washington's Trent McDuffie are expected to be off the board by the time New England is on the clock.

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"Then," says ESPN long-time draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., "there is a significant drop-off,"

Clemson's Andrew Booth Jr. is likely the next option, but in more of the 25-32 range. He might not represent the "value" coach Bill Belichick often seeks. Also, the Patriots would have to be comfortable with Booth's mere 15 games as a starter in college.

Kiper had considered slotting Booth to the Patriots in his latest mock draft before giving them Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd, with Booth ultimately landing at 29 to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Andrew Booth, Jr.
Former New England Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler (21)

Says Kiper, "The depth at cornerback this year is not that great (after the top group). It's there in numbers, but there's a lot of hit or miss guys."

If the Patriots look for a safer choice, similar to what they did in 2010 with Devin McCourty, Michigan safety Daxton Hill (6-foot, 191 pounds) would be a consideration at 21.

Says Kiper of Hill, "He did everything. He can be a slot corner, play center field, tackles so well, get after the quarterback, can intercept passes. He's perfect for the way the game is played today. You could make the argument, if you just say 'defensive backs overall,' No. 1 is Sauce Gardner, No. 2 is either [safety] Kyle Hamilton or Derek Stingley Jr., and you could put Daxton Hill next along with Trent McDuffie. [Hill is] one of the best overall defensive backs in this draft."