September 30, 2016

Stacking the Board with Second Day Defensive Backs

by Chris Warner
[email protected] 

picIn 2008 the Patriots defense gave up more passing yardage than in any 16-game season in the team’s history.*

*Not true. Still, if you believed it for even half a second, then you agree with most New England fans that the secondary needs help. We at PD feel obligated to lend a hand, continuing to stock our draft boards with Patriot hopefuls for the last weekend in April.

As has been the case, we’ve been broken down the players into three basic slots for Day Two: early, mid and late. Think of it as a sandwich with a two-round middle: “Early” means third round until midway through the fourth; “mid” applies from mid-fourth through the mid-sixth; “late” alludes to mid-sixth onward.

EARLY DAY TWO – CORNERS

Peachy Keenan: Oregon State’s Keenan Lewis had four interceptions for the Beavers last year. The 6-1, 195-pound corner lost 17 pounds in the time between the combine and his pro day after cutting creatine out of his regimen. Not sure what that means, but at least he’s willing to make changes in order to improve.

Pickin’ Mickens: Cincinnati’s career leader in interceptions, Mike Mickens would be a steal in the third. The Pats have worked him out, according to the Dayton Daily News. Still, at 6-feet, 186 pounds, he might want to ask Keenan for some creatine.

EARLY DAY TWO – SAFETIES

High Tide: He’s got the Alabama connection with Coach Nick Saban. He’s got 11 interceptions in the past two years. The only question is whether Rashad Johnson (5-11, 203) will still be available in the third. He resembles Brandon Meriweather in that he blurs the line between safety and corner, but Coach Bill Belichick often sees that as more of a strength than anything else.

Off the old block: Any questions about whether Chip Vaughn  (6-2, 221) had speed and/or quickness got answered at the combine, when the strong safety finished near the top in several categories. In his last two years as a starter at Wake Forest, he compiled 192 tackles and broke up 20 passes. I’m not exactly sure what a Demon Deacon is, but I wouldn’t want to play against one.

MID DAY TWO – CORNERS

I owe an Iowan: Whether at the combine or the East-West Shrine Game, Bradley Fletcher (6-1, 196) worked hard to get noticed. He demonstrated strong cover skills, as shown in this video from draftguys.com. He also has experience in different coverages under Coach Kirk Ferentz.

Oh, if only we had an exclusive interview. Like, right here…

Now’s the time to vote McCain: Maybe it’s the high altitude, but there’s something about the Mountain West that puts a lot of scouts to sleep. An alert NFL squad will pounce on Utah’s Brice McCain (5-9, 185), who had a gasp-inducing pro-day workout that included a 4.33 40 and a 3.99 20-yard shuttle. McCain’s numbers (one interception) may have hurt his ranking, but he shouldn’t be penalized for making teams afraid to throw in his direction. Often it’s the corners with the most tackles that you need to worry about.

MID DAY TWO – SAFETY

If life gives you Clemons: Things are looking up for Chris Clemons. The 6-0, 208-pound Clemson free safety played in the shadow of teammate Michael Hamlin, but got scouts talking about him after a strong pro day. I only wonder whether his surname had anything to do with his college choice. Like, what if he was named Chris Vanderblitt?

These are the things I think about all day. Sigh.

Go Greene: After last summer’s Tank-Williams-as-linebacker experiment, Courtney Greene of Rutgers could come in as a hard-hitting run-stopper from the safety position. The 6-0, 212-pound tackling machine (384 total in four years) didn’t live up to expectations his senior year, but his overall consistency (50 straight starts) will attract an NFL team.

LATE DAY TWO – CORNER

“Hush, hush,” voices Carey: Norfolk State’s Don Carey (5-11, 192) wants to silence critics about coming from a small school. He got on the right track by covering bigger-name prospects at East-West Shrine Game practices, then continued to impress with strong showings at the combine and his pro day. Plus, he had a memorable meeting with the Patriots, as he details here.

A many-splendored thing: It wasn’t exactly a thumbs-up season for Arkansas’ Jamar Love  (6-0, 191), who missed a few games due to surgery on that particular digit. Love needed to have a strong pro day and did, running a 4.35 40 and a 6.88 3-cone drill. He could provide value as a developmental prospect. Plus, his game jersey would make a delightful Valentine’s Day gift.

LATE DAY TWO – SAFETY

Around the horned: At 6-feet, 234 pounds, Texas Christian’s Stephen Hodge  has been listed as an outside linebacker at some websites, such as NFL Draft Scout. As a late-rounder, the Horned Frog could fill in at various spots on defense. He played d-back, quarterback, and even punted in high school. Versatility, thy home is New England.

Taylor made: Maybe it’s a callback to the days of the LSU-New England pipeline when Saban coached down there, but there’s something about Curtis Taylor  that makes him intriguing (some would say I should put him in the “mid” category. I choose to ignore them). The 6-2, 207-pound free safety didn’t have the most spectacular combine, but he did improve his 40 at his pro day.

Next week, check out our wide-receiver/tight end notables.

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