Chris Steuber: The best cornerbacks for the Patriots system are players who anticipate the action, transition well with receivers and possess great closing speed and hands. It's challenging to find players with those attributes in the mid rounds, but the Patriots did it before when they selected Asante Samuel in the fourth round of 2003 draft, and with their excellent scouting department, they can do it again. Ironically, there is a cornerback with those attributes who comes from the same school Samuel attended (Central Florida), Joe Burnett. He's an outstanding cover corner who possesses good ball skills and offers versatility with his ability as a return specialist. He will be available in the fourth round. Other players to keep an eye on are: Londen Fryar, son of Irving Fryar (Western Michigan), Bruce Johnson (Miami), Domonique Johnson (Jackson State) and Coye Francies (San Jose State).
With all of the top talent available at linebacker, do you think there will be some quality in the middle of the Draft or is it top heavy?
CS: It's a top heavy linebacker crop, and after Rey Maualuga, Aaron Curry, James Laurinaitis and Clint Sintim, the quality thins out a bit. But there could be some gems available in the fourth and fifth rounds. Some interesting names to keep an eye on are: Orion Martin (Virginia Tech), Robert Francois (Boston College), Frantz Joseph (Florida Atlantic) and Lee Robinson (Alcorn State).
A recent mock draft of yours; you switched from an offensive player to a defensive player for the Patriots. Is either candidate rising or falling, or was it something else that led you to make the change?
CS: The offensive player I had the Patriots taking a month ago (link) was Pittsburgh RB LeSean McCoy, and the reason why I decided to go in a different direction is because I don't believe McCoy will enter the draft. In my current mock draft (link), which was released on December 30th, I had the Patriots selecting Missouri FS William Moore. With New England being thin in the secondary and the top offensive players most likely off the board before the Patriots make their selection, the value that Moore possesses and the uncertainty surrounding Rodney Harrison's future; Moore is an easy choice.
The Patriots have two second round picks this year after acquiring the Chargers pick in a trade during the 2008 Draft. If they go with a safety in the first round, what outside linebackers or defensive corners do you think they'd be interested in for their second round picks?
CS: The Patriots will be in a good position to get a quality outside linebacker and cornerback in the second round if they address the safety position in the first round. A few OLBs that will be available are: Clay Matthews (USC), Tyrone McKenzie (South Florida) and Zack Follett (California). The cornerback position is rather deep this year, and the players who will be available in the second round are: Victor Harris (Virginia Tech), Darius Butler (Connecticut), Mike Mickens (Cincinnati) and Captain Munnerlyn (South Carolina).
The 2008 NFL Draft class had a number of big name receivers in it. Some of them had stellar rookie seasons (Eddie Royal, DeSean Jackson…), many did not (James Hardy, Early Doucet, Limas Sweed). Why is it that many running backs had better receiving stats than the wideouts? Should it be taken as a plus for the backs, or a knock against the receivers, or something else?
CS: I think we just witnessed the best rookie running back class of all time. The '08 draft was amazing, and the statistics the RBs amassed this season were a direct reflection of their talent, the amount of touches they received and the importance they had to their teams. I am a little surprised that the rookie wide receivers as a whole didn't have a bigger impact, but over the years, first-year WR's haven't had much of an impact. It usually takes WRs at least two or three years until they live up to their potential; running backs usually hit the ground running.
Who do you recommend for the Patriots who need to find another wideout to challenge Jabar Gaffney for the No. 3 receiver role?
CS: It really depends in which round the Patriots want to select a wide receiver. They could go in a lot of different directions, and if they're looking to replace Jabar Gaffney, who's a possession receiver, they could do so in the third, fourth or fifth round. If they want a big receiver with great upside, they could draft Cal Poly's Ramses Barden; a 6-foot-6, 225-pound, physical enigma, who isn't a burner, but has good speed and the ability to get vertical. Another option could be Rice WR Jarett Dillard, who physically resembles Gaffney, but is a more heralded player. Other players that may interest the Patriots are: Brennan Marion (Tulsa), Kenny McKinley (South Carolina), Quan Cosby (Texas) and Brooks Foster (North Carolina).
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