The Patriots need a cornerback as much as anything atop their roster. But if they want to land an impact corner in the draft, they may have to make a rare move: trading up in the first round.
That’s an idea Mike Reiss is positing in his newest Sunday notes for ESPN.com. If the Patriots move up from the 21st pick, it would mark the first time they did so since 2012, when they did it twice.
As a refresher, the Patriots began the 2012 draft with the 27th and 31st selections. They traded up to 21st and 25th, respectively, to take defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Just last year, in the 2021 draft, the Pats moved up from 45th to 38th in order to select Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore. So, historically, moving up this high in the draft means they’re targeting a player with a bright future in the NFL.
Who would the Pats target if they moved from 21 into the teens, as Reiss suggested? It’s being hypothesized in the first place because the 21st pick in the 2022 NFL Draft lies in a sort of “No-Man’s Land” between the top cornerback prospects and the next tier. If the Pats aren’t going for one of the best corners available, they may be better suited waiting until day two to take one. They’ve been linked to Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. and Florida’s Kaiir Elam, who are expected to be available in the Patriots’ range at 21, but would be considered reaches at that spot.
With help from ESPN senior draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., Reiss believes that LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. could be something of a “value” pick in the teens, due to depressed value after a serious foot injury:
“…Kiper wonders if Belichick might consider a trade into the teens if Stingley slips into that range, considering Stingley was tracking as a possible No. 1 player in the draft if not for the 2020 COVID-19 season and then suffering a torn Lisfranc ligament in his left foot that sidelined him for nine games in 2021.”
Stingley, who stands at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, is compared to Stephon Gilmore in his draft profile at NFL.com. The same comparison was made at The Draft Network, where his described scheme fit is very Patriot-like: “Press-man scheme where he can use his strength to press WRs and disrupt the timing of opposing offenses. He can play in schemes where there are zone concepts integrated so he can get on the quarterback and use his instincts to intercept passes.”
It certainly seems like Stingley had first-overall potential if not for his foot injury. The Patriots have shown a willingness to gamble on players who recently suffered serious injuries and dropped in the draft as a result. Linebacker Cameron McGrone, whom the Patriots selected out of Michigan in the fifth round of the 2021 draft after an ACL tear, is a recent example.
Still, it appears that Stingley’s Lisfranc injury won’t drop him too far down the draft board. So if the Patriots want him, they’ll likely have to move up several spots. If Reiss is saying that’s a possibility, then it’s definitely worth considering ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.
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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.