The New England Patriots said their goodbyes to cornerback J.C. Jackson Monday, as well as Ted Karras, as Jackson reportedly signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers.
With Mr. INT out of New England, what’s next for the Patriots at cornerback?
While it would be smart for the Patriots to pick a cornerback regardless of what ended up happening with Jackson, corner will probably be New England’s top priority now.
Pick 21 isn’t very ideal for the cornerback-searching Patriots though, as there are plenty of teams ahead of New England that are in need of a cornerback. The amount of first-round talent isn’t the issue, but rather where New England is picking.
The list that is widely regarded as the top four cornerbacks in the draft, with a very debatable order, is Ahmad Gardner, Andrew Booth Jr., Derek Stingley Jr., and Trent McDuffie.
Nick Caruso’s 2.0 mock draft involved the Patriots picking McDuffie to replace Jackson, but, it wouldn’t be very wise to bet on one of those four corners being available at 21.
But, more talent is out there. If the Patriots are that emphatic on picking a cornerback first-round with the ability to somewhat replace the All-Pro in Jackson, the next tier of four includes Kaiir Elam, Mario Goodrich, Kyler Gordon, and Roger McCreary. Even one of those could sneak into the top 20, but the majority of the second tier will likely fall in the second round — also meaning New England could get one of them with their second pick.
Reading into these eight corners, the majority of them mainly play outside cornerback but are versatile enough to play nearly anywhere, like Jackson. Really any of the eight listed could fit the Patriots well.
As Nick Caruso wrote in his potential Patriots free agent targets piece, New England has some solid options on the table. Caruso listed Kyle Fuller, Akhello Witherspoon, Jason Verrett, and Anthony Averett as possible suitors.
New England could also go for Eli Apple, or go for more veteran options in Xavier Rhodes and Joe Haden.
Myles Bryant really stepped up last year following Jonathan Jones’ early season-ending injury, though there were some major highs and lows for him.
Joejuan Williams really struggled to make a real impact despite an impressive preseason, even being a healthy scratch several times during the season, while Justin Bethel and Shaun Wade never really got any real opportunities.
With Jackson being gone, and considering Jalen Mills is the only stable corner the Patriots have, a massive overhaul at cornerback this offseason is both what is needed and what will likely happen.