This may come as a surprise, but the Patriots historically have a set standard for speed and agility when drafting defensive backs. Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach of the New England Patriots in 2000, only one cornerback has been drafted that ran a 40-yard dash over 4.5 seconds (Alfonzo Dennard). Only one cornerback has been drafted with a 3-cone time over seven seconds in that same period (Willie Andrews) — they were seventh- and sixth-round picks, respectively. That should give you a pretty good idea of what New England is looking for at the position athletically. The Patriots will likely take a cornerback with their first pick this year regardless of whether they sign free agent Aqib Talib. Dennard’s status is up in the air and Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole are free agents. If Arrington walks in free agency, the team will at least be looking for a corner who can man the slot. If Talib is signed to either the franchise tag or exclusive-rights tag, the Patriots will be looking for a starting corner of the future. And if Dennard has to miss any time in 2013, New England will be looking for a starting cornerback. Among the corners that participated in the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, seven ran 40-yard dash times under 4.5 seconds and 3-cone times under seven seconds. Those players are: Boise State’s Jamar Taylor, Mississippi State’s Darius Slay, Southeastern Louisiana’s Robert Alford, Alabama’s Dee Milliner, Miami’s Brandon McGee, California’s Steve Williams and UConn’s Dwayne Gratz. Another seven players ran 40′s under 4.5 seconds, but did not run the 3-cone. Those players are: Washington’s Desmond Trufant, South Florida’s Kayvon Webster, Georgia Tech’s Rod Sweeting, Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes, NC State’s David Amerson, Illinois’ Terry Hawthorne and Michigan State’s Johnny Adams. Among those players that best fit what the Patriots may be looking for in the first round are Taylor, Trufant and Rhodes. The Patriots have been known to take some surprises in the first two rounds, so we may not count Slay out either. Milliner will be long gone by the time the Patriots’ pick comes around, and New England doesn’t have a history of drafting small-school prospects, so Alford may be out of the mix, as well.

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