Robert McClain didn't take the easy path into the NFL. McClain was drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers where he was used mainly on special teams as a punt and kick returner. McClain wasn't highly touted coming out of UConn, but when he was given an opportunity, he took full advantage of it. McClain appeared in all 16 games, starting two, but he was never given a true opportunity to crack the lineup. When John Fox was fired, the writing was on the wall and it was time for McClain to start thinking about playing for another team.After Carolina cut him before the start of the 2011 season, Jacksonville signed him, but that was short lived. The Jaguars experiment ended in December of 2011, and when the Atlanta Falcons came calling, that is when McClain's NFL career took off. In his first season with the Falcons, McClain appeared in 15 games, starting three. He finished 2012 with 55 total tackles, one interception, 10 passes defended, and two fumble recoveries. The one interception is what put McClain on the map. He only played minimal snaps in a Week Two game versus Denver, but he picked off Peyton Manning on one of those plays and the Falcons coaching staff took notice.
In 2013, McClain appeared in all 16 games, and also started six, doubling his starts from the year before. The Falcons realized what they had in McClain- a pure nickel cornerback that was crucial to a complete pass defense. McClain could never be a full-time outside corner, but as the league has changed, slot corners have essentially become starters, and his numbers reflected that. McClain finished with 65 total tackles, one sack, five passes defended, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
2014 was a down year for the Falcons, but McClain was still on the field for all 16 games, again starting six, and he put up similar numbers to the year before. McClain piled up 59 tackles, one sack, two interceptions, and five passes defended. McClain also had 19 punt returns for 193 yards. The Falcons decided to go in a different direction in free agency and let McClain walk. He was sought by a few different teams, specifically the Dolphins and Saints, but he ultimately chose to play for the team that could give him the most playing in New England. McClain has the ability to play safety also, and that type of flexibility gives the Patriots many options on personnel packages.
McClain, 26, is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but he bounced around a little in his high school career. McClain attended Eaglecrest High School in Aurora, Colorado during the 2002/2003 season. He was a starting running back, but after one year in Colorado, McClain headed back east to Patuxant High School in Maryland. McClain was an All-State selection before he made his way to the University of Connecticut. From 2006 to 2009, McClain made 129 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 10 interceptions, 14 passes broken up, two interceptions returned for touchdown, one punt return for touchdown, one fumble forced, and one fumble recovered. McClain has always been productive and he has an excellent chance to lock down Kyle Arrington' former job in the New England secondary.