The Patriots completely re-hauled their cornerback depth chart in 2015, allowing Darrelle Revis to walk, cutting Brandon Browner, and releasing Kyle Arrington. This left Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan to take the lead role and a revolving door at nickel. E.J. Biggers was the only known free agent signing, but he might not even make the team. Darryl Roberts, a cornerback selected out of Marshall in 2015, returns from an injury that sidelined him early on after he looked promising in training camp and preseason.
Even with the return of Roberts, New England will still examine the cornerbacks in this draft and if they can find value, they will take it. Kevin Peterson, a former Cowboy from Oklahoma State, is a defensive back the Patriots may have their eyes on. Peterson, 5'10, 181 pounds, is a smooth cover corner who sticks to receivers in pass coverage, and he's also strong in run support, something Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio look for in their defensive backs.
Peterson has battled injuries in the past, but when he's on the field, he makes plays. As a freshman, Peterson appeared in all 12 games, making 15 solo tackles, three assisted tackles, and two passes defended. Peterson gave a preview of what was about to come in the future. As a sophomore, Peterson played nine games, missing three to injury.
He finished with 17 solo tackles, seven assisted tackles, three tackles for loss, two interceptions, and four passes defended. Peterson was starting to develop a reputation as a ball-hawk and quarterbacks were starting to become leery of throwing his way. His junior year was his best in college, finishing with 46 solo tackles, 13 assisted tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, and 11 passes defended.
His senior year wasn't quite as good statistically and he got hurt in the Sugar Bowl, but he still had 35 solo tackles, seven assisted tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one interception, one fumble recovered, and six passes defended. Offensive coordinators made it clear that they were afraid to throw Peterson's way in 2015, not wanting to get burnt by one of the better cover corners in the Big 12.
In order to succeed in the pros, Peterson is going to need to get stronger, and he also has to avoid the braincramps he has in his footwork. He can be slow and look uncomfortable in his backpedal, but because he plays so fast, he typically can make up for his mistakes. He doesn't run well in timed tests, running a 4.58 forty at the combine, but he plays so fast that 40 times can be thrown out the window.
Peterson would be better suited in a man-to-man scheme, but the Patriots use both man and zone, so it wouldn't be a huge surprise if they drafted Peterson. Some have stated that Peterson could go as high as the second round, but I don't see that happening and he'll most likely go between the 5th and 6th round. If he is still available when New England is looking to get a cornerback bargain, Peterson may have a flying Elvis on his helmet in 2016.
College Statistics Provided by Sports-Reference.com/College Football
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