Draft Prospects: Patriots Looking At DB

<P>The Patriots are on the hunt for the right players to fit into their team culture, as well as their roster. They have also had to take calculated risks when adding players with off-field &#147;issues&#148; or other concerns.</P><P>History says that the Big-10 produces some excellent players, especially those from Michigan. Patriots Insider takes a look at one such player who may be coming to New England for a closer look.</P>

Photo: Cornerback Marlin Jackson (3) of the Michigan Wolverines celebrate on the sideline during the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes (Getty Photo)

Draft Prospects: Secondary Issues
Pats look to build depth
Patriots Insider Staff

Needing to fill in an injury depleted defensive secondary during the 2004 season, the Patriots were forced to use an undrafted free agent rookie as one starter at cornerback, a linebacker at safety, a safety at the other cornerback position, and a wide receiver on passing downs. The lack of depth due to injury so hampered the Patriots in 2004, they had to compensate with any healthy body they could find. The situation became so dire, they were forced to sign two street free agents just to field a team in the middle of the season.

The off-season allows the team has had time to recover and evaluate the players on the roster from both a financial and a talent perspective. Without much fanfare, they have gone about rebuilding this unit with an eye on adding depth and improving the talent level of one of the weakest units on the team.

To bolster this unit the team traded for Duane Starks, 30, starting cornerback from Arizona Cardinals for a 3rd round draft choice. Starting cornerback Tyrone Poole was paid a roster bonus and is on his way to returning at full health. Randall Gay, the rookie returns with a year of starting experience under his belt. And Asante Samuel should be back in the fold at full strength after suffering multiple injuries toward the end of the season.

The team has also parted ways with two-way starter Troy Brown, who filled in as a defensive back when the injury bug hit. Ty Law has been released, and is actively searching for a new home. Hank Poteat’s contract expired leaving him a free agent. Earthwind Moreland was released making him an unrestricted free agent, and JeRod Cherry is also free to pursue other employment.

With former rookie Guss Scott a restricted free agent as of yet unsigned, and fellow safety Dexter Reid still raw and needing some more time to develop, the team has some work to do to fill out the defensive backfield.

The draft prospects available offer a number of players who should be available to the Patriots in the first and second round. One such player they have an interest in, is Michigan product, Marlin Jackson. The team scouted Jackson at the combine in Indianapolis, and is reportedly interested in having him as a guest for a private workout.

Marlin Jackson School: Michigan
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 198 40: 4.63 Year: 4Sr

Jackson has the potential to be the big physical defender the Patriots are looking for. With a roster of cornerbacks under 6 feet, the Patriots are looking to get bigger. Bigger cornerbacks match up better with big receivers, or so it’s thought around league circles.

The need for larger defensive backs was evidenced in the Monday night game against the Dolphins where a 6-2, 220 pound Derrius Thompson out muscled a diminutive 5-10, 190 pound Troy Brown for the game winning touchdown.

By adding a 6-1 back like Jackson to the mix, the Patriots would get the size they need at corner to match up with the bigger receivers they face, like a T.O. or a Plaxico Burress.

Jackson's pro day was pretty solid. The high 4.4s and low 4.5s he posted for NFL scouts eased the impact of his performance at the combine. Some Mock Draft experts moved him out of the first round after his poor showing in Indianapolis. With a decent pro day in Ann Arbor, Jackson may have been able to solidify his position toward the end of the first round or early second round.

Once thought of as top-ten talent, if he slips out of the first round, many consider him a great second round value.

Josh Turel of GoBlueWolverine caught up with Jackson at the combine and was able to pen a few of the CB’s thoughts for Scout. On the toughest receiver he faced: "Going against Braylon [Edwards] everyday." Edwards is considered a top-five draft prospect and some draft experts have him going number one overall.

As for who got the better of that battle? "I won more than my share. It got pretty physical, the coaches would have to break it up some times."

Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr decided to experiment a little with Jackson during his tenure at Michigan, switching him briefly to safety, and then back to cornerback. On which position he will play: "Some want me at safety, some want me at corner."

What would he prefer? "I would rather play corner." Jackson responded. How does he think the NFL’s new rule enforcement regarding illegal contact, affectionately deemed the “Patriot Act” in some circles, affect his style of play? "Just don't touch them after five yards."

Tony Pauline of TFY Draft Preview in a recent interview with Dale Lolley of SteelCitySports.com commented on Jackson’s prospects in the NFL. “I see him as a bit of a tweener, too big and slow to play corner, not physical enough to play safety. “ Lolley said of Jackson.

“I think he can play corner in some systems,” Pauline responded. “The problem with Jackson is that he had off-field problems and his best football was as a sophomore. This season, his play was as erratic as the weather. When you watched him on film, he just didn't play smart football. He misread plays and took bad angles. So there are concerns there.”

Jackson has all the assets to be a true marquee player at the next level. It’s the intangibles, which concern some scouts. Those same intangibles may cause his stock to continue to slide. The jury on Whether Jackson can play within a system or not is still out, but his measurables are enough to put him on most teams boards, including the Patriots.

Related reading:

NFL Combine LIVE Feed :: Marlin Jackson Combine Quotes :: Lolley and Pauline one-on-one
Prospect Profile: Marlin Jackson :: Marlin Jackson Bio and Related News

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