Patriots Draft: Help For The Deep Secondary

Rodney Harrison will be back, but how healthy will he be? Eugene Wilson will also return, but again he is a player coming off an injury. No matter how many times the Patriots add bodies to the secondary, they go down with an injury. New England lost 5 DBs last year, so it's highly likely they'll add another one via the draft. Here's one they should have on their draft board.

Safety is quickly becoming one of the more demanding positions on defense. Once thought of as a place to plug in slow cornerbacks and small linebackers, the position has since evolved with the arrival of uncanny athletes such as Ed Reed, Sean Taylor and Michael Huff. That is why players like Josh Gattis, who has the speed to run with receivers and the size to stop the run, are suddenly in high demand.

Gattis, a 6-foot-1, 213 lb. safety from Wake Forest, had an impressive college career. He moved into the starting line-up as a sophomore in 2004 and totaled 225 tackles, 12 interceptions and four forced fumbles from that point on.

His stellar play earned him numerous accolades. He was selected first-team All-ACC; he was named Honorable mention All-American by Sports Illustrated; and he was on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list. Gattis is grateful for the recognition, having played for a school that didn't always get its fair share of it.

Gattis breaks up a pass during the 2007 Orange Bowl game(Getty Images/Doug Benc)
"A lot of times in the past we haven't won a lot of games at Wake Forest so a lot of scouts haven't stopped through," Gattis said. "We just haven't had the notoriety of the some of the other players that have come from big-name schools, yet we compete in one of the toughest conferences - the Atlantic Coast Conference."

Gattis had a chance to prove his worth while in Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl but got only mixed results. He was able to show good speed, anticipation and recognition, but struggled in man-to-man coverage and when asked to defend too much space.

One thing that became obvious as the week wore on is that Gattis relishes his role as the quarterback of the secondary, a must for any successful safety. If that didn't win scouts over, then his attitude no doubt did.

"I'm a high-effort player, regardless of whether it is special teams, defense or any part of the game," Gattis said. "I'm a guy that's going to give it his all. Away from the field, I'm going to represent my team very highly. I'm a guy that will be out in the community, that won't get in trouble - just a clean-cut guy who is will work to be a better person and a better player."

Several teams saw Gattis' potential to contribute both on the field and in the locker room and thus made a point to meet with him down in Mobile. The Chargers, Dolphins, Falcons, Jets and Panthers were among the teams to speak with him during Senior Bowl week.

Gattis may not be the next Sean Taylor, which will mean fewer big plays and fewer embarrassing headlines. He is, however, a heady player who is willing to do whatever it takes to improve the team that drafts him.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at

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