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Secondary matters

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / April 9, 2009
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Despite the work the Patriots have done to shore up their secondary, the team still set up visits with two of the top defensive backs available in the April 25-26 draft.

The Patriots hosted Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis this week, according to a league source, and will do the same with Ohio State cornerback/safety Malcolm Jenkins, widely regarded as the draft's top defensive back, Monday, according to a separate league source.

Both players have some question marks.

The 5-foot-11-inch, 203-pound Davis, who is the younger brother of 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, was part of a group of players that NFLDraftBible.com reported, citing anonymous sources, tested positive for marijuana at the combine in February. However, Davis's agent, Todd France, has denied Davis tested positive and released a statement saying that his client has not been notified of a positive test for marijuana or any other banned substance. Players are usually sent letters notifying them of a positive test.

Jenkins, who won the Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top college defensive back, playing cornerback, is being eyed by some teams to make the switch to safety because of his slow 40-yard dash times. The 6-foot, 204-pound Jenkins was clocked at 4.54 seconds at the combine and was not able to improve at Ohio State's pro day.

A possible top-10 pick, Jenkins is projected as an impact player at corner or safety.

"What his best fit is for a team, where he's most valuable, is certainly an interesting discussion for all teams," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick at the combine.

The Patriots also hosted North Carolina wide receiver Brandon Tate yesterday, according to a league source. They hosted Tate's Tar Heels teammate Brooks Foster Tuesday.

Pro Football Weekly rates Tate as a second-to-third-round prospect, and notes that he could be a dangerous weapon for teams in the slot and has potential as a returner.

The visit with the Patriots is likely for a final medical check. Tate had surgery in October to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee.

Teams are allowed up to 30 visits with prospects before the draft.

Mike Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.

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