The Patriots drafted UConn cornerback Darius Butler with the 41st overall selection, and in doing so, landed one of the best change-of-direction cover men. This seems like an excellent value (note: Butler was my pick in the first-round mock at 23).
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was present at UConn's Pro Day when Butler turned in an exceptional workout. His interest in Butler was talked about in the days leading up to the draft.
The Patriots are well stocked at cornerback in the short-term, with Ellis Hobbs, Shawn Springs, Leigh Bodden and two rookies from last year's draft -- Terrance Wheatley (2nd round) and Jonathan Wilhite (4th round) -- atop the depth chart.
Hobbs and Bodden have contracts that expire after the 2009 season.
Belichick previously said that a team can never have enough cover-men in today's spread-the-field NFL. Butler adds to the short-term competition and provides a long-term option at a position that hasn't looked the same since Asante Samuel left town.
- Intelligence/character: Two-year team captain … First-team all-Big East in 2008 .… From a football family. His uncle, Gene Atkins, had a 10-year NFL career as a defensive back. His cousin is Ravens running back Willis McGahee … Has been getting tutelage from Deion Sanders … Was an option quarterback in high school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. … Born March 18, 1986.
- Stopping the run: Don’t expect much. He’s doesn’t have the size to provide much assistance, and he could risk injury by flying into piles … Pro Football Weekly said he ‘‘hits like a marshmallow’’ (Perhaps what he’s been learning from Deion) … An inconsistent tackler.
- Defending the pass: With exceptional closing speed, he doesn’t get burned often … Ten career interceptions, but none as a senior … Ran back two of his INTs for touchdowns … In his last two seasons, no opposing receiver caught a TD pass against him … Sometimes looks like the receiver because he gets good reads … Won’t be physical at the line.
- Size/strength/durability: Started all 45 career games … Also took some snaps on offense, catching nine passes for a 13.7-yard average … Took over kickoff return duties in 2008 and averaged 23.5 yards on 20 runbacks … The first player in Big East history to score on a kickoff return, interception, reception, and rushing attempt in a career.
Sources: National Football League, Globe research, and draft analysts from Pro Football Weekly, Ourlads’, and The War Room.