(Twelvth in a position-by-position look at the Patriots leading into the draft)
Personnel: Leigh Bodden, Ellis Hobbs, Mike Richardson, Shawn Springs, Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite
Short-term need: Moderate. Hobbs returns after starting last season and free-agent signees Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs -- as well as 2008 draft choices Terrence Wheatley (second round) and Jonathan Wilhite (fourth round) -- figure to challenge for starting cornerback spots as well.
Long-term need: Moderate to high. Hobbs and Bodden have contracts that expire after the 2009 season, and if they're not back, it creates more openings at the position.
Quick hit: The Patriots' coverage from their corners lacked for stretches of last season, and part of the trouble was a lack of a consistent pass rush to help the cover-men. In scouting, cornerbacks with the best change of direction often rate higher than most.
Prospects that could be on the radar in the draft or rookie free agency: Darius Butler (UConn), Kevin Barnes (Maryland), Jairus Byrd (Oregon), Bradley Fletcher (Iowa), Coye Francies (San Jose State), Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State), Ryan Mouton (Hawaii), Chris Owens (San Jose State), Alphonso Smith (Wake Forest), DeAngelo Smith (Cincinnati), Morgan Trent (Michigan), Brandon Underwood (Cincinnati)
* Pro Football Weekly Draft Guide used as reference