2. What Does Alabama DB Brian Branch’s Average Testing Mean for his Draft Stock?
There’s now a film study versus athletic testing debate with Alabama safety/nickel corner Brian Branch, who has top-20 tape in this class but tested as an average NFL athlete at the combine. Branch had a relative athletic score of 5.9 out of ten, which is average for a free safety or corner. Branch played the “star” role in the slot for Nick Saban last season and decided to lump himself with the cornerbacks in Indy. He has excellent play speed, man coverage skills, instincts, and he makes forceable contact when he triggers to the ball. However, Branch is undersized to play in the box (6-0, 190 pounds) and might be too slow to play as a slot CB (4.58s). We’ve thrown around the idea of Branch making a McCourty-like transition to free safety. If that becomes an immediate need for the Patriots, Branch’s athletic testing backs up that switch.
3. The Draft Crush is Real With Maryland CB Deonte Banks, a Draft Weekend Trade Target
Unfortunately, the Patriots aren’t in a great draft position to target former Maryland stud Deonte Banks, who will likely come off the board at the end of the first round. Banks is the trifecta with excellent film and athleticism, measuring over six feet at 197 pounds. Banks is an elite athlete with a 9.99 relative athletic score and a blazing 40-yard dash of 4.35 seconds. His film shows a physical outside cornerback with powerful jams at the line of scrimmage, mirroring quickness to match receivers and speed to carry vertical routes down the field. There aren’t too many flaws in his game on the field, and he’s a superb athlete. As you can tell, I’m crushing on Banks and would entertain a trade-up in the second round to select him.
Along with Banks, you can probably get Kansas State corner Julius Brents as the 46th overall pick in the second round after the nearly 6-3, 198-pounder registered a 9.65 relative athletic score out of ten. Brents isn’t as technically sound or straight-line fast as Banks, but he’s a smothering press-man corner with good athleticism who just needs to refine his ball skills. If Banks goes too early, Brents would be a good consolation prize.
4. Are Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes & Michigan’s D.J. Turner Fits for the Pats?
There’s tons of love from Pats nation for Mississippi State corner Emmanuel Forbes, which is understandable to an extent. Forbes is a long and explosive athlete with a relative athletic score of 9.35 out of ten and a 4.35-second 40-yard dash. He’s also a ballhawk in coverage, logging six interceptions this past season, and has 14 career picks. However, his technique needs work, and Forbes will be a boom-or-bust coverage player until further development occurs. He gets impatient at the line of scrimmage, which gets him opened up early in the rep and allows receivers to threaten his leverage. Forbes will also get a bit grabby through his transitions, where his hips and feet sometimes stall. Plus, at 166 pounds, his slight frame is limiting. Forbes’s technical issues and weight are worrisome risks in such a great cornerback class.
Turner was the odds-on favorite to run the fastest 40-yard dash among this year’s cornerbacks, so clocking a combine-best 4.26-second 40-yard dash wasn’t surprising. Turner’s speed is all over his film. Unfortunately, whiffing on a tackle attempt against Quentin Johnston in the playoff game overshadows Turner’s smoothness in coverage and typically reliable open-field tackling. In other words, don’t let one play cloud your judgment: this is a rare athlete with the fourth-best 40-time at the combine since 2003 and mirroring skills in man. Turner, who comes from a program the Pats love, is a day-two prospect New England could target.