NFL Draft 2013: Top Defensive Players Who Patriots Should Target
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The Patriots have a number of players in the secondary who are entering free agency, including Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington and Patrick Chung.
Alfonzo Dennard was quite a surprise for the Pats this past season at cornerback, but his future is unclear after being found guilty of assaulting a police officer. This leaves the team in a tough situation.
One thing that is certain is that the Patriots' front office will need to make some big changes on the defensive side via free agency and the draft.
Desmond Trufant, CB
Quick, versatile corner could bolster the secondary.
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The Patriots are in desperate need of a cornerback, especially now that Alfonzo Dennard's football career is in question.
Desmond Trufant has exceptional speed and quickness that could make him a great NFL cornerback. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at the NFL combine last month.
Trufant has football in his blood as his brothers, Marcus and Isaiah, are both defensive backs in the NFL.
As a senior with the Washington Huskies he knocked down nine passes, recorded one interception, one forced fumble and blocked a kick. He was given All-Pac-12 first team honors in 2012.
Trufant has the athleticism to become a playmaker for the Patriots. His ability to keep up with fast receivers and go up to make a play on the ball would strengthen the Pats' secondary.
Johnthan Banks, CB
Banks could force some turnovers for the Pats.
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Whether the Patriots re-sign Aqib Talib or not will be very interesting.
Either way, the team could draft cornerback Johnthan Banks, who draws comparisons to Talib by NFL.com.
Banks does not have eye-catching speed or strength, but he does have impressive height (6'2") as well as length.
He also has the versatility to play multiple positions in the secondary. He actually began his career with the Mississippi State Bulldogs as a safety and has been used as a nickelback.
Banks has great hands, hauling in four interceptions in 2012. He can make big plays in the end zone and has an advantage with his height when the ball is up for grabs.
The Patriots would be smart to take in this tall cornerback who can force turnovers. The Pats would be able to use him in a number of different positions and packages.
Eric Reid, FS
Reid is the hard-hitting safety that NE needs.
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Eric Reid can make some huge hits on the gridiron and has the tools to become a star safety in the NFL.
During the Patriots' Super Bowl victories, the team possessed hard-hitting safeties such as Rodney Harrison and Lawyer Milloy.
Reid can be the heavy hitter that the Pats need. He has great closing speed and is very aggressive.
Last season with one of the top defenses, the LSU Tigers, Reid recorded 91 tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions. He was given All-SEC first team honors in 2012 as well.
Reid is a true playmaker and has a tremendous vertical leap. He can be too aggressive at times, but he has the talent that could make the Patriots defense tenacious.
Johnathan Hankins, DT
The big frame of Hankins would fit nice on the defensive line.
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For nine years the Patriots have had the pleasure of having Vince Wilfork to disrupt the line of scrimmage.
Johnathan Hankins has the body of Wilfork and can be a nightmare for an offensive line.
Hankins is 6'3" and 320 pounds, one of the bigger defensive linemen in a draft loaded at the position.
He is not the greatest pass-rusher, but he does an excellent job of stopping the run. Also, he surprisingly has quick feet for his size.
His best season came as a sophomore with the Ohio State Buckeyes when he had 11 tackles for loss and three sacks.
Fatigue can be a factor with Hankins, but he is a load to handle on the line. It would be tough for any offensive line to stop both Hankins and Wilfork if the Pats chose him in the draft.
Jamar Taylor, CB
This physical and athletic corner would make huge plays for NE.
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He recorded a 40-time of 4.39 seconds and completed 22 reps in the bench press.
Taylor is a very skilled defender and often gets physical with opposing wide receivers. He is quite athletic and is solid in man coverage.
At Boise State in 2012, Taylor played exceptionally well. He had four interceptions, 2.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and broke up nine passes.
Taylor's physical coverage and athletic ability would make him one of the top cornerbacks on the Patriots roster. He would fit in perfectly in New England.
D.J. Swearinger, S
Swearinger can make some big-time hits.
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D.J. Swearinger is one of the hardest hitters in this year's draft.
His downhill, physical play makes him a very intriguing safety prospect. Wide receivers do not want to see this defender coming their way.
Swearinger had 80 tackles, two interceptions and knocked down seven passes for the South Carolina Gamecocks last season.
He can make big hits and force turnovers. Also, he has played both safety positions and regularly lined up against wide receivers.
The Patriots could possibly snag Swearinger in the second round. He would give the Pats the enforcer that they need in the secondary, as well as a physical and athletic defender.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB
The Patriots could take a risk on Mathieu and show him the Patriot way.
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One of the biggest question marks in the 2013 NFL Draft is Tyrann Mathieu.
He has shown that he has the talent on the field as a Heisman finalist in 2011. It is the fact that Mathieu missed the 2012 season, and his off-field troubles that have scouts skeptical.
What the Honey Badger accomplished during his time with the LSU Tigers cannot be ignored. In 2011 he led the team in tackles with 70 and forced an amazing six fumbles, recovering five of them.
Mathieu can also be a factor as a punt returner in the NFL as well as a defensive back. He was named the 2011 SEC Championship Game MVP, returning a punt 62 yards for a touchdown.
For the Patriots, the risk may be worth the reward with Tyrann Mathieu. He will likely be available in the second round and could possibly slip into the third.
The Patriots have dealt with players like Randy Moss and Corey Dillon before, which worked out very well. Perhaps the team could do it again with Mathieu.