With the sub-par play of Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins in 2010 (77.0 and 64.6 percent, respectively, in my 2010 Cornerback Grades), a lot of analysts expect the Cowboys to spend an early-round pick on a player at the position. This possibility could inch closer to becoming a reality if the Cowboys release Newman, who is due over $10 million this season.
Personally, I think there are far more pressing needs for Dallas than cornerback, not the least of which is the pass rush. With practically zero pressure from the defensive ends last season, the easiest way to upgrade the secondary may be finding a defensive end who is a legitimate threat to get to the quarterback. No cornerback can cover an NFL receiver for eight seconds.
Unless the Cowboys have a shot to trade up a few spots for Patrick Peterson, I think you’ll see them wait on a cornerback. Brandon Harris in the second round is a possibility, as is today’s feature in the middle rounds. . .
At 6’0”, Johnny Patrick has a long frame that allows him to effectively re-route receivers at the line of scrimmage. He will become even more effective at that when he adds five or 10 more pounds (he’s only 190). Despite being thin, Patrick is physical in all aspects of the game. He’s generally a willing tackler. He could benefit from using better technique at times, but a willing attitude is far and away the most important aspect of tackling. Patrick’s willingness is on display in the first three plays in the Syracuse video and at the 48-second mark versus Southern Miss.
Patrick is more effective in press coverage than an off-technique. He sometimes gives up too great of a cushion, perhaps due to his lack of elite speed (just a 4.53 40-yard dash at the Combine). I think he plays more like a mid-4.4 guy (which is what he ran at his Pro Day), but recovery speed will be a concern.
Still, Patrick makes up for his lack of elite straight-line speed with quickness and athleticism. Check out the play he makes at the two-minute mark below. You can’t tell me that isn’t an explosive athlete. The fact that he makes plays on special teams is a bonus.
Once the ball is in the air, Patrick is up and down. He breaks very well on underneath routes (when he hasn’t given up too much cushion), but he sometimes has trouble flipping his hips on deep routes. If he is in position, his “look and lean” is one of the best I have seen (38-second mark versus Syracuse). He utilizes proper position, leaning into the defender with his head turned toward the football as to not draw a penalty.
Patrick’s ball skills could use improvement. Although starting his career as a receiver, Patrick sometimes lacks awareness of the position of the football (check out the first play in the Southern Miss game). He is rarely in horrible position, so an improvement in attacking the football will be crucial.
Overall, Patrick is a fairly productive player (49 tackles, five INTs in 2010) who will need to overcome concerns about his long speed and character (he was arrested in July, 2010 for misdemeanor assault after allegedly throwing a woman to the ground). It’s worth noting Patrick is a solid and experienced blitzer, which could be important to Rob Ryan.
Patrick’s stock is hard to predict. Will teams gamble on his athleticism and upside, or will they be scared off by character concerns? I could see Patrick getting selected anywhere from the top of the third round to the bottom of the fifth.
The concerns are too great to spend a third-round selection on Patrick, in my opinion, but if he falls to the fourth or fifth, I would become very interested. Mid- to late-round draft picks are all about upside, and Patrick might have more of it than any cornerback selected late.
Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011