With the reports coming from the NFL's Scouting Combine that the Patriots will not use the Franchise Tag on J.C. Jackson, the size of need at the cornerback position appears to be headed upwards.
On Saturday, this year's defensive back group met with the media, providing a preview of a talented group with a number of players that could intrigue New England, including Washington's Trent McDuffie, a first-day prospect who has the kind of versatility and physicality to fit nicely in the Patriots' secondary.
McDuffie confirmed he had met with New England in Indy, and expressed his admiration for the job Bill Belichick does developing cornerbacks.
"It was cool, getting to know Bill Belichick is a DB Dude," said McDuffie. "You could see all their DBs, their defense. That's a defense that is a lot of fun. One of my old teammates, Myles Bryant, plays for them. [He] just has had an amazing experience being there. He's learned so much football knowledge. Just talking to them was really cool, just being able to sit there and being in the presence of the Patriots and all of these defensive-minded players."
The Husky cornerback is part of a foursome of top players at the position, including Sauce Gardner, Andrew Booth and Derek Stingley, the grandson of former Patriot Daryl Stingley. All have the kind of man coverage skills that have been a key part of the Patriots' scheme for the last decade.
"I love being on an island," said Gardner of playing man. "I ain't got to worry about nobody else but my man, it's cool. I can play man, zone... but I love playing press man for sure."
McDuffie also isn't the only Washington defensive back prospect who could hear his name called in the first two days of the draft, as teammate Kyle Gordon has the versatility the play both inside and outside.
"Kyler Gordon is one of those dudes who is a student of the game, loves to compete and is a freak athlete," said McDuffie of his teammate.
"I feel like my ability to do everything to be honest," said Gordon of what separates him in this cornerback class. "I feel like in every category I feel like I'm just stronger than all of them. Yeah, that's how I feel."
On Sunday, the defensive backs will wrap up the Scouting Combine with on-field workouts, putting an end to what was certainly a productive weekend for the Patriots as they continued to line up their draft board.
"I think it's just an honor, just to be able to sit down and have them take the time to talk to me, learning about me, being interested in me, working with me," said McDuffie of his meeting with the Pats. "You see them growing up, you see them your whole lives. So, to talk to them and tell them your story, it is truly a blessing."