State of the Position: Cornerback

When the Patriots selected Devin McCourty with the 27th pick in 2010, many fans were stunned.

A year later, they are rejoicing.

The former Rutgers star proved to be another home run in Bill Belichick’s draft lineup as he recorded a team-high seven interceptions and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

McCourty brings a unique blend of speed and physicality that will remind many fans of Ty Law back in his heyday.

It’s safe to say, McCourty has one side of the field locked down, and he should only get better with more experience and hopefully a better pass rush.

Unlike 2009, and to a degree 2010, the depth at cornerback is very good entering the season.

Veteran Leigh Bodden, the team’s top corner in 2009, should return as a starter opposite McCourty.

Bodden doesn’t have dominant physical traits, but is a savvy nine-year veteran who has recorded 18 interceptions, including 12 in the past three seasons.

In a somewhat surprising move, Belichick opted to keep the 33rd selection in the 2011 draft and took Ras-I Dowling from Virginia.

The 6-foot-2, 200 pound cover man was pegged as a top-20 talent, but had an injury-plagued senior season.

Dowling may be the most physically-talented corner on the roster, as he combines great size with terrific speed (4.40) and athleticism (38-inch vertical, 10-foot-8 broad jump, 19 reps on the bench).

That rare blend of size/speed presents the possibility of a move to free safety, although Dowling was announced as a cornerback when he was selected.

Regardless, he has plenty of talent and should be a starter within two years.

Darius Butler, the 41st overall pick in 2009, Kyle Arrington, and Jonathan Wilhite, have all started at some point, but will battle for the remaining roster spots.

Butler has been a disappointment to this point, yet his physical skills are intriguing. If he doesn’t have a strong training camp and pre season, he could be a candidate for trade or release.

Arrington emerged as a starter last season, but would be best suited as a sub-package defender. He has a physical element to his game and is a terrific special teams player.

Wilhite is also strictly a nickel guy, but I think he’ll be cut this season.

Overall, the team has a great mix of guys at corner, which should make up for the lack of a pass rush. Dowling, Bodden and McCourty are a great trio and the depth behind them is solid.

State of the Position Grade: B+