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Trumaine Johnson could be the Patriots’ kind of cornerback

02.26.12 at 12:22 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Do the Patriots need to add a cornerback in the draft again?

After taking corners very high in each of the last three drafts, it’s a position that still isn’t completely settled for the Pats. Given that they have big names in Devin McCourty and a hopefully healthy Ras-I Dowling, as well as Kyle Arrington (amongst the most underrated corners in the NFL after leading the league in picks and having the fifth-best tackle efficiency in the NFL with just three missed tackles), they probably don’t need a first-round pick to address the position.

For that reason, when it comes to this year’s cornerbacks in the NFL draft, it should be that next tier of guys that the Pats look at. One of them took the podium Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Montana product Trumaine Johnson.

Ranked by ESPN Scouts, Inc. as the fifth-best corner in the draft, the Pats could potentially land Johnson with one of their two first-round picks. He played only one game against FBS competition, a 42-16 loss to Tennessee to open last season, but he held his own and showed that just because he comes from a small school, he plays a big game.

Yet the questions with Johnson will come down to his lack of competition. Coming out of high school, he thought he’d be going to an FBS program, but it didn’t happen.

“I went to USC camp, went to the Cal full contact camp. They said they were going to offer me [a scholarship],” he said. “They never called me back. USC never called me back either. ASU was supposed to take me out on a visit. Usually, when you go on a visit, they offer you [a scholarship], but they never called me back either. I didn’t want to go to a junior college, so I went to Montana.”

It was there that Johnson, a former quarterback who had been recruited as a receiver was moved to cornerback. The position was a fit, as he started 46 games, including six with a broken arm. At nearly 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds, Johnson is a big, physical corner who loves to tackle. He played boundary corner at Montana in run support and is willing to play safety, so for a Pats team that likes those types of defensive backs, Johnson could be a fit.

Johnson does have some character issues on his record. He was academically ineligible during spring 2011 practices, and he was arrested early in the season when he and a teammate were noncompliant with officers who showed up to a party they were having. The situation got heated quickly, as both players ended up being shot with a stun gun.

Yet while he has his issues, there’s a lot of intrigue surrounding Johnson. On paper, he has all the skills needed for his position, and the Pats sure do like corners who can tackle. It was a big reason they chose McCourty in the first round of the 2010 draft.

Another thing that comes with Johnson is his work ethic. As a guy who’s had to change positions and avoid getting too comfortable playing against lesser competition, he has focused on sharpening his technique to make as close to NFL-ready as he can be. He likens himself to Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, another FCS cornerback who showed he could play in the NFL when he was drafted 16th overall by the Cardinals in 2008.

“I love the game,” Johnson said. “I love the competition and I feed off it. I believe I belong in the NFL.”

Read More: 2012 combine, 2012 NFL Draft,
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