While many speculated that the Patriots were interested in dealing the first pick in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, they chose instead to go out and get their man: cornerback Ras-I Dowling out of Virginia. The question is, was he the right man?
Pats Pulpit's Richard Hill certainly seems to think so, calling Dowling the "best fit corner" for the Patriots:
The Patriots did not have a workout with the 6-1, 200 lbs Dowling. He was a first round prospect entering his final season, but was hampered by injuries and dropped out of the first round. He was a team captain and, prior to his senior year, was a very healthy player. He's the best zone corner in the draft, which plays well with the Patriots' style of defense and he's a strong tackler.
Overall, I'm sure some people are disappointed that the Patriots couldn't move #33, but Dowling is the best fit corner for the Patriots defense in the entire draft and would not have been available if the Patriots traded down.
Dan Kadar of Mocking The Draft is not nearly so convinced, however, citing Dowling's difficulty staying on the field as the main knock against him:
Dowling is the latest cornerback for the Patriots to take. The team took Devin McCourty last season, and he looks like a promising player. The Patriots now may have themselves a pair of starters at cornerback for years. That is, if Dowling can stay healthy.
Following the 2010 season, Dowling looked like a solid first-round pick. He was more regarded than Vikings second-round pick Chris Cook and budding Cavaliers star Chase Minniefield. Other than his injury history, Dowling has the look of a top-level cornerback. Staying healthy, though, has been such an issue that it's hard to think too highly of him.