10 possible Pats: Chase Minnifield

In the days leading up to the NFL draft, ESPNBoston.com will identify players who project as solid fits for the Patriots:

Player: Chase Minnifield

School: Virginia

Position: Cornerback

Listed height/weight:5-foot-10 3/8, 183 pounds

Scouts Inc. rank: 12th

Draft projection: Middle rounds

Why he’s on our list: Minnifield’s discipline, intangibles and smarts are off the charts, and he knows all about the pro game because his father, Frank, was a four-time Pro Bowler who was with the Browns from 1984-1992. Frank Minnifield’s head coach his final season with the Browns was Bill Belichick. While Chase Minnifield has recently had some injury issues (knee surgery), he was one of Virginia’s most durable players over his career. He also has experience in the return game (the Patriots struggled in the kickoff return game in 2011). Similar to Brandon Tate in 2009, this could be a situation where the Patriots select Minnifield and potentially start him on the physically unable to perform list.

Recommended link: Tom Robinson, writing on the Roanoke (Va.) Times website, notes that Minnifield is looking to continue the streak of high Virginia cornerbacks selected in the draft, while sharing details on how his father has influenced his career (link here).

Key stat: His good ball skills are reflected in his total of 13 career interceptions.

Workout stat: Results were disappointing, which could be attributed to his recovery from knee surgery.

Steve Muench of Scouts Inc.: “Minnfield’s stock has dipped since the end of the regular season thanks in large part to a knee injury that forced him to miss the Chick-fil-A Bowl and required surgery, which he underwent in January. It’s not just a durability issue either. Swelling in the knee prevented him from running at the Combine and then he ran the 40 in the mid-4.6 range at his Pro Day this year, raising concerns about his top-end speed. Plus he is lean and his height is slightly below average. However, it’s worth pointing out that the injury prevented him from training properly and his hamstring tightened that day. In fact, he reportedly ran in the low 4.5s at Virginia’s Pro Day in 2011 and that time is a better reflection of the speed he shows on film. While he doesn’t have the fluid hips to turn and run with elite vertical threats when they get a clean release, he’s an effective press corner that makes it tough for receivers to get off the line. There’s also a lot to like about his instincts and ability to make plays in the ball. In terms of tackling, he’s better than his size would suggest. He can help out in run support and limit production after the catch. Finally, Minnifield can line up over the slot or on the outside. That versatility should be attractive for the Patriots considering the durability concerns surrounding 2011 second-round pick Ras-I Dowling, who is a former teammate of Minnifield.”