Devin McCourty, Patriots
2011 stats: 87 tackles, two interceptions
What he must prove: McCourty must prove his stellar rookie year wasn’t a fluke. New England’s 2010 first-round pick took the NFL by storm as a rookie with 82 tackles, seven interceptions and two forced fumbles. McCourty looked like a genius pick by the Patriots and made the Pro Bowl. But McCourty had a huge sophomore slump in 2011. He struggled mightily in coverage. He lost his confidence and also had a shoulder injury. Towards the end of the season McCourty was moved to safety.
Walker's 2012 outlook: This is a tough one. For as impressive as McCourty looked as a rookie, he was equally as bad last season. The NFL is a "now" league. You're only as good as your last game/season. I expect McCourty to improve but I don't anticipate him being the shutdown No. 1 corner he was on track to be his first season. The Patriots will give McCourty a chance at corner again. But if that doesn’t work out, expect him to rotate playing time at safety. One thing that is consistent with McCourty is his solid tackling. He’s solid in that area and that will keep him on the field.