Talking about the New England Patriots’ performance in the NFL draft, that is.
Welp, since we’ve been considering that answer over the last week and a half or so, we have some sort of opinion, no?
But ummmmm…nope! WHO THE HELL KNOWS??!
I know, we could pretty much make that assertion after ANY draft in ANY sports league. I mean, how do we know how these guys will pan out several years down the road?
And guess what?
No one does.
Not even Mel Kiper Jr. Or the guys on Boston sports radio this past week absolutely ripping Belichick for his selections. I usually listen to a fair amount of sports radio, to be honest. Shocker, I know! But I couldn’t even listen this week.
Listen, I know with absolutely nothing else going on in the sports world, they have to talk about SOMETHING. And what kind of entertainment would it be if they just agreed with everything the local teams did?
Wouldn’t be much of a show. They know that. And we SHOULD know that.
So let’s look at things a little more realistically. Acknowledging that Bill’s recent draft history has left a lot to be desired as well.
But as we said previously, what teams’ draft history is perfect? Or anywhere near that?
Again, absolutely nobody’s.
I still can’t fathom how Bill still gets ripped for his first rounders the last two years, running back Sony Michel, tackle Isaiah Wynn and wide receiver N’Keal Harry.
I know I wouldn’t have taken a RB or WR where they stood in those drafts, nor an OT that projected in the pros to be an offensive guard. And that players taken after them in their respective years have outperformed them thus far. But what the hell do I know? More than people that scout these players? Nope. And neither do you. And neither does Mel Kiper Jr., for that matter.
No one knows how the player will fit in the system of the particular team that drafts them. Or in the locker room. Or how sensitive they are. Or how they will take to coaching. Or good how that coaching actually is? Or how they will react with a truckload of dollars being thrown at them for the first time. Or their response to facing adversity on the field which they never had to in college or high school. Or all that.
But the people who work for those professional teams should have a better idea than you or me. Or Mel Kiper Jr.
They should anyway. But that’s why some of them lose jobs, I guess.
In any event, I am not giving up on the aforementioned first rounders. Wynn and Harry have largely been injured. Harry could not gain Tom Brady’s trust, not the first receiver to have that happen to him. Michel was pretty good as a rookie, once he got going. He regressed as a sophomore. His line sucked though. And maybe not having a fullback really did affect him. I don’t love the fullback excuse, but again, what the hell do I know?
Perhaps the fact that he can’t catch the ball and therefore when he was in the game, it screamed “run”. But then again, maybe the rope wasn’t long enough after a few drops? Keep throwing to him. And maybe it works eventually? I don’t know. You would think the defense wouldn’t be so geared up to stopping the run when he is in the game at the very least…I would think anyway.
I will say that I don’t see any of that burst that he supposedly came with from college. But perhaps without a knee surgery this offseason we will finally see that in his third year. Or maybe his knees, which everyone knew would eventually become a problem as a professional, are actually shot.
I’m giving him a chance this year anyway. I mean, Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead are still around, so there are other choices. But one is unproven and the other gets hurt all the time. Plus Michel doesn’t exactly make much dough. So let’s see what happens.
Back to this years’ draft.
Yup, another shocker right off the bat. After Bill traded out of the first round (not a shocker), he took a Division II safety at pick #37. WHAT???!! With one of the top safeties in college, at a top school (LSU), still on the board.
I initially thought this was crazy. Not to mention that safety did not appear to be an immediate position of need. I figured that this guy could return kicks and slot right into the departed Nate Ebner’s special teams spot. And that is the best of what we were looking at. Wouldn’t be Bill’s first second round defensive backfield bust, as we all know.
But then I started looking into this kid, Kyle Duggar. He was slated to go in the second round of many mock drafts, so maybe it wasn’t a big a reach as I initially thought? Yes, later in the second round in the mocks that I saw. But one had him at #43, so that was a little promising anyway.
So now, it didn’t appear that this was a similar pick to Tavon Wilson, projected in the 7th, taken in the 2nd. Or Duron Harmon, projected to be undrafted, taken in the 3rd, to name a couple.
And then, I realized that safety may be a bigger need than I thought. Devin McCourty just re-signed for two years, but would it shock anyone if he is done after that? Or even one year, with his brothers’ contract only having one year left? Patrick Chung has been pretty good since he returned to the Patriots several years ago, but took a beating last season and may not be the same guy going forward. Harmon is in Detroit. Terrance Brooks and Adrian Phillips are best known for special teams.
If Duggar can adapt his game to this level over the next two years, adding to what he showed physically to get him to a second or third round grade, maybe he will be something?
Time will tell.
But what about other positions of need?? Or that LSU safety?
As for the LSU safety, maybe he looked good because his team was stacked? Could be.
And the other “perceived” positions of need? QB, TE, WR, OL, DT, LB?
Well, I thought they may take a QB. But late. Someone for the future, not someone to compete with Jarrett Stidham or, allegedly, Brian Hoyer. I didn’t buy the talk that they were using a “premium pick” on a QB. And that’s why they also let guys like Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton sign elsewhere. I think they really believe in Stidham. Yes, Cam Newton is still out there too. But I just don’t see it.
Tight end. They were not taking one that high. Cole Kmet or no Cole Kmet. He was supposedly the best of a weak tight end crop. Doesn’t mean you have to take him. Plus, they got two soon thereafter. Maybe they aren’t that great either. But maybe they will be similar enough to Kmet.
Receiver? I honestly think they are happy with the guys they have now. Hard to believe. But I think, especially without Brady around, they expect Harry and Jakobi Meyers to establish a good rapport with Stidham and make a nice second year leap. Or they are at least counting on it anyway.
O-Line. The starters are back, including David Andrews. So what you would be drafting here is for depth. The Pats have a number of reserves coming back as well though, including two mid-round picks from 2019 that didn’t play a snap last year in Hjalte Froholdt and Yodny Cajuste. And two guys they sent a draft pick for that barely played last season in Korey Cunningham and Jermaine Eluemunor. So maybe they didn’t need to go too crazy here? They did take a few late round guys that may be ticketed for the practice squad, so there’s that.
Defensive tackle. Maybe they feel like another year in the system helps Byron Cowart, a fifth rounder from 2019. And he seals up the 4th spot in the rotation. Maybe one of the undrafted dudes makes it like Adam Butler did a while back. Maybe they don’t care about stopping the run? I’m not losing a whole lot of sleep about it though. They move defensive ends, linebackers and even safeties around for run support. So perhaps that is again the plan, despite it not working out all that great last season.
Linebackers. The next two picks after Duggar were LBs…done.
So going through it objectively, does it seem like a bad draft at this very point in time? No. Not yet anyway. If these players all suck, then it will be a bad draft. But again, no one knows that now.
The Pats love versatility. They got a whole ton of that in just about all of these guys.
And they got a kicker! Who didn’t see that one coming? The guy may have ummmm…made some questionable tattoo choices, but if he can kick I don’t think Bill cares. If the tattoo is still there come the fall, methinks that will be addressed inside the locker room. And that’s good enough for me. For now, I will take the kid at his word though, that he was simply an idiot when he got it. A stupid kid. No crime in that. That’s all too common nowadays actually.
In any event, supposedly this kid kicked plenty “in the elements”, which of course is important in Foxborough. And probably a big reason that the bespectacled kid from Georgia wasn’t taken by them instead. Though he wasn’t drafted by anyone so that probably says something as well. If the kid doesn’t work out, then Nick Folk and yes, Stephen Gostkowski, will likely be available by the time they figure out if the kid sucks.
One thing I was surprised about was that Bill didn’t make any trades into the draft for next year. He actually traded a sixth from 2021 as part of a trade in this years’ draft to move up. But I guess that is neither here nor there. He’s just going to move around a bunch in next years’ draft anyway.
So was this draft all this bad? Again, we will see. I expect the top 6 picks to provide some value to the team on the field in the upcoming season. Perhaps their seventh pick (mammoth guard Michael Onwenu) makes the squad as well. The last three guys are probably headed to the practice squad if they make it there. That seems like a good percentage of picks sticking on the roster. And then there is the undrafted player or two that always makes it. Not bad on paper I would say.
We will just have to see how much value these guys actually add…long-term especially. Come back in about three years and we can revisit…
Lastly, everybody else:
Locks: John Simon, Chase Winovich
In: Derek Rivers
Out: Deatrich Wise, Keionta Davis, Nick Thurman, Tashawn Bower
Comments: Wishful thinking on Wise I guess. Rivers perhaps too. With Wise, it’s probably time for him to go. He still looks like he can add value, but they haven’t played him much. And when they do, he always commits at least one dumb penalty. As for Rivers, he has played one season out of his three thus far. Two full years on injured reserve. I only added him here because while we have seen enough of Wise on the field, we really haven’t with Rivers. Can he play? Who the hell knows?
Truth be told, this position could use a major upgrade, so they both probably won’t be here when the smoke clears. And it probably won’t matter.
I’m not sure I even want Winovich to play full time either. He looks to me like a situational pass rusher and core special teamer. But what do I know?
I’d use a few draft picks here for sure.
Locks: Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Beau Allen
In: Byron Cowart
Comments: I don’t know a single thing about Allen. He has to be as good as Danny Shelton though, no? Well, the 2019 version. Not the 2018 healthy scratch one. Again, I am not sure why we will miss Shelton anyway. When did he become a key loss? It’s not exactly like the Pats were real stout against the run last year.
In a normal year, Guy may be a candidate for an extension and a lower cap number. But again, I don’t think the Pats are doing that with anyone this offseason. Everyone who watched tape swore that Guy was awesome…and has been since he has joined the Pats. I’ll take their word for it. Again, how were they against the run last season? Sigh…
Expect a draft pick or two here as well.
Locks: Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley
In: Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland, Terez Hall
Comments: Calhoun I guess plays some “edge” and is a special teamer. Copeland comes from the Jets, which automatically makes me question him. Hall is getting some buzz here in the spring as a guy that could make some noise. That should make Hall himself nervous. Too early for that kind of hype.
Hightower is one of the three aforementioned players with huge cap hits that could be addressed. But similar to Devin McCourty last season, we think Dont’a gets all his money on this contract and plays this year as is. Leadership, team transition, call it what you want. Hightower has won Super Bowls and will probably be seeking one last big fat contract before he is done. He was allowed to shop himself last time he hit free agency (a la Devin), but nothing apparently materialized and he ended up back in NE. Maybe he took a discount last time. But not next time. Bill will gladly take the compensatory pick next year when Dont’a walks.
Big year for Bentley. Let’s see if he can get back to what he showed in his rookie season before his injury. Because he was no great shakes last year.
Draft picks are sure to be had here as well.
And at least Elandon Roberts is gone.
Locks: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams
Out: D’Angelo Ross, Lenzy Pipkins
Comments: Some buzz about trading Gilmore now…who is the last of the three I mentioned earlier (Hightower, Thuney) that would be normal candidates for extension or trade to get the cap number down on a team that would seem to be transitioning. Steph has another year besides this one left on his deal and after he won NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, no doubt will be looking for a HUGE payday in his next deal. At age 29 right now, he is unlikely to get it here. I expect him to be here this year at the current cap number. Then I would absolutely not rule out a trade next offseason, even if this season goes way better than expected.
Pretty solid cornerback group otherwise. Keeping Jason McCourty at his inflated option price probably helped keep his brother Devin. But in today’s NFL, with its emphasis on passing, you would seem to need a slew of good corners. So having Jason around won’t hurt them.
Jones plays well out of the slot and Jackson is still young and improving. He may be the #2 guy this year anyway.
I don’t see the Pats giving up on last years’ second rounder Williams. Although, they gave up on the previous years’ second rounder, Duke Dawson, fairly quickly. And Joejuan got busted for drugs earlier in the offseason. So that can’t help. But since the drugs were weed, he’s probably safe.
Locks: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Terrance Brooks
In: Obi Melifonwu, Adrian Phillips
Out: Adarius Pickett, Malik Gant
Comments: Somewhat surprising Devin got as much dough as he did…but it was only for two years, so I am ok with it. Especially under the circumstances. Meaning, his leadership matters. And, more importantly, a LOT of contracts are coming off the books in the next couple of years.
In fact, while we are talking about it, the Pats only have 12 players under contract in 2022. 8 are 1 million-ish and under. Joejuan is about 2 and N’Keal about 3. Only Jonathan Jones at about 8 and Mason at about 10 are significant outlays that year.
Anyway, back to the safeties. Still old. How much does Chung have left? He took a beating last season. Moreso than he usually takes. Phillips (allegedly) and Brooks are glorified special teamers. Maybe Obi-Wan Kenobi too (and I’ve never even seen any of the Star Wars…impressive, no??!! Ok, ummm…).
Expecting some draftees here as well.
Locks: ????? ?????????? (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Justin Bethel (ST), Brandon Bolden (ST), Brandon King (ST)
In: Cody Davis (ST)
Comments: Welp, they will eventually need a kicker. So…that position has to kind of has to be a lock, no? I’m thinking inexpensive, mid-round pick. With Nick Folk (still unsigned) on speed dial. No one is talking about it now either. But can we rule out a return for long-time kicker…Stephen Gostkowski…at some point? Haha…did you think I was going to say Adam Vinatieri?! Nah. He may come back to the Colts, but I am thinking his time has come for the old age home. He won’t be here, for sure.
What if Gostkowski has a clean bill of health late in camp or at least early in the season? And doesn’t have a job by then? Would he come back for presumably short money? I’d keep an eye on that for sure.
The rest of the guys…blah, blah, blah. Have to have a requisite number of core special teamers, don’t you?
That concludes our waaaaaaay too early look at the roster. Probably about 60% accurate from who will break camp with the team in August/September. But always a fun exercise to do…even in April. Again, since there isn’t much of anything better to do…
Next: We are done…I wouldn’t have the energy I don’t think anyway…
Continuing on with the offense, as promised (threatened?!):
Locks: Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris
In: Rex Burkhead, Dan Vitale (FB)
Out: James Develin (FB), Jakob Johnson (FB)
Comments: Much less interesting than the quarterback position. Michel was not very good last year. But neither was the offensive line. Hopefully, they both improve. Because he will likely get most of the touches again.
Not to mention that I believe that with Stidham at QB, the Pats will try to run the ball even more. Rely more on that and the defense to win games. I believe Belichick has wanted to do that since drafting Michel. To protect against Brady getting old at first. Now to lessen the burden on a young QB.
Harris is primed for a bigger role this year after he spent his rookie season redshirting. Not unusual for a young back to go this route, just ask White.
Rex is a popular potential salary cap casualty pick by a lot of people. But, like a lot of guys on this roster (White included), I think the team sticks with them in the final year of their contracts. Again, I don’t expect this roster to look much different once training camps open in July (presumably). Other than new, cheap faces. So I don’t think any of the popular “they can cut him to create cap space” guys are going anywhere. Plus Rex is pretty good when healthy. I know, good health is kind of a problem for him. But still…
Don’t be surprised if Harris was groomed to take White’s role. Similar to White being groomed to take Shane Vereen’s role. Could White be traded to open up that door as soon as this season? Possible. But I don’t see it. They will probably just let him walk after the year. Like what they did with Vereen. Plus, no one knows how capable Harris is yet anyway. And Bill LOVES those compensatory picks.
Develin is a coaches favorite. But the way I see it, Vitale’s signing means that Dev is not ready. Neck injuries are kind of serious folks. Maybe he starts on PUP. Maybe he goes on IR for another year. Maybe he gets released. Maybe the Pats carry two fullbacks? Maybe Vitale is just here until Develin is deemed fully healthy so that Michel has his security blanket back?
I can’t believe I just wrote this much on the fullback position…
Locks: Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu
In: Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers
Out: Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo, Devin Ross
Comments: Many people all of a sudden want to trade Jules to Tampa to be with his buddy. But the Bucs have Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. I think Tom will be ok. And then I hear during this writing about rumors of Jules to…Detroit??!
Jules should be good for Stidham. And maybe Jarrett won’t feel the need to target him 400 times, so that can keep Edelman healthy…for a while anyway. I get it, Julian was the most reliable receiver for Brady last year. By far. So Tom kept looking for him. And it worked for a long time. But man, did Jules take a beating last season. Let’s keep him around to help the kid. But let’s also develop a couple of other guys so that Edelman is able to stay on the field.
This is where Harry and Meyers, in particular, come in. They need to develop a rapport with Jarrett. Meyers had one in the preseason last season. But that was the preseason. I do think that’s what keeps him on this years’ roster, however.
Harry HAS to work. And since he won’t have a QB that hates him now (presumably), maybe N’Keal can take the next step.
Gunner seemed to be a desperation roster add last year during final cuts, in order to mainly return punts…but now that Sanu is here, it’s not necessary to keep him. Sanu can return pun…oh wait, that’s how he got hurt last season when he got here and then was useless after. Nevermind. But although Gunner was game, he took his own beating. And while he may be a nice practice squad guy, the Pats should do better.
That’s where Byrd comes in. Maybe he can return all kicks. And add some speed. And be more useful than Phillip Dorsett. Is that too much to ask?
As for Sanu, people want to cut him as well for salary cap purposes. As bad as he was down the stretch last year, I am going to give him somewhat of a pass because of the injury. He IS a proven receiver in this league. If healthy, he should be a good receiver for this team. Especially if Harry can establish himself and put Sanu in the #3 role at best.
In: Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo
Comments: A draft pick or three here would seem to be in order. Gronk ain’t walking through that door, my friends. Best of luck in professional wrestling (sigh…). Aaron Hernandez ain’t walking through that door either, and thank the Lord for that. No Ben Coates, Russ Francis or even Marv Cook. Sorry.
Funny thing is, these two dudes may stick. LaCosse was never healthy last year. Maybe he is halfway decent. Izzo was supposedly hurt last season as well. And we know he was hurt the year before. So the team has invested 2 years in him already.
And…they are cheap.
People want the team to bring in a big name here. That won’t happen. It’ll be these two and a mid-round pick. I can almost smell it.
For better or for worse…and I don’t really have anything better to say here.
Locks: Isaiah Wynn (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT)
In: Korey Cunningham (T), Jermaine Eluemunor (G), Yodny Cajuste (T), Hjalte Froholdt (G/C)
Out: Najee Toran (G)
Comments: That line looks pretty good on paper. But will they all be there on Opening Day?
Thuney was surprisingly franchise tagged. Some say he could be moved if there is no progress on an extension to lower the cap hit. Andrews claims he is 100% but is he? Cannon is one of those popular salary cap cuts. And why not keep Thuney and try to trade Mason?
My guess? They will all be here at their current cap numbers.
Thuney will pocket his almost 15 mil…did you see how long it took him to sign the tender? The Pats won’t trade him, as they need the O-Line to be strong for the first year of the Stidham era. And Thuney won’t sign an extension. He will want his first huge long-term contract. Especially since he has already has two Super Bowl rings. The Pats won’t give him one…not yet anyway. And Joe may want to see how that first year of the new era actually goes before committing long term to the franchise.
Andrews hopefully is healthy, Wynn hopefully stays healthy, as will Cannon…and even Mason, as there were indications he was bad last season because he was hurt.
No Dante Scarnecchia? Might be a problem. But he didn’t matter last season. So maybe he won’t matter this year. Hate to say that. But could be true.
The 4 “In” dudes were drafted last season or acquired for picks right before the season. I feel like they all will get another year to see if they are useful. Eluemunor for sure, since they actually tendered him at 2.133 million as a restricted free agent (what?!). The other 3 are still making 6 figures.
Maybe not though, as they all could get pushed by this years’ draft picks. No harm in throwing some more bodies into the mix and see who is left standing in the end.
Next: Defense and specialists.