From the primary choose of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Patriots put everybody — followers, draft specialists, and native media — on the again foot.
By the time it was over — a number of controversial/head-scratching picks, together with double-dipping at operating again, later — folks across the area have been asking themselves, “What was that?”
What it was, in reality, was the Patriots realizing two issues: they’re in peril of falling behind the remainder of their division, and the inflexible value-based system they’ve so usually employed simply wasn’t getting it accomplished.
So they appeared to throw the normal playbook out of the window in an effort to begin making a roster extra like the remainder of the trendy NFL. Whether or not the way in which they did it can work? Well, that’s going to rely.
Here are just a few takeaways from the 2022 NFL Draft.
Patriots get their guys.
It’s no secret that NFL groups don’t all the time see issues the identical means as followers and media who comply with them, particularly relating to the draft. Though draft specialists watch loads of soccer and may consider expertise, they’re not within the rooms with the individuals who really make the picks ultimately.
That’s by no means been extra clear than this season so far as the Patriots have been involved.
But somewhat than New England’s draft being considerably complicated, it’d in truth be far more direct than folks notice.
After years of preaching worth and prioritizing sure positions above others, Bill Belichick has considerably thrown that strategy to the wind this 12 months. And it boils down to at least one issue: get the blokes we wish.
Who cares the place the specialists thought Cole Strange ought to’ve gone within the draft or in the event that they thought Tyquan Thornton may’ve gone within the fifth spherical?
Why ought to we care if folks suppose we should always’ve gotten a linebacker or one other receiver within the fourth spherical as an alternative of Jack Jones or Pierre Strong Jr.?
And what does it matter if persons are scratching their heads about deciding on a quarterback once we have already got a starter?
They needed these gamers, and so they weren’t going to let anybody else soar the road for them after buying and selling down within the first spherical.
The Patriots knew they wanted velocity and unapologetically sought it out in gamers like Thornton and Strong — the quickest NFL Combine performers at receiver and operating again, respectively — no matter whether or not it was a attain or if that they had different gamers on the roster.
Could their plan to maintain up with the remainder of the division and convention fail? Perhaps. But if it does, Belichick and New England will go down swinging doing it their very own means.
This is in regards to the future.
The Patriots have been fortunate sufficient to have three of their prime 4 picks in 2021 –Mac Jones, Christian Barmore, and Rhamondre Stevenson — contribute instantly as rookies.
This 12 months, the speedy contributions really feel a bit tougher to see (apart from Strange), although that’s not essentially a nasty factor.
Thornton will be capable of sit behind the likes of Nelson Agholor, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, and Jakobi Meyers and study from Troy Brown whereas often operating a fly route or slant.
The Jones brothers will battle for particular groups roles whereas the likes of Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones (SO many Joneses), Myles Bryant (probably), Terrance Mitchell, and Jalen Mills deal with the cornerback duties.
Strong and Kevin Harris received’t see the sector a lot (in principle) behind Damien Harris, Stevenson, and James White (if wholesome).
But subsequent 12 months, all that might change. Tons of gamers may very well be coming off of the books in free company. The extensive receiver room may very well be fully completely different; the Patriots aren’t financially obligated to maintain a single considered one of them previous subsequent 12 months. Damien Harris might be a free agent, and his ability set is, sadly, fairly expendable. The cornerback room is essentially replacement-level.
Even the offensive line picks may get an opportunity to get within the combine with the offensive tackles doubtlessly each being gone after subsequent season.
There’s all the time the chance that somebody (maybe the scrappy, productive Marcus Jones) surprises us and performs a much bigger position than anticipated. But even when that doesn’t materialize in Year 1, don’t throw them out the window simply but. This staff may look lots completely different in a 12 months, and these rookies may maintain the important thing to the long run.
Protecting Mac Jones is the main focus.
As a lot as everybody needed New England to draft extensive receivers this 12 months, Belichick appeared to purchase into a unique focus: defending their younger quarterback.
Strange is clearly the principle attraction right here, however the staff additionally grabbed just a few of the great outdated late-round picks — Chasen Hines and Andrew Stueber — to function initiatives this new offensive line teaching employees can work with.
As irritating because the Strange choose within the first spherical was, the calculus feels easy in hindsight: how can the Patriots as carefully approximate the standard of final 12 months’s offensive line play as doable with Shaq Mason and Ted Karras gone? Slotting Michael Onwenu, who really grader larger final 12 months than Mason, at proper guard is seemingly a straightforward alternative. But Strange could be a greater guess to play at Karras’s stage off the bat than one other sixth-round choose (a minimum of at first).
As for the receivers: they have already got quite a lot of them, and buying and selling for Parker permits them to make use of their present items, like Agholor, higher than they did final 12 months. Aside from including Thornton and some undrafted guys, New England seems set to squeeze what they’ll from their present group.
But none of that may occur if Mac Jones can’t keep upright, each this 12 months and the next seasons. You can by no means have sufficient good offensive line depth, and nobody (usually) understands that higher than the Patriots.
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