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Patriots
New England Patriots

Patriots 2022 Draft Grades: Does New England’s Draft Make Sense?

  • Kyle Crabbs
  • May 4, 2022
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Patriots 2022 Draft Grades

Oh boy. To fully summarize my thoughts on the New England Patriots 2022 NFL Draft class, you’ll need to wind the clocks back to 2021. Twelve months ago, the Patriots were in the midst of a heater, pulling pro-Kyle Crabbs brand players off the board left and right. Christian Barmore? Liked him plenty. Ronnie Perkins? Saw ample potential. Rhamondre Stevenson? Huge fan. Cameron McGrone? Likewise. And then the Joshuah Bledsoe pick happened and I snapped. Who does Bill Belichick think he is, drafting this many players I’d spent the spring pounding the table for?!

And so I entered a plea to coach Belichick during our 2021 Draft coverage. Enough was enough. Stop picking my players

Well, I think he listened. 

There was no sense of bewilderment with this year’s Patriots class. Instead, New England appeared to draft exclusively for need but didn’t pursue the players I’d value for the team even if they did. It’s a funny world we live in, where a team can reach both extreme ends of the spectrum for your personal preference in consecutive drafts. And yet here we are, because there isn’t much for me to be excited about with this group. 

But let’s be fair and objective and take the walk through New England’s 2022 class and explore the path to productivity and success. 

Patriots 2022 Draft Grades

Round 1 (No. 29 overall): Cole Strange, IOL, Chattanooga

I’ll say this. I expect Cole Strange to be a successful starter for the Patriots. I don’t know if it comes at guard or at center long-term, but I certainly think he’ll be an asset up front. And from that perspective, perhaps we graded this pick too harshly. After all, we saw Strange, Philadelphia’s Cam Jurgens, Tampa’s Luke Goedeke, Jacksonville’s Luke Fortner, and more all come off the board inside the top-100; plus a pick in Logan Bruss to that same Los Angeles Rams team that sneered at Strange being picked at No. 29 overall. But man, opportunity cost here feels like it could loom large. 

What other moves? What other pass rushers or coverage players could have been picked here and opened the Patriots up for other options that feature more appealing players (in my opinion)? Plenty. Daxton Hill or Kyler Gordon here, followed by Jurgens or Goedeke or Fortner at 50 and then Jalen Tolbert at 85 (picked 88th) would have been interesting, as would have been adding other pieces and then grabbing Memphis’ Dylan Parham at No. 85. 

But it all starts at the top and New England made their choice with Strange setting the dominoes in place for every decision the rest of the way.

Round 2 (No. 50 overall): Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor

So you’ve got a need for speed? Got it. Tyquan Thornton is your guy. He ran one of the fastest times ever for a wide receiver and did so at 6-foot-2. And if you’re looking for a fit, Thornton runs the deep routes that Mac Jones throws very well. There’s plenty of crossover. But at No. 50 overall? Again, I have no problem with the vision for the player but the price paid to secure him and the opportunities that New England missed by not going a different direction here will make you question the decision.

Round 3 (No. 85 overall): Marcus Jones, CB, Houston

Round 4 (No. 121 overall): Jack Jones, CB, Arizona State

I’m going to package these picks together because New England decided to double-dip at cornerback at the end of Day 2 and the beginning of Day 3. And while I fully support the choice to go get more secondary help (shoutout to Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs!), the team choosing to go after the Joneses is curious to me. Marcus Jones is 5-foot-8, 174 pounds. Jack Jones is 5-foot-11, 171 pounds. 

… y’all gonna play them outside? Or are you going to trust those reps to—gulp—Malcolm Butler and Jalen Mills? 

As a matter of fact, the slot position was arguably the one spot you DIDN’T need help in the cornerback room, especially given the versatility of your safeties. 

Perhaps New England is drafting small to try to mirror and match the speed receivers flooding the AFC East, in which case I’d applaud them for having foresight for what the division has become. But boy, envisioning patting either one of these two young guys on the butt and telling them to go take Hill or Diggs for 60 minutes is hard to envision. I will say this: Marcus Jones should offer plenty on special teams as a return player—that is a fit I see and like a lot.

Round 4 (No. 127 overall): Pierre Strong Jr., RB, South Dakota State

Let me start here. I like the player. A lot! I think Pierre Strong Jr. is an appropriate value for the early picks on Day 3 and I’m sure he, like Strange, will be a pesky player to play against. But with a second-year quarterback in the building, I have to ask: Is Strong Jr. going to play significant snaps? 

He won’t play over a healthy Damian Harris. He won’t play over Rhamondre Stevenson. He won’t play over James White. Between DeVante Parker, the second-round draft choice in Thornton, Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith plus the three running backs, Strong Jr. currently projects as the team’s 10th most likely target to collect the football? 

While the above may suggest depth is in place for New England’s skill players, it really means they’ve got a log-jam at the running back position and drafted this player with no clear and obvious path to getting him on the field in 2022. Harris is an expiring contract, so great, you drafted a 2023 contributor as a team with a win-now mentality? I don’t really get it. 

Round 4 (No. 137 overall): Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky

Speaking of things I don’t get, you are literally drafting a third-string quarterback in the fourth round of one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory 10 picks after drafting your fourth running back. (And just wait until No. 183 when the team drafts… its fifth running back!) 

I understand some of these players might not be a fit specifically for New England, but here are some of the picks who came off the board after Zappe at No. 137 overall: 

  • WR Calvin Austin III, Pittsburgh (138)
  • WR/TE Isaiah Likely, Baltimore (139)
  • OL Zack Tom, Green Bay (140)
  • WR Khalil Shakir, Buffalo (148)
  • DL Thomas Booker, Houston (150)
  • CB Tariq Woolen, Seattle (153)

This list continues. I’d love to hear the sales pitch on how an Air Raid quarterback with mid-level traits is going to help Jones in Year 2, especially with the loss of the team’s offensive coordinator over the offseason. I’ll hang up and listen.

Round 6 (No. 183 overall): Kevin Harris, RB, South Carolina

There’s really not too much sense getting worked up about anything this late in the draft given the relative expectations for sixth-round draft choices. Kevin Harris is plenty fine as a between the tackles runner. But again, the strategy to continuously double and triple down on a backfield that offers a slew of talent already is one that seems to indicate New England is set on toting the rock 40 times a game. If that’s the case, I just don’t get a great feeling for the vote of confidence that does or doesn’t give Jones as the team’s young starting quarterback. 

Round 6 (No. 200 overall): Sam Roberts, IDL, NW Missouri State

The name of the game is upside. Sam Roberts was a highly productive player and offers an NFL-ready build at 6-foot-5 and 293 pounds. Think of him as a potential contender for the reps taken by Byron Cowart on the line—which is an important note as Cowart enters the final year of his rookie deal and will be due for a pay raise.

Round 6 (No. 210 overall): Chasen Hines, IOL, LSU

Round 7 (No. 245 overall): Andrew Stueber, OT, Michigan

Late-round maulers who thrive in the run game? We’re back on schedule, baby! This is exactly the kind of move you’d expect from New England given a couple of variables: 

  • Their incurred losses in the offensive line
  • Their history of developing later draft choices in the trenches

Granted, coach Dante Scarnecchia is no longer in the picture, but Hines and Stueber have gotten high-level coaching at LSU and Michigan respectively and I can certainly see pathways to both eventually becoming contributors. Stueber in particular is a scheme fit I like a lot on the right side of the line. 

 

At the end of the day, I’m willing to give the Patriots’ intel the benefit of the doubt as it pertains to if No. 29 overall was the right place to draft Strange. It was the shock of night one but I also would not be surprised to see Strange develop quickly into a plus starter for New England. But the Strange pick, as the weekend progressed, quickly fell down the list of strange picks for the Patriots. 

Opportunity cost relative to the roles we’re assuming the Patriots were looking to fill seemed to leave value on the table. And, even more troubling, I felt as though the draft was overly redundant and didn’t speak much to the confidence New England has in Jones making significant progress in year two. A fourth-round pick on a running back and another quarterback, then taking another running back in the sixth round? Maybe the team has high hopes for Parker being the catalyst New England needs to make the jump in the passing game, but I’m here to tell you that would be a miscalculation. 

Maybe Belichick still has the magic touch. And if he does, shame on me for not seeing the grand vision. But this class feels alarmingly close to the team’s 2006, 2015 or 2019 draft efforts.

GRADE: D+

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Kyle Crabbs