New England Patriots 2018 NFL Draft Review

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New England Patriots 2018 NFL Draft Review
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The New England Patriots 2018 NFL Draft is officially in the books, and the Pats have received a fresh influx of young talent. The Patriots made so, so many trades, resulting in the following transactions:

  • Traded 95th overall pick for San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Brown and the 143rd overall pick.
  • Traded 43rd overall pick to Detroit Lions for 51st and 117th overall picks.
  • Traded 51st overall pick to Chicago Bears for 105th overall pick and a 2019 second round pick.
  • Traded 63rd and 117th overall pick to Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 56th overall pick.
  • Traded 105th overall pick to Cleveland Browns for 114th and 178th overall picks.
  • Traded 114th overall pick to Detroit Lions for 2019 third round pick
  • Traded 198th overall pick to Kansas City Chiefs for 233rd and 243rd overall picks.
  • Traded 233rd overall pick to Philadelphia Eagles for 250th overall pick and 2019 seventh rounder.

All these moves, along with the picks they had entering the draft, allowed for a sizable haul. In all, nine prospects from the NFL Draft now call New England home.

  • First round, 23rd overall: Isaiah Wynn, offensive lineman, Georgia
  • First round, 31st overall: Sony Michel, running back, Georgia
  • Second round, 56th overall: Duke Dawson, cornerback, Florida
  • Fifth round, 143rd overall: Ja’whaun Bentley, linebacker, Purdue
  • Sixth round, 178th overall: Christian Sam, linebacker, Arizona State
  • Sixth round, 210th overall: Braxton Berrios, wide receiver, Miami
  • Seventh round, 219th overall: Danny Etling, quarterback, LSU
  • Seventh round, 243rd overall: Keion Crossen, cornerback, Carolina
  • Seventh round, 250th overall: Ryan Izzo, tight end, Florida State

New England Patriots 2018 Draft Grade: 8/10

New England Patriots 2018 NFL Draft Review

The Best Player: Isaiah Wynn

Wynn was an absolutely fantastic selection by Bill Belichick and the Patriots organization. Wynn’s height caused him to tumble down draft boards, falling into the Patriots lap at pick 23. While some say that he’s too short to play tackle at 6’2”, the Patriots appear to disagree. Wynn was officially announced by the team as a tackle, and a leaked depth chart reportedly showed Wynn at this position.

Aside from height, all of his measurables suggest he can succeed and thrive as an NFL tackle. His arm length is comparable to the other top tackles in the draft, and he actually performed better in 2017 than both Mike McGlinchey and Kolton Miller.

Even if he is used at guard, he should be an immediate starter from Week One. With Tom Brady soon to turn 41 years old, it’s never been more important to invest in the offensive line. Quite frankly, if Brady goes down, so does this team’s Super Bowl chances. Wynn should be an opening day starter at tackle or guard, and will likely have a long and prosperous NFL career.

The Head-Scratcher: Where is the Front Seven?

The 2017 Patriots were a good team, but there were two glaring weaknesses on the roster. First, they didn’t have sufficient linebacker depth, and role players were exposed when forced to take on bigger roles. Secondly, they didn’t have a well-rounded edge defender outside of Trey Flowers.

Entering the draft with four picks in the first two rounds, it seemed like New England was perfectly placed to fill at least one of these needs. However, the Patriots weren’t able to use any of their early-round selections on the front seven.

Some of this is due to the Tennessee Titans. On two separate occasions, they traded exactly one pick in front of the Patriots and drafted a player that would have fit those needs. In the first round, they traded to the 22nd overall pick to select Rashaan Evans, who would have made a perfect fit. In the second round, the Titans traded up to the 41st pick to select pass rusher, Harold Landry. New England then promptly traded out of the 42nd selection.

However, even with all those trades, it’s surprising to see the Patriots ignore those needs as long as they did. In all, they ignored the front seven entirely until selecting Bentley in the fifth round. In all, they added two linebackers. However, waiting until the fifth round to do so was a surprising move.

In fairness, New England has already addressed some of these needs prior to the NFL Draft. Star linebacker Dont’a Hightower is returning from injury, while the defensive line will get defensive ends Derrick Rivers, free agent signing Adrian Clayborn, and former Cleveland Brown Danny Shelton. Still, it’s surprising to see New England ignore the front seven so much, especially considering the draft capital they had going in.

The Surprise: Duke Dawson

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Patriots used their second-round selection to draft a questionable defensive back who probably would have been available in the third or fourth rounds. It happened again, as Duke Dawson joins the elite ranks of Jordan Richards, Cyrus Jones, Tavon Wilson, and several others as second-round defensive backs that appear to be picked too early.

In fairness, Dawson isn’t as big of a head scratcher as some previous decisions, such as the Richards pick. There are some things Dawson does well, as he projects to be a solid slot cornerback at the next level.

However, there are some glaring holes in his tape. Dawson isn’t a natural tackler and struggles to bring bigger receivers to the ground. While at Florida, he almost exclusively played in the slot and doesn’t project to be an outside cornerback with the Patriots. With Jonathan Jones on the roster and one of the better slot cornerbacks in football, Dawson’s presence feels a little redundant.

The Steal: Braxton Berrios

Berrios was made to be a Patriot. New England has a long and storied history of slot receivers thriving, and Berrios could be the next in line. From Wes Welker to Julian Edelman to Danny Amendola, quick, short players who thrive on option routes will always have a home with the Patriots.

Berrios was an absolute monster out of the slot in Miami. Per Pro Football Focus, Berrios recorded 680 receiving yards and eight touchdowns from the slot in 2017. The eight slot touchdowns rank third among FBS wide receivers.

Berrios doesn’t have recorded times for any of the major drills, such as the three-cone or 20-yard shuttle. However, when watching his film, the explosiveness jumps off the screen. Berrios’ late-round draft status may scare some off his potential, but the slot role has never been occupied by a high-round pick. Welker and Amendola went undrafted, while Edelman was selected with the 232nd pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Berrios is actually the highest drafted player to occupy the slot role.

Berrios joins the Patriots at the perfect time. Amendola signed with the Miami Dolphins this past off-season, and there’s no clear choice to fill his role. Edelman is returning but is coming off a torn ACL injury. Now age 31, it’s unclear how many seasons Edelman has left in the tank. Berrios could spend his first year or two serving the Amendola’s specialized role before fully taking over once age and injuries catch up to Edelman.

Most Likely to Turn Heads During Training Camp: Sony Michel

The Patriots selected Michel with the 31st overall pick, so expectations will be high for the young running back. However, Michel possesses the size and skill that could make him the best Patriots running back since Corey Dillon in 2004 (all apologies to Dion Lewis’ magical 2017 campaign).

Michel is a tough, physical runner who also has the ability to be a home run hitter and go for big gains. He’s strong enough that arm tackles don’t typically stop him, and six of his touchdown runs last season came on runs of 16 yards or more. He has the potential to be a very good starter in the NFL, and his elusiveness will be a welcome addition to the Patriots offense.

Outside of Lewis last season, the Patriots haven’t had a running back like this since Dillion in 2004. The Patriots should have one of the better run blocking units in the league, which will only make Michel even more dangerous. Look for him to make play after play in training camp, and for that success to transfer over into the regular season.

The Rest

As previously mentioned, the Patriots added late-round linebackers in Ja’whaun Bentley and Christian Sam. While they both play the same position, each one has drastically varying strengths and weaknesses.

Bentley is more of a prototypical north-south linebacker. If this were the 1980s, Bentley could have easily been a third-round selection. However, it’s not, and in today’s NFL linebackers need to be able to cover in space and move sideline to sideline. Bentley doesn’t have the athleticism required to consistently do this, but the Patriots can scheme around that, if necessary. Essentially, Bentley is in the same mold as a Brandon Spikes or Elandon Roberts type of player. He and Roberts are likely competing for the same roster spot.

Sam, on the other hand, is more of what the Patriots were missing. Sam oozes athleticism and possesses the ability to go sideline to sideline and explode off the line of scrimmage. He also has the prototypical build to hold his own against the run. He’s no Jamie Collins, but he’s the most athletic linebacker since Collins.

So why was he available in the sixth round? Essentially, he’s a raw prospect and scouts question his effort. He’s a highly inconsistent player, and there reports that he hates to practice. However, if anyone can knock out these flaws, it’s Belichick. If Sam can turn into a consistent player, then the Patriots may have gotten the second biggest steal of the draft (behind Berrios, of course).

At this point in his career, Etling is nothing more than a developmental prospect. His ball security is second to none, as he threw only two interceptions during the 2017 season. However, his footwork and overall mechanics are something of a disaster, and he is easily phased by pressure. It would be a surprise for him to be anything more than the third quarterback on the roster. Most likely, he’s heading for the practice squad.

Keion Crossen is an incredible athlete but is very raw as a corner. His measurables immediately jump out, as he posted an impressive 4.33 40-yard dash and 6.67 three-cone times. He’s not ready to be an NFL cornerback yet, and he’ll likely have to earn a roster spot on special teams.

Ryan Izzo is nothing more than a camp body. There isn’t much depth at tight end behind Rob Gronkowski, so Izzo could theoretically find a way to stick around. The young tight end is a better blocker than receiver, but he is still fairly limited in that role. If New England likes what he offers, he’ll likely spend most of 2018 on the practice squad.

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