Free agency is all but over, which means it’s time to put the focus on the 2019 NFL Draft. The New England Patriots boast 12 picks in this years’ draft and have the chance to restock their roster with cheap, cost-controlled talent. Adding said talent begins in the first round, so let’s take a look back on the recent history of the New England Patriots first round pick.
A Breakdown of Recent New England Patriots First Round Picks
2018: Isaiah Wynn, Tackle
The jury is still out on this selection, as Georgia offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn missed the entirety of his rookie season with an Achilles injury. On paper, the first-round pick was going to compete with Trent Brown for the starting left tackle job. That obviously never came to fruition, but Wynn should be ready to take the starting job in 2019.
Wynn came out of college boasting prototypical NFL strength, arms, and agility. He has the strength to match up against power rushers and the speed to hold his own against quicker edge defenders. The only question revolves around his height, as his 6’2” stature is short for a tackle. In a worst-case scenario, Wynn should be an easy plug-in at guard. Joe Thuney is in the final year of his contract and Wynn could be a natural replacement if he can’t handle being a tackle.
2018: Sony Michel, 31st Overall
If you’re going to draft a running back in the first round, make sure you take somebody as good as Sony Michel. While the positional value will never be there, the Georgia product showed he’s capable of being New England’s best running back since Corey Dillon. Despite battling a knee injury throughout training camp, Michel finished his rookie season with 931 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games. He added to his impressive season by posting 336 yards and a ridiculous six touchdowns during New England’s Super Bowl run.
Michel should enter 2019 as the top option in New England’s backfield. While the analytics community will always look at this pick as a reach, there’s no denying Michel’s top-end talent. He’s great as a runner but could add to his value by earning a bigger role in the passing game.
2017: No Pick – Acquired Brandin Cooks from New Orleans Saints
The 2017 off-season was one of the most aggressive in the history of the Belichick-era Patriots. Unhappy with the New Orleans Saints, the Patriots traded away their first-round selection for the speedy wideout.
At the time of the trade, it looked as though Cooks would just be adding to an abundance of riches at the receiver position. However, after losing receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Julian Edelman for the entire season, Cooks became the unquestioned top wide receiver. Once Chris Hogan went down with a shoulder injury midway through the season, Cooks was essentially the only outside receiver left on the roster.
He’s not a true number one receiver like DeAndre Hopkins or Julio Jones, but the offense would have been lost without Cooks. He struggled towards the end of the regular season, but his blazing speed was always good for big plays downfield. Additionally, he had a knack for drawing key pass interference penalties.
His best game came in the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Facing arguably football’s best cornerback duo in A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, Cooks compiled six receptions for 100 yards. Additionally, Cooks drew several key pass interference penalties that kept drives alive. Receiver Danny Amendola earns all the praise from that game, but the Patriots probably don’t win without Cooks’ production.
The Patriots traded Cooks away to the Los Angeles Rams but received a first-round pick in return. That pick turned into Isaiah Wynn. While Cooks was just a one-year rental, he performed admirably in his one year and actually improved the Patriots draft stock in the long run.
2016: No pick, lost due to DeflateGate
The less said about DeflateGate, the better. Moving on…
2015: Malcom Brown, 32nd Overall
As the Patriots pick neared in the 2015 NFL Draft, all signs pointed to them trading out of the first round. Then, the Indianapolis Colts passed on Malcom Brown to draft receiver Phillip Dorsett. Suddenly, the Patriots were no longer selling their pick, and they got the heir apparent to Vince Wilfork.
Brown is no Wilfork, but he performed well as a rotational defensive tackle. He played a valuable role on the team during his four years and ended his Patriots tenure with two Super Bowl rings. After winning Super Bowl LIII, Brown signed a three-year contract with the New Orleans Saints.
2014: Dominique Easley, 29th Overall
This one was bad. Easley oozed talent but didn’t have a good enough head on his shoulders to stick around in New England. After missing the majority of his rookie season with an injury, Easley found a role as a situational interior pass rusher for the 2015 squad.
While a first rounder should amount to more than that, it still caught Patriot Nation by surprise when New England released Easley after the 2015 season. Then, slowly but surely, details about Easley started to emerge. According to numerous sources, Easley actively went against the advice of the medical staff while recovering from his injuries. Several sources labeled him a “locker room cancer,” and Easley’s release made a lot more sense.
This is one that Belichick would definitely like to have back. First round picks can be incredibly valuable, and to waste one on a cancerous teammate who actively went against the training staff is an incredible loss. Ultimately, Easley goes down as probably the biggest draft bust of the Belichick tenure.
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