3 big takeaways from the Patriots’ surprising 2022 NFL Draft


The Patriots threw the old draft script out the window and embraced a need for speed and athleticism. How long will it take to pay?

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, and Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, right, pose with Patriots NFL football first-round pick offensive lineman Cole Strange at the Gillette Stadium, Friday, April 29, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

  • QB D’Eriq King would be the first undrafted free agent signed by the Patriots

  • Matt Groh explains why Patriots picked Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton when they did

From the first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Patriots put everyone — fans, draft pundits and local media — on the back foot.

In the end – several controversial choices/headaches, including the running back’s double dive, later – people in the area were wondering, “What was that?”

What was, in truth, was that the Patriots were realizing two things: they were in danger of falling behind the rest of their division, and the rigid values-based system they so often used wasn’t working. just not.

So they seemed to throw the traditional playbook out the window in an effort to start creating a roster more like the rest of the modern NFL. Will the way they did it work or not? Well that will depend.

Here are some takeaways from the 2022 NFL Draft.

Patriots get their guys.

It’s no secret that NFL teams don’t always see things the same way as the fans and media that follow them, especially when it comes to the draft. Although draft experts watch a lot of football and can assess talent, they’re not in the room with the people making the picks at the end.

That’s never been clearer than this season when it comes to the Patriots.

But rather than the New England draft being somewhat confusing, it could actually be a lot more direct than people realize.

After years of preaching value and prioritizing certain positions over others, Bill Belichick has thrown that approach somewhat to the wind this year. And it comes down to one factor: getting the guys we want.

Who cares where the pundits thought Cole Strange should have gone in the draft or if they thought Tyquan Thornton could have gone in the fifth round?

Why should we care if people think we should have had a linebacker or another fourth-round receiver instead of Jack Jones or Pierre Strong Jr.?

And what if people are scratching their heads about picking a quarterback when we already have a starter?

They wanted those players and they weren’t going to let anyone else jump the line for them after they traded in the first round.

The Patriots knew they needed speed and shamelessly sought it out in players like Thornton and Strong — the fastest performers in the NFL Combine at receiver and running back, respectively — that he was. whether it was a litter or if they had other players on the roster.

Could their plan to follow the rest of the division and the conference fail? Perhaps. But if so, Belichick and New England will swing in their own way.

It’s about the future.

The Patriots were fortunate to have three of their first four picks in 2021 — Mac Jones, Christian Barmore and Rhamondre Stevenson — immediately contributing as rookies.

This year, immediate contributions seem a little harder to see (except for Strange), though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Thornton will be able to sit behind Nelson Agholor, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers and learn from Troy Brown while occasionally running a flight route or tilt.

The Jones brothers will be battling for special teams roles while Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones (SO much of Jones), Myles Bryant (probably), Terrance Mitchell and Jalen Mills will handle cornerback duties.

Strong and Kevin Harris won’t see much (in theory) behind Damien Harris, Stevenson and James White (if healthy).

But next year, that could all change. Tons of players could go off the books in free agency. The wide reception room could be completely different; the Patriots aren’t financially obligated to keep a single one next year. Damien Harris will be a free agent and his skills are unfortunately quite durable. The cornerback room is largely at replacement level.

Even offensive line picks could have a chance to mingle with offensive tackles potentially both missing after next season.

There’s always the possibility that someone (perhaps the rambling and productive Marcus Jones) will surprise us and play a larger role than expected. But even if that doesn’t materialize in year 1, don’t throw them out the window just yet. This team could look very different a year from now, and these rookies could hold the key to the future.

Protecting Mac Jones is the goal.

As much as everyone wanted New England to pick up wide receivers this year, Belichick seemed to adhere to a different goal: protecting his young quarterback.

Strange is obviously the main attraction here, but the team also grabbed a few of the good old late-round picks — Chasen Hines and Andrew Steuber — to serve as projects with which this new offensive line coaching staff can work.

As frustrating as Strange’s first-round pick was, the math seems simple in hindsight: How can the Patriots get as close to last year’s quality of offensive line play with Shaq Mason and Ted? Karras gone? Placing Michael Onwenu, who actually scored higher last year than Mason, at right guard is apparently an easy choice. But Strange might be a better bet to play Karras’ level from the get-go than another sixth-round pick (at least initially).

As for the receivers: they already have plenty of them, and trading for Parker allows them to use their existing pieces, like Agholor, better than last year. Along with adding Thornton and a few undrafted guys, New England looks set to squeeze what they can from their existing roster.

But none of that can happen if Mac Jones can’t stay up, both this year and in subsequent seasons. You can never have enough offensive line depth, and no one (usually) understands that better than the Patriots.


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