New England entered the NFL Draft with 12 selections after a brilliant maneuvering of free agency and the compensatory pick process. With likely only 8-9 roster spots available for rookies, New England was expected to be movers. Whether that involved multiple trade ups or adding picks in future drafts, the addition of 12 draft picks just seemed unlikely.
Sure enough, New England started dealing on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. While they were expected to target a tight end, the Patriots decided to take their draft in a different direction. Other than that, they had a balanced draft class that hit on almost every position group.
Round 1, Pick 32: N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
Round 2, Pick 45: Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt
Round 3, Pick 77: Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan
Round 3, Pick 87: Damien Harris, RB, Alabama
Round 3, Pick 101: Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia
Round 4, Pick 118: Hjalte Froholdt, IOL, Arkansas
Round 4, Pick 133: Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
Round 5, Pick 159: Byron Cowart, DL, Maryland
Round 5, Pick 163: Jake Bailey, P, Stanford
Round 7, Pick 252: Ken Webster, CB, Mississippi
New England deployed their typical strategy of hitting on “pro-ready” prospects and developmental backups that set them up for the present and the future. Some picks such as Damien Harris and Jarrett Stidham were redundant based on their current starting depth chart, but are usable prospects in the right situation.
Prospects such as N’Keal Harry and Chase Winovich will be contributors in year 1 as New England gears up for another Super Bowl run.
Yodny Cajuste was my 37th overall prospect, and offers starting potential as a rookie. If Isaiah Wynn is healthy enough to start at left tackle, Cajuste is the ideal candidate to be a swing tackle as a rookie before taking over right tackle for Marcus Cannon. That value outside of the top 100 picks is ideal.
Jarrett Stidham has always been talented and a mature presence throughout his time in college football. Despite that, his deep accuracy issues and often times timid decision making limits his ceiling. I’m in favor of New England’s strategy to acquire a quarterback every year, but don’t expect Stidham to be the future starter.
I understand that New England has a hyper focus on special teams, but having two excellent veterans at punter and kicker and still drafting a punter? With Kelvin Harmon still on the board?
Best Pick: Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan
Winovich was my 32nd overall prospect, and New England scooped him up at pick 77. The defensive end offers immediate pass rushing upside with his ability to limit his surface area and corner the edge. His motor is always running hot, which allows him to provide consistent disruption to the pocket. He sets a solid edge in the run game, but is better chasing plays down from the backside. His presence in the locker room and on-field leadership will fit in right away.
Worst Pick: Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt
Not only did New England overdraft Williams, they traded up to acquire him. My 139th ranked prospect, Williams projects as a specific matchup coverage man at 6’4 and with a 4.64s forty-yard dash. Athletic testing isn’t the end all-be all of draft evaluation, but it serves as a way to set thresholds.
Looking at the cornerback position, the only starting cornerback in the NFL with a worse 40-yard dash time than Williams is Josh Norman. The only other starting cornerbacks who ran in the 4.60s - 4.64s range are Trumaine Johnson and Levi Wallace.
On top of that, Williams has technique issues in his press coverage technique that will likely prevent him from taking boundary cornerback reps early in his career. He’ll be tasked with covering tight ends and bigger slot receivers, but trading up to pick 45 for a role that specific?
When they made the trade up, I was convinced it was for Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. Instead, it was for a cornerback who runs a slower 40.
Favorite Day 3 Pick: Byron Cowart, DL, Maryland
The former #1 overall recruit in the country, Cowart initially struggled while at Auburn. After a transfer to junior college and then Maryland, his game finally started to reach its potential in 2018. He started all 12 games and racked up 38 tackles with 3 sacks. In January, he showed occasional dominance at the Senior Bowl.
Cowart is an oversized defensive end, which projects him as an interior lineman in sub packages. For a 5th round pick, having a specific role at an area of need should be considered a win.
Overall Grade: B
There were a lot of positives with New England’s draft, but I see minor issues as well. N’Keal Harry will be a good professional wide receiver, but Deebo Samuel is a better fit in the Patriots offense better and D.K. Metcalf offers the higher ceiling.
Damien Harris is a damn good football player, but New England drafted a relatively similar running back in the first round last year. Running back isn’t a position that shouldn’t be highly invested in to begin with, and New England was already deep before the addition of Harris. The Joejuan Williams reach and drafting of a specialist are other negatives that stand out.
However, I don’t see too much bust potential within New England’s first six selections. Mid-round values like Winovich and Cajuste were outstanding picks, as was the obvious potential with Day 3 guys Hjalte Froholdt, Byron Cowart and Ken Webster.
This was a draft that keeps New England’s Super Bowl window open for the Brady era, while providing the depth to keep the roster full of talent for multiple years.
p.s. Undrafted free agent Jakobi Meyers should make the 53 man roster. He’s better than Bruce Ellington and Braxton Berrios.