Grading the Patriots 2018 Draft

We’re less than 48 hours after the end of the draft, and none of the draft picks have yet to put on a helmet or run any drills as a member of their new NFL team. This means that we have absolutely no idea how any of the players drafted this weekend will perform when they actually get here, making grading the picks a futile exercise that has no real point. But, since everyone else is doing it, I’m going to as well. Read on to find out what I think about the Patriots draft, and make sure to tune in to my show, the Weekend Warrior Podcast, this week, when I have Evan Lazar on to give a more in depth breakdown of each pick.

Round 1 – Pick 23 – Isaiah Wynn – Tackle/Guard, Georgia – Wynn was rated extremely high by many different outlets. They all agreed that he was a solid blocker, who excelled in pass protection, and was also very good in the run game. One thing they could not agree on was where he would play when he came to the NFL. At just over 6’2” many scouts thought that he was too short to play tackle in the pros, while others thought, since his arms are longer than normal for a person of his height that he would be just fine. He is a big guy who is very athletic, takes great angles, and does not allow defenders to get off his blocks once he engages. For some teams, they may have shied away because they felt he didn’t have a position where he perfectly fit, but, as we know, the Patriots love position flexibility. Him being able to play all 5 positions on the line ends up being a positive for the Pats instead of a negative.

Grade: B+

Round 1 – Pick 31 – Sony Michel, RB, Georgia – The Patriots decided to go with two Bulldogs in the first round. Michel is an absolute stud of a running back, who is a 3 down player. His playmaking ability(he averaged 7.9 yards per carry last year) are just as important to the Patriots as his willingness to block. If you can’t protect the quarterback from the running back position, you will not get onto the field for the Patriots, so that is huge for them. Also, being a dual threat is so important. The Patriots thrive on the ability to do anything at any time on offense. Having a back in that is only going to run, like LaGarrette Blount, or is only going to catch a pass, like James White, is something they don’t want to do all the time. So having a guy who can run, catch the ball out of the backfield, and pass protect is very important. There have been some questions about Michel’s fumbling issues, and the health of his knee, but he has been compared to Alvin Kamara, and if his impact can be anything close to what Kamara’s was for the Saints last year, they hit a home run with this one.

Grade: A

Round 2 – Pick 43 – Trade with Lions for 51 and 117 – Decent value to move back 8 picks. Obviously there was no one on the board that they loved here. Some may say the Titans moving ahead of them to take Harold Landry made them trade out, but I don’t agree.

Grade: B

Round 2 – Pick 51 – Trade with Bears for 105 and 2019 2nd rounder – This is great value for a pick in the middle of the 2nd. They get an early 4th rounder, and a 2nd rounder next year that could be high if the Bears don’t take a big leap this year. Playing in the same division as the Vikings, Packers, and Lions makes me think they won’t.

Grade: A

Round 2 – Pick 56 – Duke Dawson Jr, CB, Florida – The Patriots packaged the pick they got from the Lions(117) and their own pick(63), to move up to get Dawson. He seems like the perfect fit for the Patriots. He was widely regarded as the best slot corner in the draft, and excels at man coverage. He also ran a ton of press man, which the Patriots like to run as well. He was able to stick with a lot of solid receivers, including fellow 2nd round pick, Christian Kirk, who he shut down in their matchup last year. Dawson should come in and compete at slot corner right away. The biggest knock on Dawson is his size, but the Patriots have been successful for years with shorter corners, so I don’t perceive that as a huge problem.

Grade: B+

Round 3 – Pick 95 – Traded to 49ers for OT Trent Brown and pick 143 – This trade is the quintessential Patriots move. Trade for a player going into the last year of his contract whose relationship his current team has soured. Brown ended the year on IR last season, but was considered a very good tackle. In fact, Von Miller has called him the best RT in the league before. Moving down 50 picks or so is worth it for a player who could potentially come in and start right away. He has a massive frame, at 6’ 9” and has struggled with his weight recently, but if he can get that under control, then he could be a valuable addition to the team this year.

Grade: B+

Round 4 – Pick 105 – Traded to Browns for 114 and 178 – The Patriots move back again, picking up an extra 6th round pick to move down 9 spots.

Grade: B

Round 4 – Pick 114 – Traded to Lions for 2019 3rd Round Pick – The Patriots decided to trade out of the 4th round entirely in exchange for a 3rd round pick next year. This draft was classified as one that was a little top heavy, and so the Patriots decided they could get better value by moving up a round next year. This may be true, but you’d like to see them add to their talent for this season.

Grade: B

Round 5 – Pick 143 – Ja’Whaun Bentley – LB, Purdue – I absolutely love this pick. Bentley has the leadership qualities that the Patriots love. He was a 3 year captain, which means that his team voted him a captain as a sophomore, which I find extremely impressive. He is a thumper who plays the position with great instincts and brings the hammer when hitting. The biggest concern is his speed, as many scouts believe he’ll have to come off the field during passing downs. However, Pro Football Focus had him as their second rated linebacker overall last year. In fact, if you go by PFF, he was the highest rated player they drafted all weekend. Even if the reports of his speed are accurate, at the very least, he could be an improvement over Elandon Roberts.

Grade: B+

Round 6 – Pick 178 – Christian Sam, LB Florida State – From the highest rated prospect by PFF in the Patriots draft class to the lowest. The Patriots double dipped on linebacker on consective picks, this time with a more athletic linebacker in Sam. He is a decent project, and has pretty good athleticism. He looks to compete in camp with Marquis Flowers.

Grade: C

Round 6 – Pick 198 – Traded to Chiefs for 233 and 243 – The Patriots trade back for two 7th round picks. The assumption here is that they didn’t love anyone here and decided to take 2 more picks instead of taking someone here. Typically, 7th round picks are used on guys that may end up being UDFA, and, by drafting them, the Patriots don’t have to compete with any other teams for them. By trading this pick, they pick up 2 of those players instead of just 1.

Grade: B

Round 6 – Pick 210 – Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami – Berrios is a guy that practically everyone had as a good fit for the Patriots. He’s a quick, short, white receiver, so most people just assumed that he would be in New England after this weekend, and obviously the Patriots felt the same way. He has short arms, which limits his catch radius, but with the quickness to create early seperation, that may not be a huge problem. He is a guy who should come in and compete at slot receiver right away, and with his experience as a punt returner, could help get someone besides Edelman returning punts this season.

Grade: B+

Round 7 – Pick 219 – Danny Etling, QB, LSU – It finally happened! The Patriots drafted a quarterback! Obviously, they didn’t bring Etling in to compete with Brady on day 1, but most people think that the Patriots saw the draft class as having only a few starting caliber players at the position. Without being able to draft any of the players they thought highly of, there was no need to draft a player too early. Etling has tons of flaw, obviously, but he has an NFL arm, and his decision making is pretty good. He only threw 2 interceptions last year, which is good news for a team that always tries to win the turnover battle. He is a long term project, but could come in and compete for a spot on the team this year.

Grade: C+

Round 7 – Pick 233 – Traded to Eagles for 250 and 2019 7th round pick – The Patriots again trade down and pick up another 7th rounder for next year. Again, 7th rounders are mainly for guys who you want to have a shot at before free agency, so to keep one this year and pick one up for next year makes this a good trade.

Grade: B

Round 7 – Pick 243 – Keion Crossen, CB, Western Carolina – This is an example of a guy who probably would have gone undrafted, but the Patriots wanted to have first shot at him. In a situation like that, it makes sense to draft a guy to make sure you get him into camp. Crossen is a small guy who plays the game with a physical edge, he is another guy who could compete for a spot at slot corner. His best attribute is his speed, he ran a 4.32 40 at his pro day.

Grade: C

Round 7 – Pick 250 – Ryan Izzo, TE, Florida State – Izzo projects to be more of an in-line blocker than a receiver, although he does have some receiving skills. Adding depth to an important position is always good, and the way people talk about Izzo’s blocking, he sounds more like a tackle who can run and catch, which can certainly help.

Grade: C+

Overall, I think the Patriots had a solid draft. They may not have gone for some of the sexier names that people may have been expecting, but how often do they do that? They addressed some areas of need, and picked up a few players that have the potential to be serious game changers. First rounders are always important, and it seems that the two they took this year are very good, but teams, especially the Patriots are built on the strength of later round picks. It seems that they may have gotten a decent amount of talent later on in the draft this year, which could turn this class from a good draft class into a great one.

Overall Grade: B+

Pat is the host of the Weekend Warrior Podcast

Interact with him on Twitter @wkndwarpod


Photo: Boston Herald

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