The New England Patriots didn’t have a first round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but they made the rest of them count- almost- with some quality contributors in the middle rounds.
ESPN’s beat writers have graded each team’s rookie class through three-quarters of the season and Mike Reiss has done a wonderful job with the Patriots, ultimately giving the team a B grade.
Reiss highlights 3rd round OG Joe Thuney as the best pick, noting that Thuney has played every single offensive snap this season and has helped solidify the Patriots rushing attack. 4th round WR Malcolm Mitchell is deemed the most improved rookie after his emergence in the second half of the season. Mitchell’s play has certainly helped mitigate the loss of All Pro TE Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots grades are hurt by 2nd round CB Cyrus Jones’ poor performance as a returner. Jones’ ability as a kick returner was the main reason the Patriots added the Alabama star over alternatives in the second round. He hasn’t contributed as expected.
Reiss says the jury is still out on 3rd round QB Jacoby Brissett, 4th round DT Vincent Valentine, 6th round LB Elandon Roberts, and 6th round OG Ted Karras, but honestly I disagree from a contributions standpoint. Brissett helped beat the Houston Texans in prime time and then toughed out another start despite being injured; Valentine has been an excellent #3 defensive tackle who is playing better than any other rookie defensive tackle; and Roberts and Karras have also started key games as rookies; that’s more than what you can usually expect out of 6th round picks.
While Jones is certainly not playing up to his 2nd round grade, I would argue that every other draft pick has exceeded the expected value of his draft placement- and greatly exceeded in the cases of Thuney and Mitchell (compare Mitchell’s rookie production to other similarly drafted receivers). I’d say the rookie contributions have been an B+, if not an A- kind of year.
What do you think?