The 2016 NFL Draft has come and gone. Now it is time to recapitulate, analyze and – in the grand tradition of the draft – hand out grades for each of the league's 32 teams. Since Pats Pulpit is only concerned with one team, however, we will only look at the New England Patriots' grades.
Before doing that, however, let's take a quick look at whom the Patriots selected this year:
|3||78||Joe Thuney||OL||North Carolina State|
|3||91||Jacoby Brissett||QB||North Carolina State|
|6||208||Kamu Grugier-Hill||LB||Eastern Illinois|
We know the picks, now it is time to find out what the self-proclaimed experts think of them.
Dan Kadar (SB Nation): C
Without a first-round pick, the Patriots were able to find players who fit their system. That started with Jones, an experienced and smart player who can work the slot for the Patriots. They moved off the 61st pick and grabbed offensive lineman Joe Thuney in the third round. He's a likely guard in the NFL and will push New England's current starters for a spot up front. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett was a surprising choice in the third round. Will he ever get on the field in New England? One player who will is Mitchell, who can play inside and outside at wide receiver.
Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN In$ider): C+
This draft was obviously limited by the sanctions imposed on the Patriots because of Deflategate. They did get some good players, but the grade suffers just because they didn't have the opportunity to add as much talent. The good news? They've done a typically exceptional job with the roster, and I think the needs were pretty limited. Cyrus Jones could be a good one; he's undersized but could work in the slot and he'll take the ball away from you. He's also a really good return man. Joe Thuney helps because the guy can line up anywhere on the line. That's depth for a contender. Jacoby Brissett is a good developmental QB for Bill Belichick & Co., with physical tools that far surpass the performance. The loss of Dominique Easley paves the way for Vincent Valentina to crack the rotation, and the brings run-stuffing skills. Malcolm Mitchell was hampered by an injured knee, but he's an impressive talent, and I'm sure it's not lost on Belichick that Mitchell could play corner in an pinch – he played both ways at Georgia. The Patriots didn't do much that'll be talked about, but they got some help in need positions.
Steve Palazzolo (Pro Football Focus): B-
Day 1: No picks
Day 2: With no pick in the first round, the Patriots went with two solid options in Jones and Thuney in the second round. Jones played outside cornerback at Alabama but he has the skills to play in the slot, and he’s strong in both man and zone coverage, leading to a +12.6 coverage grade that ranked eighth among cornerbacks in the draft class. Thuney ranked as a top-20 guard in 2014 and a top-5 tackle in 2015, and he’s only given up 14 total pressures in two years while bringing strong run-blocking and scheme versatility. Brissett is more of a developmental option at QB after posting the No. 24 overall grade in the draft class, and Valentine is more of a hold-the-point run-stopper at nose tackle.
Day 3: Mitchell should compete for snaps on the outside with his sharp intermediate route running that led to a +17.5 receiving grade (16th in the class). Lucien is another intriguing option on the outside and one of our draft sleepers at No. 92 on the PFF Draft Board.
Chad Reuter (nfl.com): B
Day 1 grade: Incomplete
Day 2 grade: B
Day 3 grade: B
Overall grade: B
The skinny: The Patriots forfeited their first-round selection after the NFL determined that their deflating of footballs violated league policies upholding the integrity of the game.
Thuney is a typical Patriots offensive lineman, intelligent and tough; that's a good pick. Brissett has real potential to stick in the league for a long time as at least a valued backup. Valentine's consistency is lacking, but Bill Belichick might be able to get the most out of him. The Pats picked up yet another fourth-round pick in a trade, as well. They'll be able to find help at the skill positions on Day 3 in this draft.
Belichick found a high-character and athletic receiver in Mitchell in the fourth. Roberts should stick with the team. Karras, the grandson of Detroit Lions legend Alex Karras, is a perfect fit for the Patriots and will get playing time eventually.
Pete Prisco (CBS): B-
Best pick: The Patriots love players who are versatile and nickel corner Cyrus Jones, their second-round pick, is also a great return man. I think he's a better cover player than most think.
Questionable move: Giving up their first-round pick in the Deflategate crap. If they were innocent as they say, why agree to forfeit the pick?
Third-day gem: Receiver Malcolm Mitchell out of Georgia can fly. They need deep speed and he can provide that. Consistency is the issue.
Analysis: They didn't have a first-round pick, but they did have a lot of picks and did a nice job with what they had. Jones and Mitchell bring some speed and third-round pick Joe Thuney adds depth to the line. Solid haul.
Rob Rang (CBS): C-
The Patriots, of course, were without a first round pick due to the Deflategate discipline levied by the NFL and made some surprising choices once they were on the clock. Top choice Cyrus Jones is a quality defensive back with the versatility to handle nickel duties and he is a terrific returner.
Further, I'm a fan of Joe Thuney's toughness and versatility. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, however, seemed like an odd choice for a club that had recently invested an early pick on Jimmy Garoppolo, who was at least one time viewed as the heir apparent to Tom Brady. Nose guard Vincent Valentine is a run stuffer who had a poor 2015 season but is talented.
The biggest question is where is the pass rush going to come from with Chandler Jones traded and Dominique Easley gone. Of New England's Day Three picks, wideout Malcolm Mitchell is a rangy athlete with enough speed and size to provide a vertical threat.
Nicholas Goss (nesn.com): B+
The Patriots filled needs at cornerback, offensive line and wide receiver, while also acquiring a fourth-round pick in next year’s draft.
Karen Guregian (Boston Herald): B
Best pick: Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones. With no first-round selection, they had to score in the second round. Jones looks like he might be able to step in and contribute right away as a nickel corner, and possibly lessen some of the load on Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola by handling the punt-return duties.
Head scratcher: No running back. And they passed over some good ones, including both Arkansas backs and Utah’s Devontae Booker (Broncos, 4th round). Having Booker land with a rival might not be what they’re looking for down the road.
Skinny: They drafted offensive line help, but really didn’t address tackle, the biggest area of concern. They also ignored running back, another top need. After that, they did a pretty good job working the board to fill holes for now and build toward the future. Some question taking quarterback Jacoby Brissett so high, but the Pats have to consider not only life without Tom Brady, but life without Jimmy Garoppolo. It was also smart to land another 2017 fourth-round pick to make up for the NFL taking away their fourth-round pick as part of the Deflategate penalties.
Evan Silva (Rotoworld): C+
Overview: The Patriots didn't have a first-round pick after the NFL stripped it for Deflategate. Included in New England's haul is Martellus Bennett, who was acquired from Chicago in exchange for a 77-spot drop on the draft's third day. In a day-two trade with New Orleans, the Pats parlayed the 61st pick -- acquired for Chandler Jones -- into third- (Thuney) and fourth-rounders (Mitchell). New England picked up an additional 2017 fourth-round pick in a day-three deal with Seattle. Jones brings immediate special teams help -- he returned four punts for touchdowns at Alabama last season -- and should push Justin Coleman for slot corner snaps right away. Thuney may best project as a reserve utility lineman, not a starter. Valentine, Roberts, and Karras have chances to become useful role players. Brissett was a worthy gamble late on day two behind suspended Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo, who had an up-and-down 2015 preseason. Mitchell slipped a round due to medical concerns, but I think his playing style fits what the Patriots like to do on offense as a superb route runner with top-notch ball skills. Here included, I suspect this draft won't receive high "grades" because it lacks star power and clear immediate impact. The grade deserves a bump when you include Martellus and the acquisition of an extra fourth-round pick in 2017.
Chris Burke (Sports Illustrated): C+
Their banishment from the first round meant the Patriots were set up to have an unusual draft from the onset. The script played out that way, right up to and including trading up for Miami’s spot at 147 and then flipping that pick for a profit. As for the actual players headed to New England, the standouts are Jones and Mitchell: The former will spend time at the nickel and as a return man, while the latter could be a surprise star if his size and route running translate to the pros. Thuney rebuilds some depth up front, and ditto for the beefy Vincent Valentine at nose tackle. The Brissett pick raised some eyebrows, both because the Patriots have two quarterbacks (Tom Brady, facing a four-game suspension, and Jimmy Garoppolo) and because they nabbed Brissett ahead of QBs like Connor Cook. A very Belichickian draft.
Mark Maske (Washington Post): B-
The Patriots, minus their first-round pick thanks to the Deflategate penalties, made unglamorous but solid choices in second-round CB Cyrus Jones and third-round G Joe Thuney. Their most noteworthy selection was QB Jacoby Brissett in the third round. He joins Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo on the New England roster and could end up being Garoppolo’s backup early in the season if Brady’s four-game suspension stands.
Chris Roling (Bleacher Report): C
New England didn't make a notable pick at all in the mid-rounds.