The New England Patriots selected offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn at 23rd overall and many expect the former Georgia Bulldog to compete for the left tackle position. But perhaps this report of who the Patriots were interested in trading up to draft reveals a better positional fit for Wynn.
The Patriots reportedly loved 6’5, 312-pound Arkansas center Frank Ragnow entering the draft- and they loved him enough to trade and trade up to select the player that ultimately went to the Detroit Lions at 20th overall.
“Both the Cincinnati Bengals, who picked 21st, and the New England Patriots, who picked 23rd, had Ragnow as a top target,” the Detroit Free Press’ David Birkett reported, “and the Patriots tried to move up in front of the Lions to get their man.”
What could have caused the interest in Ragnow? His former coach had some seriously high praise to sing about Ragnow’s potential.
“Bret Bielema, his former coach who recruited him and knows him really well, said he’s had five offensive linemen go in the first round, and he said [Ragnow’s] the best offensive lineman he’s had,” ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit reported. “He’s had some good ones. He said he’s the best one he’s had going back to Joe Thomas. That’s a strong statement from Bielema.”
Beilema also happened to serve as a scouting consulting for the Patriots this draft and certainly helped to drive up the team’s interest in his former star center.
This marks the second season in a row where the Patriots have had an interest in bolstering their interior line after they expressed interest in former Indiana OL Dan Feeney. The Patriots interest in Feeney even led ESPN’s Mike Reiss to wonder if the team would have signed captain and center David Andrews to an extension if they drafted Feeney (Andrews was one of the top centers in the NFL in 2017 so everything worked out).
But the team’s interest in Feeney and Ragnow highlights how the team has been looking to strengthen their interior line and could point to Wynn possibly moving to the inside, especially if the Patriots do ultimately acquire San Francisco 49ers tackle Trent Brown.
Andrews and right guard Shaq Mason are two of the best in the league at their respective positions, but Mason will be a free agent after this season and could fetch a contract worth more than $10 million per season- potentially out of the Patriots price range. So the Patriots could simply be preparing for 2019 with the addition of Wynn, who could serve as the top back-up for multiple offensive line positions as a rookie.
And then there’s also the possibility that the team isn’t happy with the development of left guard Joe Thuney, which could explain their interest in Feeney in the 2017 NFL Draft. Thuney does struggle with bull rushes, so adding stronger players like Feeney, Ragnow, or Wynn could improve the Patriots at the line of scrimmage.
That said, I think Thuney has been incredible and is about to have a breakout season. I’m simply listing other possible explanations for the team’s interest in bolstering the offensive line.
The Patriots always like to be prepared a year early rather than a year too late when it comes to player development, so maybe Wynn will be allowed to compete for the left tackle position in 2018, but with his real value as Mason’s ultimate replacement at right guard in 2019.