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ESPN’s Mel Kiper re-grades the Patriots’ 2018 draft class

Kiper adjusts his grade eleven months later.

NFL: Super Bowl LIII-New England Patriots vs Los Angeles Rams Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots entered the 2018 NFL draft with plenty of capital after acquiring a second first-round selection as part of the trade that sent wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams. At the end of the three-day player selection meeting, the Patriots came away with the following nine men after their usual amount of moving up and down the board both before and during the event:

Patriots 2018 draft class

Round Selection Player Position College
Round Selection Player Position College
1 23 Isaiah Wynn OT Georgia
1 31 Sony Michel RB Georgia
2 56 Duke Dawson CB Florida
5 143 Ja'Whaun Bentley LB Purdue
6 178 Christian Sam LB Arizona State
6 210 Braxton Berrios WR Miami (FL)
7 219 Danny Etling QB LSU
7 243 Keion Crossen CB Western Carolina
7 250 Ryan Izzo TE Florida State

At the time, most of the draft experts had the Patriots’ picks around the B-grade. Pats Pulpit’s own Michael McDermott handed out a B+ for the team’s haul, praising it for finding three potential starters in offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, running back Sony Michel and cornerback Duke Dawson. “Three starters in the area of the draft you need to pick up starters is solid, with Wynn being the best pick of the bunch,” Michael wrote at the time.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper sang similar praises about New England’s draft class, also handing out a B+ grade. “Every year we ask if the Patriots could have done more, but this team annually picks at the end of Round 1,” wrote Kiper eleven months ago. “You have to develop when you pick where they do, and to their credit, they do. The big question will be whether they could have used the Michel pick for needed defensive help.”

Today, Kiper released a re-grade of the entire 2018 draft for ESPN In$ider and he slightly altered the grade he handed out last year: New England went from a B+ to a straight B. How come? “This is a really tough class to grade,” Kiper explains in his rationale behind lowering the world champions’ grade a bit before getting straight to the point: “The Super Bowl champs got virtually nothing from two of their top two [sic!] picks.”

“Isaiah Wynn, the offensive lineman Bill Belichick & Co. drafted with the pick from the Brandin Cooks trade, tore his ACL [sic!] and missed the season. And second-round pick Duke Dawson, whom I ranked as my No. 8 corner in the class, started the season on injured reserve and ended it as a healthy scratch,” Kiper continued before focusing on what were New England’s highest-impact rookies of last year.

“But then you look at the pick in the middle of those two, and it’s running back Sony Michel, who had six playoff touchdowns and might have been the Patriots’ playoff MVP. After a slow start to the season, he finished with 931 yards and six touchdowns before adding the six more in the postseason,” Kiper wrote. “You also look at Belichick getting another solid contributor from the undrafted pool, with cornerback J.C. Jackson starting as a rookie in Super Bowl LIII.”

Kiper then goes straight back to the rest of the draft: “New England didn’t get much outside of that — it’s worth noting that Ja’Whaun Bentley was going to be a key defender before he injured his knee [sic!] in the season opener [sic!] — but it has already slotted in Wynn as the replacement at left tackle for Trent Brown, who just left in free agency. This is what the Patriots do, and it’s why they’re the defending Super Bowl champs ... again.”

All in all, Kiper’s criticism of New England’s 2018 draft — no matter the grade ultimately attached to it — certainly seems to be fair. Despite Michel producing an outstanding first pro campaign, Jackson having a better statistical season than fellow undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler, and Keion Crossen seeing regular time on special teams, the team could have gotten more out of its drafted players if not for injuries to Wynn, Dawson and Bentley.

The group as a whole enters 2019 with plenty of promise and expectation, however, and yet untapped potential that could ultimately make Kiper change his grade again one year from now — in the different direction that is.

What do you think about the group and its performance in 2018? And what grade would you hand out? Let us know below!


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