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Comparing the Patriots’ draft picks to the experts’ big boards

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New England made ten selections, how do they stack up against Jeremiah, Kiper and company.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots made ten selections in the NFL draft, and the general consensus is that the team’s haul is a good one. That is not surprising: the world champions addressed some of their biggest needs while also investing considerable resources in developmental, high-upside options. But are the good feelings about the Patriots’ haul entirely justified, at least when looking to pre-draft evaluations of the players in question?

To find that out, we looked at twelve big boards and compared their rankings to how the Patriots actually drafted. Of course, not every player was present on every one of the boards — only New England’s top four selections were, in fact. Nevertheless, the comparison should give you a bit of a feel as to why the Patriots’ draft is often viewed as a successful one.

1-32 WR N’Keal Harry

With the 32nd overall selection, the Patriots addressed arguably their biggest need entering the draft: they added considerable receiving talent by picking Arizona State wideout N’Keal Harry. The 21-year-old is projected to serve as an X-receiver in New England’s offense.

  • CBS Sports (539 players): 34
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 340 players): 17
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 32
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 36
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 275 players): 46
  • Pro Football Focus (250 players): 61
  • Brady Kelly (The Draft Network, 200 players): 43
  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 200 players): 67
  • Trevor Sikkema (The Draft Network, 200 players): 40
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): 47
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 100 players): 37
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 100 players): 52

Average: 42.7 (+10.7 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

While Harry was ranked firmly in the top-100 on all eleven big boards we looked at, the average has him a bit further down the board than the Patriots’ actual selection at 1-32. In fact, only two analysts — Kyle Crabbs and Arif Hasan — had Harry ranked at #32 overall or better. That being said, the Arizona State product was in the late frist/early second range on most of the boards.

2-45 CB Joejuan Williams

New England moved up in the second round to pick Vanderbilt’s Joejuan Williams with the 45th overall selection. A physical cornerback, the 21-year-old could turn out to be a versatile defensive back for the Patriots — one capable of covering wide receivers on the perimeter and tight ends in the middle of the field.

  • CBS Sports (539 players): 74
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 340 players): 184
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 73
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 67
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 275 players): 83
  • Pro Football Focus (250 players): 88
  • Brady Kelly (The Draft Network, 200 players): 139
  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 200 players): 114
  • Trevor Sikkema (The Draft Network, 200 players): 123
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): 62
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 100 players): 51
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 100 players): 66

Average: 93.7 (+48.7 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

From the big boards’ perspective, the Patriots over-drafted Williams — a player they reportedly had on the radar at 1-32 as well. Not one of the twelve boards has the Vanderbilt product in its top-50, with NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah coming closest with a #51 ranking.

2-77 DE Chase Winovich

Combining solid overall technique and a consistently running motor, Chase Winovich will compete for playing time behind expected starting defensive edges Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr. and John Simon.

  • CBS Sports (539 players): 58
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 340 players): 28
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 45
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 47
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 275 players): 26
  • Pro Football Focus (250 players): 29
  • Brady Kelly (The Draft Network, 200 players): 32
  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 200 players): 52
  • Trevor Sikkema (The Draft Network, 200 players): 37
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): 65
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 100 players): 48
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 100 players): 60

Average: 43.9 (-33.1 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

One of the reasons why the Patriots’ draft is judged as a success is the fact that the team was able to get Winovich in the third round. In fact, all of the twelve big boards we analyzed had the ex-Wolverine ranked higher up the board than #77 — with four writers even giving him a first-round ranking.

2-87 RB Damien Harris

Alabama’s Damien Harris will likely serve as the top early-down and short yardage running back option alongside Sony Michel. An able pass blocker, he lacks the burst to be a true bell cow runner, but should become a serviceable rotational option.

  • CBS Sports (539 players): 64
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 340 players): 79
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 66
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 60
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 275 players): 72
  • Pro Football Focus (250 players): 135
  • Brady Kelly (The Draft Network, 200 players): 106
  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 200 players): 107
  • Trevor Sikkema (The Draft Network, 200 players): 67
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): 88
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 100 players): 66
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 100 players): 55

Average: 80.4 (-6.6 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

While the Patriots’ selection of Harris in the third round was more controversial than most of the team’s picks, it actually was a steal when compared to how the draft boards graded him: eight of the twelve had him higher up than #87, where New England scooped him up.

3-101 OT Yodny Cajuste

Yodny Cajuste is a developmental, high-upside option that gives the Patriots some flexibility at the offensive tackle position: he could serve as a backup swing tackle early on and possible move into a starting role further down the line.

  • CBS Sports (539 players): 65
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 340 players): 50
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 77
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 119
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 275 players): 52
  • Pro Football Focus (250 players): 97
  • Brady Kelly (The Draft Network, 200 players): 37
  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 200 players): 31
  • Trevor Sikkema (The Draft Network, 200 players): 53

Average: 64.6 (-36.4 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

From this point on, we’re working with decimated draft boards considering that some only consisted of 100 players. Cajuste was picked at 3-101 by the Patriots, and when compared to the boards that have him ranked, he is the team’s biggest steal: on average, he found himself at roughly #65 — speaking for his potential as a developmental starting-caliber tackle in the NFL.

4-118 OG Hjalte Froholdt

A very good pass protector with very good quickness measurements, the Denmark-born Hjalte Froholdt will compete with Ted Karras for the top interior backup spot in New England — before potentially filling Joe Thuney’s spot as the starting left guard next year.

  • CBS Sports (539 players): 284
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 340 players): 149
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 203
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 275 players): 123
  • Pro Football Focus (250 players): 55
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): 126

Average: 156.7 (+38.7 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

Froholdt is an interesting case, considering that his rankings are all over the board(s): Pro Football Focus has him at #55, with Kyle Crabbs, Joe Marino and Gil Brandt both in the general vicinity from where he was actually drafted. The rest either has him outside of the top-200 or not even listed.

4-133 QB Jarrett Stidham

Jarrett Stidham has landed in an ideal situation to further grow as a quarterback: the Auburn passer, who had average statistics in 2018 but still showed plenty of promise, will have time to sit and learn while working his way to the top backup spot behind Tom Brady.

  • CBS Sports (539 players): 138
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 340 players): 260
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 125
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 82
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 275 players): 115
  • Pro Football Focus (250 players): 213
  • Brady Kelly (The Draft Network, 200 players): 192
  • Trevor Sikkema (The Draft Network, 200 players): 169
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): 101
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 100 players): 93

Average: 148.8 (+15.8 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

While Stidham’s rankings look similar to Froholdt’s when it comes to broadness, the average has him in the general area where the Patriots picked him. Seeing such a high variance is not all that surprising: Stidham had some very good stretches at Auburn but needs plenty of developmental to turn into an NFL-caliber passer.

5-159 DE Byron Cowart

From former five-star high school recruit to developmental NFL day three selection, Cowart will need to become more consistent a player at the next level to find a role on the Patriots’ roster. His talent certainly is intriguing, however.

  • CBS Sports (539 players): 231
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 340 players): 289
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 240
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 230
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 275 players): 217
  • Trevor Sikkema (The Draft Network, 200 players): 195

Average: 233.7 (+74.7 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

Despite being a former five-star recruit, draft analysts were not high on Cowart before the draft: his average ranking of the six boards that had him on equals roughly a mid-seventh-round selection. New England, of course, traded up to draft Cowart at 5-159 — apparently, the team likes his upside.

5-163 P Jake Bailey

In a quintessential Bill Belichick move, the Patriots traded up to select a punter 163rd overall: the strong-legged and versatile Jake Bailey will come to New England to compete against incumbent punter Ryan Allen.

  • CBS Sports (539 players): 304
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 340 players): 308
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 187

Average: 266.2 (+103.3 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

Interestingly enough, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. liked Jake Bailey as his 187th overall player — still higher than where New England ultimately drafted him, but an indication of the Stanford product’s upside.

7-252 CB Ken Webster

With their tenth and final overall pick, the Patriots decided to invest in a de facto priority free agent: Ole Miss cornerback Ken Webster, a developmental but hyper-athletic defensive back.

  • CBS Sports (539 players): 266
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 340 players): 176
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 288

Average: 243.3 (-8.7 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

Speaking strictly from the draft boards that had Webster ranked, the Patriots were able to get a steal: his average position was roughly #243. New England drafted the defensive back nine picks later.