After the New England Patriots lost long-time starting left tackle Nate Solder in free agency, they invested heavily in the position: not only did the team acquire Trent Brown via trade from the San Francisco 49ers, it also selected Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn with the 23rd overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. The rookie, however, was forced to miss the entirety of his first season as a pro after tearing his Achilles just nine snaps into his preseason debut.
In 2019, the former first-round draft pick did not only return from his year-long stint on injured reserve but also get inserted right into the starting lineup: with Brown joining the Oakland Raiders as a high-priced free agent, Wynn filled his spot as quarterback Tom Brady’s blindside protector. An injury once again limited his availability, however, as New England had to place him on IR — albeit only temporarily — after he went down in Week 2.
Wynn eventually returned off the reserve list and finished the season as the Patriots’ number one left tackle, but his longevity still remains a question mark two injury-filled seasons into his professional career. Needless to say that the upcoming 2020 campaign will be big for him and his long-term outlook as the potential heir to former starters Matt Light and Nate Solder. However, the outlook is still an encouraging one based on his 2019 season.
While Wynn did have some growing pains early on after his return from injured reserve, he looked better as the year progressed and the offensive line as a whole improved. It is therefore no surprise to find out that the 24-year-old has been named as a breakout candidate for the 2020 season by advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus: one player per position was picked and Wynn is the choice at offensive tackle.
Wynn is another case of injuries limiting a talented player early on in his career. An Achilles’ injury suffered in the preseason kept him out of the entire 2018 season, and a toe injury caused Wynn to miss much of the 2019 campaign after being placed on Injured Reserve. That makes it easy to forget just how good he was coming out of Georgia. He recorded overall grades of 87.7, 73.7 and 91.3 in his last three seasons on at least 700 snaps in each year.
This season, he graded out at 69.9, which ranked 19th among 37 qualifying left tackles. For a player who has missed as much time as Wynn has over his first two seasons, that’s not a bad result at all in his first regular-season NFL action. Given what we saw from him in college, it should only be expected that Wynn continues to improve, making him a strong breakout candidate in hopefully a full season of action next year.
As pointed out by PFF writer Ben Linsey, Wynn has looked solid when on the field — especially considering the circumstances. To expect his growth to continue into next season is therefore not setting the bar too high, but rather based on his college tape and transition to playing against NFL opponents. There is still room for growth, of course, and Wynn needs to prove that he can stay healthy for an entire year, but his foundation and upside remain intriguing as both a run blocker and a pass protector.