The New England Patriots will find themselves entering uncharted waters for the third straight offseason.
In 2020, the departure of Tom Brady forced New England to navigate a world in which they no longer had an all-world quarterback to fall back on. In 2021, they lost longtime director of player personnel Nick Caserio to the Houston Texans and seemingly relied on a group approach to their rebuilding of the roster. Now in 2022, they’ve lost Caserio’s replacement Dave Ziegler, who partnered up with longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to form a new general Manager/head coach combination for the Las Vegas Raiders.
Luckily, the first stop on the offseason train is one that the Patriots know all too well, the Senior Bowl. The greatest thing to come out of Mobile, Alabama since that viral leprechaun video, the Senior Bowl has been good to New England over the past few offseasons. In the last three drafts alone, New England has selected ten Senior Bowl alumni, including the likes of Mac Jones, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Kyle Dugger, while signing another major contributor in Jakobi Meyers.
So with the luck of the Irish seemingly on their side down in Mobile, the Patriots are bound to select another Senior Bowl participant this year. Here’s a look at some of the players they may have a keen eye on.
Gregory Junior, DB, Ouachita Baptist
What would this list be without a small-school defensive back?
Gregory Junior out of Ouachita Baptist University is essentially a walking Patriots clichè. Coming out of high school, he was a 5-foot-4 high school recruit with an ‘athlete’ designation and zero division one offers. He served as Ouachita Baptist’s number one corner for the majority of his college career and wasn’t tested very often, leading to some unspectacular numbers.
Following a strong week at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Junior now has the opportunity to see an uptick in competition and prove that he isn’t just a fun story, but a player that belongs at the next level.
I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Gregory Junior.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) January 31, 2022
CB out of Ouachita Baptist (DII) had a great week at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl but will face a big step up in competition at the Senior Bowl. Let the Dugger comps begin! pic.twitter.com/6MQUAYAc2O
Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
The majority of the top wide receiver talent in this draft class will not be participating in the Senior Bowl, leaving room for a lot of player movement on the lower tiers. Jalen Tolbert has perhaps the highest ceiling of those players.
Another smaller school guy, Tolbert was productive at South Alabama and served as the number one option in their offense. He’s a big, strong, and smooth receiver who provides an outside presence. A great fit for what New England needs at the wide receiver position, Tolbert could prove to be the most enticing wide receiver option at the the Senior Bowl.
Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota & Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky
The appearance of these two tackles on this list is not an indictment on the play of the Patriots offensive line last season. That unit was one of their best and most consistent down the stretch, but consists of a few players who's contracts are coming to an end, most notably Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn.
Brown is an unrestricted free agent who missed eight games in 2021. Wynn is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and has missed 15 of 36 possible games. New England has a pair of choices to make and it is unlikely that both Brown and Wynn stick around for the long haul. Here are a couple of succession plans.
Daniel Faalele is a behemoth tackle prospect who stands at 6-foot-8 and plays like a bull. Darian Kinnard stands at 6-foot-5 and can best be described as a versatile mauler. Each man has a striking similarity to one of the Patriots current tackles. Faalele and Brown are both monsters. Size is their best attribute but not the only one, as both men are exceptionally strong and athletic. Kinnard is much bigger than Wynn, but shares his attribute of being a great run blocker in space and solid short set pass blocker.
Minnesota OT Daniel Faalele’s measurements today at the @seniorbowl:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 31, 2022
Height: 6-8 and 1/8th of an inch
Weight: 387 pounds
Hands: 11 inches
Wingspan: 86 and 2/8ths of an inch
That’s a house. pic.twitter.com/KErn4nIeT3
New England has a chance to replace current contributors with players that share a lot of their similarities. That sounds like something they'd do.
Cam Taylor-Britt, CB, Nebraska
I’ll save you from the speech about New England’s cornerback room. J.C. Jackson is a free agent. They’re going to draft a corner.
I think Cam Taylor-Britt is the exact guy they will target if they decide to attack in the middle rounds. A scheme versatile player with some nasty in his game, Taylor-Britt feels like a player with the foundational pieces that the Patriots like to work with. He’s a fighter who is involved in every play and loves to get involved as a tackler. He has long arms and excels in press man but is versatile enough to be competitive in other coverages.
At the Senior Bowl Taylor-Britt will get to showcase his ability to adapt to different environments and showcase his ability in multiple coverages. That is something that he has and cannot be taught. New England has a knack for finding these guys and masking their deficiencies and accentuate what they do best. Those are ingredients for a successful relationship.