The New England Patriots have undergone a large transformation on their offensive line this offseason. Ted Karras signed a 3-year, $18 million contract with the Cincinnati Bengals and Shaq Mason was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a fifth round pick and cap space. That leaves Bill Belichick’s squad without both of their starting guards from one year ago.
David Andrews, Isaiah Wynn, and Trent Brown will all return from the 202 starting group, while Michael Onwenu is expected to slot in to one of the vacant guard spots left behind by Karras and Mason. That, ladies and gentleman, leaves one starting spot up for grabs.
There are in house options to fill the void. James Ferentz was re-signed this offseason to continue his role as the ultimate reserve interior offensive lineman. Arlington Hambright and Drew Desjarlais were signed to reserve/future contracts and are expected to compete for reserve roles, and Will Sherman returns for year two after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2021 draft.
While all of those players will be given a chance to earn a starting role, it’s likely that the Patriots are still in the market for a long-term starter. The best way to add one of those players? The draft. The best value at that position in this draft? This man.
Name: Chris Paul
School: Tulsa (RS-Senior)
Opening day age: 24
2021 season: 10 games, All-AAC Honorable Mention
Size: 6’4”, 323lbs
Expected round: 3rd
Strengths: First and foremost, you cannot find a more perfect frame for a mauling guard than the one that Chris Paul possesses. At 6-foot-4, 323 pounds he’s pretty much the prototype for a bigger modern guard. He’s a free and easy mover who excels in the run game. He doesn’t just lean on people either, Paul has active and accurate hands. He likes to stay in the frame and drive, his technique is a coach’s dream.
I love the hands on Tulsa OT Chris Paul. Constantly moving. Zachary Carter gets caught in them at the Senior Bowl. pic.twitter.com/e6Lwr6hkFj— Matt Alkire (@mattalkire) February 4, 2022
In addition to those accurate hands, it’s evident that Paul packs quite the punch. He dishes out a stinging blow and has some big time strength in his upper body. As a pass protector, those things help him knock people off of their path.
It’s also nice to touch on the fact that Paul has been an active leader in his community. He is a member of the AAC’s Racial Equity Action Group, Tulsa University Ambassadors Club, Student Association, and Future Alumni Council. He was also named to the NCAA’s Division I Football Oversight Committee and serves as the AAC’s representative to the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee while also being a member of the NCAA Board of Governors Committee to Promote Cultural Diversity and Equity. A laundry list of responsibilities that he added to his plate as a college athlete.
Weaknesses: As impressive as Chris Paul is as a run blocker, he struggled mightily in obvious pass pro situations. He didn’t have the recovery athleticism needed to thrive at tackle and that is why he’s projected as a guard at the next level.
There is also a question as to whether or not he can move laterally well enough to effectively reach on cross face blocks or to pull. Making the slide over to a position that he hasn’t played in two years is also cause for concern.
What would be his role? Given the state of New England’s guard group, Paul would likely be a day one starter. His ability as a run blocker is similar to that of Shaq Mason when he entered the league. Like Mason, he can be placed into that starting group and excel in the run game while having enough pass pro acumen to give hope for improvement in the future. Placing him in-between David Andrews and one of New England’s tackles should help him with whatever growing pains come as a rookie.
Does he have positional versatility? A fun addition to his strength as a run blocker is his ability to move around. Though he is certainly best suited to play guard, Paul spent the majority of the last two years at tackle. That’s a “break glass incase of emergency” option but it’s nice to have.
Who’s his competition? Drew Desjarlais is a name to watch out for during training camp. A former CFL All-Star and 4th overall pick in the 2019 CFL Draft, Desjarlais was one of the best players in the CFL in 2021. It’s a large jump from Canadian Football to the NFL but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he could earn a starting job.
It would be a stretch to say I think Drew Desjarlais could start for the #Patriots.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) March 24, 2022
I do LOVE the idea of him taking over that 6OL role from Mike Onwenu this season though, he’s super fun to watch run block. pic.twitter.com/1VTjhQEkhD
Why the Patriots? Feel free to argue with me on this one but I think the Patriots should have more than one starting guard on their roster in 2021. I understand that this is a crazy concept but I think it may just work.
Why not the Patriots? I’m struggling to find a reason why New England wouldn’t draft a future starting guard with positional versatility. His value might be a little rich for them, but at this point in the offseason there aren’t many bigger needs.
Verdict: Round 3 is the guard round. I’ve decided it for all of us. Paul is to be added to the list.