The New England Patriots have undergone significant change this offseason.
J.C. Jackson is gone, signing a big money deal with the Los Angeles Chargers early in free agency. Former starting guards Ted Karras and Shaq Mason have found new homes, leaving the team searching for a replacement for one, if not both. The offensive coaching staff is finalized according to head coach Bill Belichick, after seeing the addition of two former head coaches in Matt Patricia and Joe Judge.
So, there is no doubt that the Patriots have some big questions left unanswered, but a smaller question that still needs to be answered revolves around New England’s tackles. Isaiah Wynn will become a free agent at the end of the 2022 season and Trent Brown will follow him back into free agency following the 2023 season. Within the next 12 months Bill Belichick will need to add one, maybe two, starting tackles.
So, with the idea that New England could be fishing for an anchor on the offensive line, let’s take a look at the man who most closely resembles the average Patriots tackle prospect.
Name: Nicholas Petit-Frere
Position: Offensive Tackle
School: Ohio State (RS-Junior)
Opening day age: 22
2021 stats: 12 games, Second Team All-Big Ten
Size: 6’5”, 316lbs
Expected round: 2nd/3rd
Strengths: First and foremost, Nicholas Petit-Frere looks the part. 6-foot-5, 316 pounds, 33 ⅝” arms, with 10 ¾” hands. That’s an NFL tackle. Within that frame, he holds some exceptional athleticism and lower body explosion. Those things all contribute to what he really does best, which is pave the way in the run game.
Love Petite-Frere in the ground game. Not just a bully ball tackle but his technique is beautiful when asked to work out. Utilizes the bucket step to create leverage. Very effective on jet motion/bubble and tunnel screens. pic.twitter.com/A7wSc3vEjl— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) April 10, 2022
Not only is he athletic enough to make outside zone blocks and be used as a lead blocker of sorts, but Petit-Frere is as technical as they come. He utilizes multiple steps out of his set to position himself to make the correct play. There is a lot to like about him as a run blocker.
Pass protection is still a work in progress for Petit-Frere, but much of his success comes back to that athleticism we talked about earlier. Fast firing feet, hip and ankle flexion, and an even base all contribute to his best reps.
Pass block rep vs. Nebraska. NPF shows quick feet, mirrors defender and has a strong punch. Similar to the run block stuff you can see that his technique is there. pic.twitter.com/9T6cgqsuRE— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) April 10, 2022
Weaknesses: For as proficient as Nicholas Petit-Frere is on the ground, he plays about as inconsistently as anyone in his pass sets. His pad level is in a constant state of fluxion, his depth varies as a game goes on and he uses a small variety of counter moves. He is unpredictable in all the ways you want him to be predictable and he’s predictable in all the ways you want him to be unpredictable. There is still a significant learning curve for him as a pass blocker against legit pass rushers.
When Petit-Frere does struggle as a run blocker, it’s because he doesn’t have enough strength to drive those bigger bodies off the spot. On a down block from his tackle spot, he can’t quite generate enough movement on a 0-3 technique to fully dig out a hole.
Here’s another run block rep where he reaches a shaded defender. Lead blocker muddies things up but NPF gets to the spot with ease. A negative here seems to be the lack of movement off the point of contact. He’s trying like hell, but the DL ain’t movin. pic.twitter.com/CepBmbuX2e— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) April 10, 2022
What would be his role? If you take an offensive lineman within the first four rounds there is a hope that they could eventually become a starter. Petit-Frere is no different. This is a player that you could essentially redshirt in his first year before allowing him an opportunity at a starting role.
Does he have positional versatility? Nicholas Petit-Frere entered Ohio State as a five star recruit. Despite that, it took him some time to earn a starting tackle job in Columbus. He played on both sides of the line, so it’s fair to say he has some versatility, but what he hasn’t and likely won’t do, is play guard. Given the nature of where he’s likely to be selected, it would have been nice if he had a solid fall back plan at guard. There is always the chance that he takes to playing inside, but there hasn’t been anything shown to suggest that.
Who’s his competition? New England has a lot more at tackle than many people think. Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn are both back to start, with Justin Herron, Yodny Cajuste, and Yasir Dursant all serving as options to earn a bigger role next year. It’s a full room, and will become especially full if New England finds Isaiah Wynn worthy of an extension.
Why the Patriots? This is the reason that a player like Nicholas Petit-Frere is on our radar. He embodies Patriots trends like no other player in this class.
Why not the Patriots? What’s the worst case scenario for New England in 2022? They struggle to find another guard and role into the season with a replacement level starter at the position? That doesn’t sound so bad.
Verdict: Nicholas Petit-Frere is everything that New England traditionally looks for in a tackle prospect. My decision has been made for me, yes.