NFL Draft season is a long and winding road. Every year from January to April, hundreds of young athletes take part in the world’s longest and most public job interview where each prospect takes part in his own unique combination of events prior to their big day in late April. The Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game, top-30 visits, private workouts, pro day workouts, and the NFL Combine all represent individual steps on a players journey. Those steps provide all of us with information that we can use to make educated guesses on players that we believe may fit a certain franchise.
So why the monologue explaining things that you already know? Well, I did some research. Your author compiled the physical measurements and athletic testing numbers of every New England Patriots draft pick since Bill Belichick’s arrival in 2000. I divvied them up into their respective position groups, found the averages of each measurement/number, and found the true meaning of a prototypical Patriots draft pick at each position. Of course you’re not going to find someone that fits the bill exactly, and every year will provide a different crop of prospects to compare to a new set of numbers. So let us take the 2022 prospects who compare favorably to the average Patriots draft pick since 2000.
S Jalen Pitre, Baylor
The Numbers: We start with a player that represents the duality of results that come from this exercise. Pitre’s height, short shuttle time, and bench press number are all great representations of what New England typically looks for in safeties. His three cone, and arm size are quite the opposite. Pitre’s arms are much shorter than that of the average Patriots safety, but he counteracts that by putting forth better speed numbers across the board.
The Player: Pitre is a redshirt junior out of the University of Baylor, playing in a total of 52 games across five seasons in Waco. Pitre was an immediate contributor for the Bears as a freshman and sophomore, serving as an important rotational player in the box and on special teams. A nagging shoulder injury caused him to redshirt his true junior season, before head coach Dave Aranda took over in 2020 and unlocked Pitre’s true potential as a coverage player.
Over the last two seasons, Pitre served as one of college football’s premier tight end erasers, racking up 18 pass deflections and four interceptions in the pass-happy Big 12 conference. He enters the draft as a potential top-40 pick, with New England’s formula on how to use safeties in the box as a potential blue print for his future success.
The Comparison: Devin McCourty (2009)
Reminder folks, this is purely based off of the numbers. Devin McCourty and Jalen Pitre are very similar athletes. McCourty’s forty time was just 0.02 second slower, his short shuttle was 0.11 seconds faster, and his three cone 0.04 seconds faster. It’s safe to say their times were in the same ball park, if not the same dugout. The size difference is minimal as McCourty entered the league at 5106, 193 pounds, which is ever so slightly smaller than Pitre. The two share the same hand size at 9”, with arm length being the one real discrepancy between the two, as McCourty’s arms are almost an inch and a half longer.
EDGE Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma
The Numbers: Nik Bonitto is looks the part of a classic Patriots outside linebacker. He just happens to be a much better athlete. His size profile matches up well across the board, but his testing numbers were much better than that of the average draft pick since 2000. The numbers are so much better that I considered keeping him off of this list, but it’s a bit ludicrous to think he doesn’t fit just because he’s a great athlete.
The Player: Bonitto was a product of a much improved Oklahoma defense over the last few years, entering this draft as a redshirt junior. The former teammate of Ronnie Perkins and Rhamondre Stevenson racked up 18.5 sacks and 32 tackles for loss over the course of his 39 game college career serving as one of the Sooners most productive defensive players.
He enters this draft as a day two prospects who's status as a tweener has hurt his stock a bit throughout the pre-draft process. He’s a 3-4 outside linebacker who fits only a handful of systems in the NFL. Luckily for fans of his, the Patriots are one of them.
The Comparison: Derek Rivers (2017)
Sometimes you don’t have much to work with, which is why you end up with these two being compared with one another. The Patriots have been all over the board when it comes to drafting EDGE players, setting no real trends other than the fact that they like long arms. That’s where these two compare, with their arms being just 1/8” different in size, with the edge going to Bonitto. They both weighed in at 248 pounds pre-draft, and their hand size is also just 1/8” different from one another. Bonitto gets a slight edge in almost all athletic categories, while Rivers’ 30 bench press reps wouldn’t have been touched even if Bonitto had attempted to put up a number.
RB Dameon Pierce, Florida
The Numbers: Other than being over an inch shorter than the average Patriots running back, there’s no denying that Dameon Pierce fits the mold. His weight, 40 time, and broad jump numbers are literally as close as you can get to being dead on, while hand/arm size and vertical jump aren't much different. The lone spot where he did manage to match the average was on the bench where he put up a very funny 21 reps.
The Player: Pierce is a player who’s value wasn’t appreciated by his college coaches until later on in his career, making for an interesting profile as a four year player with only 329 carries under his belt. Despite limited opportunities, Pierce averaged 5.5 yards per carry and scored 28 touchdowns in 46 games.
He enters this draft as a back without a lot of miles, who’s profile stacks up against the likes of the tops in this class.
The Comparison: Damien Harris (2019)
Bench press and vertical jump are the only two categories that these players had noticeably different numbers. Everything else was very close. Harris holds the slight edge in height (+1/8”), hand size (+3/8”), broad jump (+2”), and forty (-0.02 seconds) while Pierce has Harris by a couple of pounds. Both players even skipped out on the short shuttle and three cone workouts prior to the draft. While all numbers are just ever so slightly off of matching, they represent a similar level athlete.
IOL Alec Lindstrom, Boston College
The Numbers: Now we get into the nitty gritty of players who fit the Patriots tendencies like a glove. Lindstrom is ever so slightly slimmer than the average Patriots interior offensive lineman and his testing numbers are a tad better as well. The only large difference is in hand size at 5/8”.
The Player: Alec Lindstrom is a redshirt senior who enters this draft with a ton of experience under his belt. He played in 47 games for Boston College, starting in more than half at all three interior positions. Athletically, he stacks up well against the rest of the class and should be a day three option for someone who wants some competition on their interior.
The Comparison: Dan Koppen (2003)
Not only do these two stack up well athletically, but they both went to and played center at Boston College. Isn’t that fun!
Surprisingly, Lindstrom is unlike most Patriots picks on the interior despite how well he stacks up against the averages. These players aren’t exactly alike, but they share a similar size, and as you'd expect the newer guy is a better athlete.
OT Nick Zakelj, Fordham
The Numbers: Other than his ludicrous broad jump and over an inch arm size difference difference, Nick Zakelj looks very similar to that of the Patriots average draft pick at tackle. His three cone and weight match up exactly, while his vertical jump and short shuttle are right on par.
The Player: Let’s talk Patriot League baby! Zakelj was the best offensive lineman in the Patriot league over the last four years, being named First Team All-Patriot League three times. He performed well at the Senior Bowl in February, showing off some superb recovery athleticism against some the top defensive line prospects in the class.
He will enter the draft as a potential day three option. A good spot for New England if they want a developmental player to learn behind Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown.
The Comparison: Antonio Garcia (2017)
We used the “same ballpark” analogy earlier, and that is perfect for this scenario. In all but one category we’ve studied, these two players could be considered in the same ball park. They don't have the same numbers anywhere, but they’re not very far off on any other than weight, where Garcia was historically light.
OT Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State
The Numbers: Has anyone ever seen Nicholas Petit-Frere and the average Patriots draft pick at offensive tackle in the same room? Didn’t think so.
The only category where Petit-Frere defers from the average, is in hand size, where his hands are over an inch larger than what the Patriots typically look for. All other numbers go hand-in-hand together in each category. It isn’t hyperbole when I say that Nicholas Petit-Frere is the most prototypical Patriot in the entire draft.
The Player: A former five star recruit out of the state of Florida, Nicholas Petit-Frere took some time to truly arrive at Ohio State. After two years he finally earned a starting job at tackle, and took off as one of college football’s most consistent tackles. Over the last two seasons, he allowed a pressure on less than 1% of his total snaps played.
He will be viewed as a day two pick in the upcoming draft, so New England would likely need to spend a top-100 pick to obtain his services.
The Comparison: Antonio Garcia (2017)
As you could have imagined, multiple players at the same position means the same comp. The same comparisons apply here as they did with Zakelj, however Petit-Frere is a tad bit closer to Garcia in most categories.