Coming off a busy first round that saw them make a trade and bolster their offensive line, the New England Patriots were also among the most active teams on Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft. Entering the day with three picks in hand, they made a couple of additional trades — one up the board, one down the board — and picked two players.
The first was wide receiver Tyquan Thornton in the second round, acquired following a trade-up with Kansas City. The second was cornerback Marcus Jones, who was picked at No. 85 in Round 3 without the pick previously having been moved.
The Patriots reach again, say the big boards
New England raised plenty of eyebrows on Day 1 by drafting interior offensive lineman Cole Strange out of Chattanooga at No. 29 overall. A projected mid-Day 2 selection on the consensus big boards, Strange was criticized as a reach by those not in favor of the move.
The Patriots’ first selection of Day 2 falls in a similar category. Baylor wideout Tyquan Thornton, who was brought in at No. 50 following a four-pick trade-up with the Kansas City Chiefs, was mostly regarded as a Day 3 selections rather than a top-50 player — at least by those in the media compiling big boards.
The following graphics posted by Anthony Reinhard on Twitter illustrate the nature of New England’s first two draft picks relative to where they were ranked on those boards:
The Patriots and the rest of the league, of course, operate with their own boards and a lot more information than is available to the casual journalist or fan. Teams having players evaluated significantly differently — more on that in a second — is no surprise simply due to the all-encompassing nature of the NFL’s pre-draft process.
Accordingly, New England director of player personnel Matt Groh did not have any issue with his club’s approach to those two picks.
“I think that’s really easy for people to say,” he answered when asked about Strange and Thornton being over-drafted. “Nobody knows what the teams are going to do behind you. When you come back up you don’t want to miss out on a player. I think it’s very easy. Sometimes you hear why, and not just in football, ‘Why did they trade for this guy? This team gave a second. Why didn’t we give a second? If they had just given it...’
“Well, if the other team’s second is better than your second, then you’re having to give up a one. It’s not all so cut and dry with where you think a guy is going to go, and you’ve got to look at what the rest of the board is telling you. If you value a player high enough, then you want that player to be a part of your team.”
The Patriots obviously had high enough grades on both Strange and Thornton to feel comfortable about picking them where they went off the board.
Trader Bill strikes twice
As noted above, New England made two more trades on Friday after already moving down the board one time on Thursday night. The first move saw them climb four spots in Round 2 to pick Thornton, the second saw them trade away a third-round pick to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a future third and a fourth-rounder this year.
In terms of the value associated with those moves, we can see that the Patriots reached some fair agreements on the Rich Hill trade chart. The first trade with the Chiefs breaks down as follows:
- New England gets 2-50 (80.1 points)
- Kansas City gets 2-54 (74.2 points), 5-158 (8.3 points)
The Patriots gave up a bit more value than they received in return. They were the ones moving up the board, however, which means that a slight overpay in terms of pick value has to be expected. Make no mistake, that was a good trade for both clubs.
Trade No. 2 with the Panthers moved the following value around, and is a bit harder to quantify due to the future third-rounder being added:
- New England gets 4-137 (13.3 points) + 2023 3-??
- Carolina gets 3-94 (34.8)
Speaking in pretty basic terms, the Patriots emerged as winners: the 2023 third-rounder they will get back will exceed the value difference of 21.5 points between 3-94 and 4-137. Obviously, though, future picks are discounted compared to those in the current year so a clear comparison is always a bit muddy.
As far as the third-rounder obtained, its final spot depends on the Panthers’ 2022 season. They would have to finish no better than the conference title round for the Patriots to get a pick in the same range (either 3-93 or 3-94) back. Carolina not qualifying for the playoffs, on the other hand, would push the pick anywhere between the mid-60s to the early 80s — a potential win from New England’s point of view.
“You’ve really got to be prepared for trades, which I think we did a great job tonight of trying to be on top of those things with everybody in the room working, contacting different teams and fielding the calls that teams were putting out to us,” Matt Groh said. “It’s really with the clock at five minutes, you’ve got to be really organized. You’ve got to take a good hard look at the board and see where you can best help your team.”
Wide receivers keep coming off the shelf at a record pace
New Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton was one of 11 wide receivers selected on the second day of the draft. In total, 17 players at the position therefore heard their respective names called between Rounds 1 and 3 — a record-tying number, per the NFL:
13 wide receivers were selected in the first two rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft, tied with the 2020 NFL Draft for the most in the first two rounds in the common-draft era (since 1967), while the 17 wide receivers selected in the first three rounds were tied with the 2007 and 1994 NFL Drafts for the most in the first three rounds since 1967.
The wide receiver market has been heated up the entire offseason, and there is no cooling down in sight. It makes sense, too: rookie wide receivers are a valuable commodity if they can reach even just slightly similar levels to those veterans recently changing teams through trade or free agency.
Nakobe Dean among the notable drops to find an end
Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean is one of the fascinating stories of this year’s draft. A projected first-round pick and popular mock draft pick for New England at its original selection at No. 21, Dean fell out of the first round and then some more. Questions about his medicals and size kept him on the board until the Philadelphia Eagles drafted him 83rd overall in the third round.
Dean was not the only notable drop to occur between Thursday and Friday. Fellow linebackers Channing Tindall (3-102 to Miami) and Leo Chenal (3-103 to Kansas City) also came off the board much later than anticipated. While neither of them received first-round hype before the draft, they were regarded as safe bets to come off in Round 2.
Then, there were the quarterbacks. After Kenny Pickett was drafted by Pittsburgh at No. 20, no passer heard his name called until Desmond Ridder in the third round: the Atlanta Falcons brought him in at 74. Only two more players at the position were picked after him on Friday, with projected QB1 Malik Willis joining the Tennessee Titans (3-86) and Matt Corral getting picked by Carolina following the trade-up with New England to 3-94.
Linebacker atop New England’s needs heading into Day 3
The first two days of the draft saw the Patriots address the most pressing needs on their roster: they picked an offensive lineman in Round 1, followed by a wide receiver and cornerback in Rounds 2 and 3. While the latter position in particular would benefit form additional reinforcements, an argument can be made that another position group has risen to the top of the needs-based positional ranking.
Using our pre-draft evaluation, we can see that off-the-ball linebacker is the highest-ranked of those needs yet to be addressed. The Patriots had their chances already to do so, but elected to target players at other position groups.
Accordingly, we can re-rank the team’s need as follows:
- Off-the-ball linebacker
- Offensive tackle
- Outside/edge linebacker
- Interior defensive line
- Wide receiver*
- Interior offensive line*
- Offensive backfield
- Special teams (Kicker/Punter/Long snapper)
*already addressed at one point in the draft
Obviously, this ranking is subjective and not necessarily a reflection of how the team views its needs. That being said, it shows that New England picking an off-the-ball linebacker and developmental tackle at one point on Saturday should be expected.