After day one of the NFL Draft, it was clear that New England Patriots fans were feeling a bit testy. The team, after all, selected FCS guard Cole Strange with the 29th overall pick, filling a hole that they had created themselves with a trade of Shaq Mason just a few months prior.
Day two was a tad different, as expectations were lowered significantly prior to start of the second round. That’s when New England, just 24 hours removed from doing the most ‘Patriots thing’ possible, flipped the script and went away from past trends.
The team drafted a pair of burners, trading up to grab Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton and his 4.28 forty yard dash, while sitting back and letting electrifying kick returner and all-around great athlete Marcus Jones fall into their laps in the third. It was a new kind of approach by New England, so let us take a look at the people who were affected most by their Day 2 decisions.
Winners: WR Tyquan Thornton and DB Marcus Jones
The NFL Draft is where dreams come true. On this weekend, hundreds of prospects hear their names called and have their lives changed forever. Tyquan Thornton and Marcus Jones happen to be the latest Patriots to experience that thrill.
Both men bring a skill set to New England that was almost non-existent previously, speed. They’ll both be relied on to add to the teams over lack of burst, and will almost certainly be utilized on special teams.
A lot of day two Patriots picks end up getting that red shirt tag, but the early belief is that these two players could play a real role in year one.
Winner: QB Mac Jones
Have a draft Mac Jones! After seeing his offensive line get solidified with the selection of Cole Strange in round one, the Patriots provided him with a weapon in Tyquan Thornton.
Thornton will stroll into New England and immediately become the fastest player on their team, in fact he’s the fastest player they’ve ever drafted under Bill Belichick. While it’s tough seeing him have an every down role on the 2022 Patriots, he will be used to stretch the field, and should give Mac Jones a legitimate vertical threat. After spending his collegiate career throwing to the likes of Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, McCorkle will be back throwing to elite athletes with insane speed.
Loser: CB Jonathan Jones
The selection of Marcus Jones is one that brings up a fair amount of questions. Chief among them being, where does he play in the Patriots secondary? The easy answer is... in the slot.
Jonathan Jones made headlines last month when he tweeted this out:
“Positionless” football is the future— J Jones (@Jonathan_Jones2) March 17, 2022
If that’s true then the Patriots’ defensive rotation should be 8-20 players deep in 2022, something that many New Englanders would love to see. If it isn’t, then young Marcus Jones just may be the man that New England has tabbed to be their next Jonathan Jones. Both are undersized but provide great value with their speed and ball skills. They’re scrappy and physical players who excel playing amongst other bodies in the middle of the defense.
Maybe both can find ways onto the field together when the Patriots play Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill, and the Miami Dolphins, but if Jones’ comment proves not to ring true, then there likely is only one spot for the two of these players. As Jones hits his age 29 season, coming off of a shoulder injury, I’d bet that we see his snap count number dip from his last full season in 2020.
Winner: LB Dont’a Hightower
It just feels as though the Patriots have been waiting on Dont’a Hightower for a little while now. He has reportedly been spending his offseason gauging whether or not he would like to retire. While he is a free agent, my thought is that he would only return to New England, and the Patriots would welcome him back with open arms if he chooses to return. So why is he a winner here without any official announcements from anyone?
Well, the Patriots passed up on a hefty crop of linebackers towards the back half of the third round, choosing to trade out completely to obtain a 2023 third-round selection. With such a young and inexperienced group of linebackers on their current roster, your author has fully convinced himself that Hightower will be back for one more go around, with a real role too.
Winner/Loser: WR Nelson Agholor
There are two schools of thought regarding Nelson Agholor and the Tyquan Thornton pick.
First, there is a chance that Thornton’s selection in the second round is indicative of New England wanting to move on from Agholor. The former Philadelphia Eagle played the majority of his snaps outside the numbers and served as the lone vertical threat on New England’s 2021 squad that wasn’t very explosive.
The other way of thinking makes this out to be great news for Agholor, who is now free to move around New England’s offense and obtain more reps from the slot where he has been successful in the past.
These arguments can and will be made across New England until we get a definitive answer on what Agholor’s role will be on the 2023 squad. Until we get there, what do you guys think Agholor will be doing for New England in 2023?