Usually I’m grading math worksheets, but since it’s draft season I thought I’ll be grading the New England Patriots’ draft class. Is grading a draft before any of the players have even stepped onto the practice field stupid? Probably.
However, you’re already here, and everyone else is doing it, so I’m not going to be the one not doing it. It’s going to be... Well, let’s just say the Patriots are not going to get the “A” they earned last year.
Day 1: Round 1
Patriots trade 1-21 to Kansas City for 1-29, 3-94, and 4-121: I thought this was a pretty solid trade for the Patriots to pick up extra third- and fourth-round picks while only moving down eight spots towards the end of the first round. | Grade: B+
1-29 OL Cole Strange, Chattanooga: Strange is a super athletic guard who had the seventh-highest RAS score for the position in the last 35 years. He should be a guy who can come in and help pretty much right away in the position that was arguably the biggest need for the Patriots. However, drafting a replacement for Ted Karras at No. 29 overall, especially one who was projected to go significantly later by almost everyone, simply cannot earn a good grade. Like the player, hate where he was picked. | Grade: D+
Kicking off my Cole Strange breakdown with his work in pass pro, where he brings the fight and consistently plays thru the whistle— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) April 29, 2022
Regularly looks for help, relishes making guys pay for high pads, and finishes a lot of plays on top of DL
Kinda style that gets under dudes' skin pic.twitter.com/2qr6BPGvfM
Day 2: Rounds 2-3
Patriots trade 2-54 and 5-158 to Kansas City for 2-50: The Patriots make another trade with the Chiefs, this time moving up a few spots in the second round only giving up the pick that they got out of the DeVante Parker trade with Miami. It’s a fine trade, and allowed them to get ahead of a wide receiver run, which was apparently important for them. | Grade: B
2-50 WR Tyquan Thornton, Baylor: Thornton ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine this year, and his unofficial number was the fastest in NFL history. He’s a burner, who is also tall at 6-foot-2. He’s also very slight at only 183 pounds, though, and does not have huge hands either. Getting this kind of speed is great, and Thornton does have some actual receiving ability — he’s not just a track star. However, he also was projected to go significantly later and receivers who seemed like better fits came off the board right after him. The Patriots read the draft right and moved up to get the guy they wanted, but was he the right guy given who else was available? | Grade: C-
The #Patriots draft some real speed at WR with Tyquan Thornton. His 4.28-second 40-yard dash translates on top. Verticals, crosser, slants/hitches off of vertical stems, and some YAC ability too. Not a finished product but the speed is a factor. pic.twitter.com/L1s7IcB5gp— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) April 30, 2022
3-85 CB Marcus Jones, Houston: This will not be an unbiased grade, because I had this exact pick mocked for the Patriots in my Mock Draft 1.0 back in February, and I love Marcus Jones. He won the Paul Hornung Award given to the most versatile college football player, and was electric in all three phases of the game at Houston. He will come in and instantly make New England’s return game better. He’s a bit undersized, but with all the speed in the division, you need more than just Jonathan Jones to run with guys. Marcus Jones will help you do just that, which makes him a prototypical Patriot and this a home run pick. | Grade: A+
#Patriots draft target thread: Marcus Jones, CB, Houston— Pat Lane (@plane_pats) January 27, 2022
Jones won the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in college football last year, and finished his collegiate career with 9 return touchdowns. Undersized, but with loads of speed and athleticism pic.twitter.com/akcWcgYWsy
Patriots trade 3-94 to Carolina for 4-137 and a 2023 3rd round pick: I love this trade for the Patriots. They get a late fourth-rounder back and grab a pick that should be early in the third next year. This also replaces the third-round pick that they sent to Miami for DeVante Parker and should actually end up being a better pick. | Grade: A
Day 3: Rounds 4-7
4-121 CB Jack Jones, Arizona State: The Patriots were linked to Jones throughout the draft process, and met with him a bunch this offseason. They reached a bit here to get him, but he was a highly recruited guy who showed that he can play both man and zone coverage. He was kicked off of USC’s football team in 2018 because of his academics, and was also arrested around that time too. He seemed to have turned things around, and the Patriots were obviously comfortable with him. I believe there were better corners on the board, but they went for another position of need, so I can’t fault them too much. | Grade: C+
#Patriots fans, you’ve got a steal of a player in Jack Jones.— Eric Galko (@EricGalko) April 30, 2022
One of best pure man cover CB in the '22 draft, and can be a high-end nickel right away.
Awesome to see him use #ShrineBowl/Combine interviews to talk about how he's grown on/off the field. Congrats @presidentjacc! https://t.co/RLTbtUWeyq pic.twitter.com/Eh6KZ0a1Ge
4-127: RB Pierre Strong, South Dakota State: Strong was the fastest running back at the combine, clocking in at 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball, and averaged over 7 yards per carry in his career at South Dakota State. He was also a competent receiver, even if he wasn’t used too much in this area. With Damien Harris being in the final year of his contract, and James White getting older, the pick does make sense, and I’m happy for them to get faster and more athletic at the running back position. | Grade: B+
4-137: QB Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky: The Patriots really drafted a backup quarterback in the fourth round. I understand that it’s an important position, and Zappe had 62 touchdown passes last season (you read that right), but I just can’t get behind the logic with so much talent left on the board. Without a pick between this one and the sixth round, and seeing the amount of QBs that either went super late or weren’t drafted at all, this is a head-scratcher. | Grade: F
6-183 RB Kevin Harris, South Carolina: The Patriots started the sixth round with another running back. This time they were able to get a bruiser who is very strong. Harris is a tough runner, but lacks top-end speed and elusiveness. He does have great contact balance, but I’m not sure if he’ll be good enough to carry the load in the NFL. | Grade: D+
6-200: DT Sam Roberts, Northwest Missouri State: Roberts is a small-school prospect, and projects to be an inside rusher. He was the Cliff Harris Award as the best non-FBS defender in the country, which is the same award that Kyle Dugger won in 2019. Roberts is definitely a project, but has some NFL size and tools and is exactly the type of prospect you should be targeting on Day 3 of the draft. | Grade: B+
New #Patriots DT - Sam Roberts (@SamRoberts133) 6'5, 292 lbs, Northwest Missouri State— Follow @FTBeard7 (@FTBeard7) April 30, 2022
2017: 24 tkls, 6 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT
2018: 50 tkls, 13 TFL, 6 sacks, 1 FF
2019: 49 tkls, 10 TFL, 5 sacks, 4 PBU, 3 blocks
2021: 61 tkls, 18 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 1 FF
video: https://t.co/TqE6SCjquw pic.twitter.com/XQNDqQATlB
6-210: OL Chasen Hines, LSU: Hines is a big boy, at 6-foot-3 and 327 pounds, but he still had a 30-inch vertical and a 9-foot broad jump. He has some versatility between guard and center, and could eventually be a solid backup along the interior of the offensive line. This pick definitely has some Ted Karras vibes to it. | Grade: C+
Chasen Hines is MEAN - pulling on counters and out in open space on screens like this, you don't want to be in his path pic.twitter.com/Px4dQED5Ah— Luke Carr (TD4LC) (@LukeCarrNFL) February 18, 2022
7-245: OL Andrew Stueber, Michigan: Stueber continues the trend that the Patriots had in this draft of adding to the offensive line, but he is a very different player than their first two additions to the position group. He stands at 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds and doesn’t move particularly well. He is quite strong, though, and might start out as a tackle even though some think that he might need to move inside at the next level to reach is potential. I’m not sure if he’ll ever be a starter at this level, but it’s never a bad idea to take extra offensive linemen. | Grade: C
.@UMichFootball T/G Andrew Stueber is a prospect that grew on @seniorbowl the more we watched him. UM staff gave @AndrewStueber99 strong endorsement during our Ann Arbor visit in July and he has size, IQ, leverage, and versatility to play at next level. #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/XU4sHVTSn8— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) September 25, 2021
The Patriots were a little all over the map this weekend. They obviously put a priority on speed and athleticism, as they got the most athletic interior lineman, a speedster at cornerback, and the fastest wide receiver and running back at the Scouting Combine. They also reached for a lot of their picks, however, and leave the draft with a whole lot of question marks.
When you disagree so much with the consensus everything seems possible. You could have another Jordan Richards situation on your hands, or you could look like a genius (like the Patriots did with Devin McCourty and Logan Mankins, for example).
Ultimately, it comes down to trusting in Bill Belichick and his scouting staff. They had a great draft last year, and if a few of these guys can come in and contribute this year as well, the team is going to continue to trend in the right direction. For my initial grade, however, there are just too many questionable picks and reaches, which makes the final score a bit lower than the potential the draft class has.
Final Grade: C-