The NFL Draft is in the books and now the attention turns to the football field. That meant the start of Phase Two of the offseason program for the New England Patriots, where players and coaches are finally able to start working out together on the field.
As the Patriots are starting to lay the foundation for the 2023 season, let’s get right into this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag.
@KinnallyKevin How did Cole Strange’s performance compare to that of the other guards drafted in rounds 1, 2 and 3 last year.
Good question, Kevin. So let’s start by talking about last year’s first-round pick, Cole Strange.
In last year’s draft, two guards went before Strange: Kenyon Green to Houston (No. 15) and Zion Johnson to the Chargers (No. 17). It was a bad year for Green, who struggled with many of the same similar interior rushers (hello, DeForest Buckner) that Strange did. His 12 penalties were fourth among all lineman while his 47 pressures allowed were fourth among all guards.
Johnson on the other hand was much more solid. While he had some struggles, it was expected as a rookie who also was flipped to the right side for the first time in his career.
Outside of the first round, Ed Ingram went to Minnesota in the second round (No. 59). Ingram had some serious issues his rookie season, allowing a league-high 63 pressures while his nine sacks allowed were most among guards.
Three guards heard their name called in the third round, but only Dylan Parham of the Las Vegas Raiders (pick No. 90) saw consistent playing time. He struggled as well giving up six sacks and 55 pressures, but Parham faced a similar issue as Zion Johnson. After playing right guard throughout college, the Raiders primarily played him on the left side last year. The inexperience showed, as 53 of his 55 pressures occurred when he was away from his natural right guard position.
So, when reviewing the early-drafted guards last year, Strange had a strong year against his competition. In comparison, Strange surrendered five sacks but just 23 pressures (tied for 23rd among guards). It was a promising start and some added weight throughout the offseason should only improve his play.
But, if you're still looking for where New England may have missed, Tyler Smith is the answer. Smith, who went 24th overall to the Cowboys, was drafted to be a guard but primarily held down left tackle duties in Dallas last year. He had a strong year along the edge and proved his ability and versatility moving forward.
@thegoat783 Do you think the patriots move cole strange out to play left tackle? His RAS at tackle is super high. I saw an article talking about it and it actually makes a lot of sense to me:
Let’s stick with Strange. The Patriots’ Day 3 draft strategy has certainly raised question marks about the future of the interior offensive line. With David Andrews nearing the finish line and Michael Onwenu in a contract year, it made sense for New England to add some intriguing pieces along the interior.
When that shuffle eventually happens, I would doubt Strange bumps outside to tackle. His athletic profile will be great anywhere he plays, but he lacks the desired frame and arm length needed along the edge. A bump inside to center would be much more likely, in my opinion.
@ForbesSumner Is the investment in IOL tacit acknowledgment that Onwenu won’t be back?
I think that's certainly part of it. Looking at next year’s free agents, Onwenu, Josh Uche, and Kyle Dugger headline the list for New England. While the hope is some of the new rookies like Keion White and Marte Mapu can help compliment Dugger and Uche, Onwenu is an easier projected one-for-one swap — especially as Sidy Sow and Atoni Mafi matchup up extremely similarly to Onwenu from a skillset/build perspective.
Certainly there is no guarantee either of them become a player of Onwenu’s talent, but the Patriots have been extremely solid in drafting and developing mid-round interior lineman in the Belichick-era. And while they are flushed with cap space next season, paying a guard may not be the best use of those resources — although that hasn’t stopped them before (Shaq Mason, Logan Mankins).
@TuckerRossCon Do you think Trent Brown should go back to RT? He was so inconsistent at LT last year.
Sticking with the offensive line here, I would expect Brown to open at left tackle with Riley Reiff on the right side. The one way I could see them bumping Brown back over to the right side is if Calvin Anderson has a strong summer. Anderson has some intriguing upside and is a strong athlete, which New England has prioritized on the left side in the past.
If Anderson can beat out the sturdy veteran in Reiff, a unit of Anderson-Strange-Andrews-Onwenu-Brown is intriguing.
@Fuadnehemen Who will be the leading yards receiver?
I’ll go JuJu Smith-Schuster. He should have plenty of opportunities in Bill O’Brien’s offense filling a similar role of Jakobi Meyers. Him catching 80-90 balls wouldn't surprise me.
@oooidkjiiim How would you rank these guys in terms of most important to extend: Duggar, Uche, Onwenu?
I would go Dugger, Onwenu, Uche.
@FJB_FOF 1.2 million cap space “post” free agency. Do you feel GM BB is holding on to trade for a true WR1? ... *12.2, taking a lap.
Thanks for being accountable and taking that lap. As for a receiver, I wouldn't get your hopes up. This is most likely the roster they'll enter the season with minus some small changes. They also will need some of that money to sign their draft class and operate throughout the season.
And while everyone wants a stud receiver, that has tended to be a team’s last piece to the puzzle. Stefon Diggs seemed like the final major piece to Buffalo’s roster, similarly to A.J. Brown with the Eagles last year. We all want it, but that may be move for another offseason.
@Joey_Homan Do you expect veteran free agents to be signed?
New England does not have much room currently to add to their roster, but there will be plenty of roster movement over the next few months. As for veteran additions, they could look for a cheap and reliable third tight end if one became available. Another veteran running back could also be a possibility after not drafting one.
A reunion with Trey Flowers is something to watch, depending on his health.
@Skywal1Thaddeus With Belichick having a habit of converting QBs to WR, is it not out of the question to assume that Malik could be our next Edelman and Jakobi Meyers?
I get the excitement with Malik Cunningham — especially as he’s reportedly willing to switch positions — but I’m not sure if I see that. I think his best role here is as a scout team quarterback where he can help the defense prepare for the mobile quarterbacks they will see throughout the year.
@Ofc_Dibble Which UDFA has beat chance of making it based on skil/film or needs of team?
Again, Cunningham will garner most of the attention out of their UDFAs. But, I’ll go Johnny Lumpkin for now as he faces less competition. After not drafting a tight end, New England has just four others on the roster. And as Lumpkin specializes as a blocker, they may find his skillset useful to keep around if he has a strong summer.
@Ofc_Dibble Does Zappe have any realistic chance to be starter game 1?
Realistic? Sure. Likely? Probably not.
While Bill Belichick finally gave Mac Jones some support during the draft, he seemingly did open up a quarterback controversy back at the owner meeting. Bill O’Brien also didn't shoot down the idea of a competition as he reiterated that “everything is earned around here.” That’s nothing new, so the possibility for Zappe to dethrone Jones with a strong summer is certainly there.
That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!