New England Patriots Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Isaiah Wynn, C, Georgia – Round 1
Across the scouting community, Wynn was a widely liked prospect who impressed evaluators with his senior-year improvements. If Wynn were three inches taller with arms that were an inch or two longer, he would have been a top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. As it stands, the 6-foot-2, 308-pounder was a late first-round pick who looks like a safe player to become a quality starter at tackle or guard.

In pass protection, Wynn has the quickness and agility to mirror speed rushers. He also has a strong base to hold up against bull rushes. While Wynn has talent and technique, he lacks length, which may be problematic for him in the NFL. Longer defensive ends and rush linebackers could give him problems with being able to shed his blocks.

As a run blocker, Wynn has aggression and blocks with a mean streak. Finding nasty bullies up front is getting more difficult as the uptempo and spread offenses have changed the game. Wynn is a throwback who blocks through the whistle, pushes defenders around, buries them into the ground, and finishes them off with violence. Wynn has developed strength to push defenders out of their gap and open holes in the ground game. With his heavy hands, Wynn is able to sustain his blocks after shocking defenders back. He also has the quickness and athleticism to get to the second level. He can pull and would be a fit in a zone-blocking or power-man scheme.

The Patriots have one of the top offensive line coaches in the NFL with Dante Scarnecchia, and if the lack of length doesn’t bother New England, than it wouldn’t be surprising if Wynn is able to overcome his lack of size. It wouldn’t be surprising if Scarnecchia coaches Wynn up on how to compensate for the lack of length and is able to help Wynn accentuate his strengths. If Wynn doesn’t work out at tackle because of the lack of length, he should be a good fit at guard. In the Patriots’ scheme, Wynn could be a solid starter quickly in his NFL career.

2017: Derek Rivers, DE
2016: Jon Thuney, G
2015: Tre Jackson, G
2014: Jon Halapio, G
2013: Logan Ryan, CB

Most Likely To Bust

Ja’whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue – Round 5
I have been on the money with this prediction, as the results indicate below. This is not a bold prediction considering Bentley was taken well into the third day of the 2018 NFL Draft, but I don’t see bust potential with Isaiah Wynn, Sony Michel or Duke Dawson. Hence, I had to pick a player from New England’s third-day selections.

The 6-foot-2, 260-pounder is a tough run defender who is a large presence in the tackle box. He is very strong to take on blocks and stuff runs. The physical Bentley will be an asset to rotate into the game to defend against the few smash-mouth offenses in the NFL. However, Bentley has athletic limitations in pass coverage, and as a result, I could see him being just a backup quality player in the NFL.

A fifth-round pick not panning out is not really significant for a team because the vast majority of fifth-rounders don’t stick in the NFL. Given the limited Patriots options for me to chose from, Bentley seemed like the first player they drafted who I thought might may have a real shot of not working out in the NFL.

2017: Deatrich Wise, DE
2016: Cyrus Jones, CB
2015: Jordan Richards, S
2014: Bryan Stork, C
2013: Duron Harmon, S

Potential Boom Pick

Sony Michel, RB, Georgia – Round 1
Michel was viewed as a legit first-round talent around the NFL, and teams thought he had a 50-50 chance of going in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft because there weren’t many running back-needy teams picking late Round 1. New England was in need of a three-down starter at running back, but considering the organization’s heavy use of a rotation with players for specific roles, it was somewhat surprising the team would use one of its first-round picks on Michel. However, the choice makes a ton of sense as Michel could be a star in the New England offense.

There is a lot to like about Michel for the NFL, as he is an excellent fit for the passing-driven game. Michel is a fast and decisive runner who has impressive first-step quickness with a burst to hit the second level and dart downfield. As a ball-carrier, Michel is very elusive, using quick feet, cutting ability, vision, and lateral agility to dodge tacklers. He is a threat to rip off long runs on any carry.

As a receiver, Michel is dangerous as well. He ran routes out of the slot and was dynamic getting open out of the backfield. Michel uses his speed to get separation and looks natural catching the ball with soft hands. He also has the ability to block, and after some development learning NFL blitzes, he should be a solid pass protector. Thus, Michel projects on becoming a three-down starter early in his NFL career. He should be an excellent receiving option for Tom Brady.

New England is a great situation for Michel. With Brady causing defenses to play a lot of seven-man-box sets, Michel should have excellent running looks. His receiving ability also should be utilized in the Patriots’ offense. Michel possesses a superb skill set and will be playing for an elite team. He could be a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2018 and with serious boom-pick potential.

2017: Antonio Garcia, OT
2016: Malcolm Mitchell, WR
2015: Malcom Brown, DT
2014: Dominique Easley, DE
2013: Jamie Collins, LB

Future Depth Player

Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami – Round 6
The Patriots are superb at picking out receivers who were late-round, undrafted, and cast-off NFL veterans who are perfect fits for their scheme. A lot of these receivers are undersized, and quicker than they are fast, but gritty wideouts who make up for their statures with crafty route-running. Berrios is a perfect fit for that.

While Berrios lacks size for the NFL, he made a ton of clutch catches for Miami during the 2017 season. His big plays helped vault the Hurricanes to the ACC Championship game, as the senior had 55 receptions for 679 yards and nine touchdowns for the year. Berrios may not ever become a starter for New England, but I think he could emerge as a good backup receiver who contributes as a rotational player.

2017: Conor McDermott, OT
2016: Jacoby Brissett, QB
2015: Trey Flowers, DE
2014: Cameron Fleming, OT
2013: Aaron Dobson, WR

Walt’s 2018 NFL Draft Grades:

23. Isaiah Wynn, OT, Georgia C+ Grade
There were mixed thoughts on Isaiah Wynn in the pre-draft process, as some teams thought he could go in the first round, while others believed he would be taken early on Round 2. I think this is a fine choice because protecting Tom Brady, especially at age 41, is incredibly important.

What’s interesting is that Wynn was introduced as a left tackle, and that’s why I don’t love this selection. Wynn has athleticism, but he lacks the length to be a successful tackle. Sure, there have been exceptions, but history is going against Wynn and his 32-inch arms.

31. Sony Michel, RB, Georgia A- Grade
This pick surprises me a bit. Bill Belichick hates when running backs fumble. Mike Gillislee fumbled last year and wasn’t heard from again for months. Sony Michel’s one weakness on the field is his fumbling. Maybe Belichick thinks he can fix that problem, but if he doesn’t, Michel could be in the dog house.

That said, I still love this pick. Michel was my No. 2 running back, as he’s a dynamic player with Alvin Kamara-type ability. With Dion Lewis gone, it made sense to bring in Michel.

56. Duke Dawson, CB, Florida C Grade
It feels wrong to question Bill Belichick, but it’s not like he’s been flawless in the draft. He’s made some mistakes, and I believe this will be one. I don’t dislike Dawson, whom we’ve seen third-round grades on, but I don’t know why he felt the need to trade up for him. The Patriots may have gotten Dawson or another comparable prospect by staying put and even perhaps moving down a few spots. Still, the Patriots are at least filling a huge need, so that’s important.

And we’ve reached the point in the draft in which Bill Belichick mails it in and starts taking UDFA players. The Patriots notoriously have a small board, and Bentley certainly is a UDFA prospect.

178. Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State B Grade
Christian Sam has size and athleticism limitations, but he makes sense as a backup player and special-teamer on Day 3. Unlike the Patriots’ previous pick, Sam is a draftable prospect.

210. Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami A- Grade
This pick makes way too much sense. Braxton Berrios is the quintessential Patriots receiver, and it’s not a surprise that Bill Belichick is taking him here, as he needed to replace Danny Amendola. I actually mocked Berrios here in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.

219. Danny Etling, QB, LSU B Grade
Bill Belichick has a good eye for quarterbacks, so it wouldn’t be a big surprise if Danny Etling pans out. Etling was inconsistent at LSU, but finished the year well. His size and accuracy isn’t great, but he could develop into a fine backup.

243. Keion Crossen, CB, Western Carolina C Grade
As mentioned earlier, Bill Belichick is not afraid to draft UDFA players because of his small board. Keion Crossen couldn’t have been on too many draft boards. This late in the draft, this is not a big deal.

250. Ryan Izzo, TE, Florida State B- Grade
Some insurance for Rob Gronkowski? Probably not. Ryan Izzo may not make the roster, but if he does, he’ll contribute on special teams pretty well, much like another player named Izzo who used to play for the Patriots.

2018 NFL Draft Team Grade: B . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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