New England Patriots Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Cole Strange, G, UT-Chattanooga – Round 1
The selection of Strange late in the first round was the most shocking pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. After the selection was made, I texted sources from five different NFL teams, and none of them had Strange with a first-round grade. One team had him in the second round and said they only moved up there recently because of his guard/center flexibility. Three other teams said they had Stramge as a third-rounder, and one team said they had Strange graded in the fourth round.

As an interior offensive lineman, Strange won’t impact the game as heavily as other positions New England passed on. The Patriots took Strange over much better available players. Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis could have been a starting defensive end to help the pass rush, and he was taken one slot later. Georgia safety Lewis Cine is a solid safe prospect who could have been a long-term starter, and the Vikings took him at the bottom of Round 1. North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson has No. 1 receiver traits with size and speed, and Green Bay traded up to select him at the top of Round 2. Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary is a future starter who was taken by the Titans at No. 35, but he would have been a very good cover corner to replace J.C. Jackson in New England. All of those players would have been better picks than Strange.

Strange, however, could easily become a quality starter. The Patriots have done well at developing offensive linemen, and obviously, they saw a great fit in Strange. With his guard/center flexibility, Strange could start immediately for New England as a replacement for Shaq Mason. The 6-foot-5, 307-pounder could start immediately for the Partiots, and with their coaching, he could be a quality starter quickly.

2021: Mac Jones, QB
2020: Anfernee Jennings, LB
2019: N’Keal Harry, WR
2018: Isaiah Wynn, OL
2017: Derek Rivers, DE
2016: Jon Thuney, G
2015: Tre Jackson, G
2014: Jon Halapio, G
2013: Logan Ryan, CB

Most Likely To Bust

Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor – Round 2
New England have struggled at wide receiver for years, and the organization has had some disappointments with draft picks who haven’t worked out – e.g. N’Keal Harry. The Patriots need more explosive playmaking ability for their offense, so they reached on Thornton in the second round even though other teams had him graded a round or two lower.

Thornton (6-2, 181) is extremely fast at separating from defensive backs over the top and stretching the field vertically. He is a home run hitter who has a second gear to run by defensive backs and get open deep down the field. Along with his speed, Thornton has good height and a larger catch radius than the typical speed receiver.

Thornton is rail thin, and it looks like he won’t be able to add much weight to his frame. Being that thin could limit Thornton because he could struggle to get off press coverage and have problems with physical cornerbacks. As a route runner, Thornton is linear and has some limitations. As a result of his size and route-running, Thornton might top out as a third and or fourth rotational receiver in the NFL.

As a second-round pick, Thornton is expected to be a starter, but he may not have the strength to be an every-down player. The Patriots have struggled to develop receivers, and a number of Baylor wide receivers have had a hard time translating to the NFL – e.g. Corey Coleman, Denzel Mims and more. Hence of New England’s early-round picks, there is the most bust potential with Thornton.

2020: Devin Asiasi, TE
2019: Yodney Cajuste, OT
2018: Ja’waun Bentley, LB
2017: Deatrich Wise, DE
2016: Cyrus Jones, CB
2015: Jordan Richards, S
2014: Bryan Stork, C
2013: Duron Harmon, S

Potential Boom Pick

Around the NFL, the common assumption is that the Patriots have drafted well because of all the Super Bowls they won with Bill Belichick and former quarterback Tom Brady. However, if you look at their drafts in recent years, you see that they have wasted a lot of early-round picks and have not been a team that has drafted well. Owner Bob Kraft stated as much during the 2021 offseason, admitting their drafting had to improve. I do not see boom pick potential with Cole Strange, Tyquan Thornton or Marcus Jones. Hence, there is no draft pick who really looks like a real boom pick from the Patriots’ 2022 draft class.

2020: None
2020: Kyle Dugger, S
2019: Joejuan Williams, CB
2018: Sony Michel, RB
2017: Antonio Garcia, OT
2016: Malcolm Mitchell, WR
2015: Malcom Brown, DT
2014: Dominique Easley, DE
2013: Jamie Collins, LB

Future Depth Player

Marcus Jones, CB, Houston – Round 3
Jones was an interesting prospect who took a lot of pre-draft visits with teams in the final weeks before the 2022 NFL Draft. Sources from multiple NFL teams said they loved Jones’ special teams ability, as he is a dynamic kick and punt returner. However, the 5-foot-8, 174-pounder is extremely underside to play cornerback in the NFL. While he is fast and athletic, Jones can’t compensate for his height and weight. Thus, I think he will top out as a backup corner who could be a Pro Bowl-level special teams contributor.

2021: Rhamondre Stevenson, RB
2020: Dalton Keene, TE
2019: Damien Harris, RB
2018: Braxton Berrios, WR
2017: Conor McDermott, OT
2016: Jacoby Brissett, QB
2015: Trey Flowers, DE
2014: Cameron Fleming, OT
2013: Aaron Dobson, WR

Walt’s 2022 NFL Draft Grades:

29. Cole Strange, G, UT-Chattanooga – MILLEN Grade
Our first Millen grade of the 2022 NFL Draft is by … the Patriots!? Wow! I don’t get this at all. Bill Belichick easily could’ve made this selection in the second round, or maybe even the third. I had Cole Strange 144th in my mock draft. I looked around to see if I was just way off, and Charlie Campbell had Strange 115th. Going off-side, Dane Brugler had Strange 93rd. Did Belichick think we were in the third round? I don’t understand this pick at all.

50. Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor – MILLEN Grade
I’m convinced Bill Belichick is on drugs. He spent a first-round pick on a third-round guard, and now he traded up for a fifth-round prospect in the second frame. Belichick could’ve traded down for Thornton and still acquired him! I don’t understand what’s happening, but if Belichick keeps making these horrible picks, I’m going to have to re-name MILLEN to BELICHICK.

85. Marcus Jones, CB, Houston – B Grade
I expected Bill Belichick to draft a 2024 UDFA at this rate, but he finally didn’t reach. Marcus Jones is someone I always tried to move up in my mock draft. He makes sense in the third round, and he obviously fills a need after New England lost J.C. Jackson.

121. Jack Jones, CB, Arizona State – C+ Grade
Surprise, surprise, the Patriots reached for a player! It’s not as bad to do so on Day 3, but I had Jack Jones in the sixth or seventh round in some of my updates. He thrived at the combine, but he could have been chosen later than this. Still, it makes sense that New England would take a cornerback, and Bill Belichick knows a thing or two about players at that position.

127. Pierre Strong, RB, South Dakota State – C- Grade
Bill Belichick might send me hate mail after this draft, but I don’t like this pick either. Pierre Strong is a bit of a reach, and the Patriots have no need for a running back with so much talent at the position.

137. Bailey, Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky – D Grade
Yeah, I’m definitely getting hate mail from Bill Belichick, and I’ll publish it for sure. What is this? Did the Patriots forget that he has Mac Jones on his roster? I know the fourth round is a time for backup quarterbacks, but it’s not like Bailey Zappe is the best player at the position. This seems like a wasted selection.

183. Kevin Harris, RB, South Carolina – D Grade
I’m not going to flunk the Patriots for a sixth-round pick, but this is ridiculous at this point. They’re not addressing any sort of need, and they’re taking a player who was a consensus UDFA. Forget the hate mail; Bill Belichick may send a bomb to my house!

200. Sam Roberts, DL, Northwest Missouri State University – D Grade
Bill Belichick is going off the grid and picking players no one has ever heard of before. Sam Roberts has nice size, but he was not on anyone’s radar as a draftable prospect.

210. Chasen Hines, G, LSU – A+ Grade
I can’t believe it. I love a Bill Belichick pick. Maybe he won’t bomb my house after all. Chasen Hines is an absolute steal toward the end of the sixth round. I thought he would be chosen in the third or fourth frame. Charlie Campbell agrees, as he listed Hines on his draft sleepers page.

245. Andrew Steuber, OT/G, Michigan – B+ Grade
It should come as no surprise that the Patriots drafted a versatile offensive lineman. Andrew Steuber can play both tackle and guard. I like this pick – it’s true, Bill – as Steuber could’ve been taken a bit earlier than this.

2022 NFL Draft Team Grade: D-. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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