In so many ways it was a typical draft for the New England Patriots. Not only did the Patriots trade down three times and pick up a third-round pick in next year’s draft in the process but they took a chance with some picks that went higher than expected.
The selection of Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange was indeed a strange move. There are those who thought he would have been there when the Patriots picked in the third round. Receiver Tyquan Thornton and defensive back Marcus Jones also come with some risks.
The selection of two running backs and a quarterback going in the fourth round added to a draft class that is ranked among the worst in 2022. With all the division rivals seemingly improving in the offseason, if these picks don’t work out it will be remembered as the draft when the tide turned against the perennial AFC East contenders.
According to NFL betting lines, the Patriots (+400) are tied for the second-best odds to win the AFC East during the 2022 season
Patriots Draft Summary
Pick 29 Cole Strange | OL, Chattanooga Mocs
This is one first-round selection that sent the NFL Draft analysts into a state of disbelief as the NFL picks did not have Strange going in the first round. Bill Belichick wasn’t too concerned about those opinions as he grabbed the interior offensive lineman he needed now that longtime starting guard Shaq Mason was traded to Tampa Bay.
The 300-pound Strange had a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine as he ran the 40-yard dash in 5.03 seconds, had a 10-foot broad jump, and had 31 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press. The Patriots are counting on his physical traits being enough to overcome a lack of competition playing at a lower level.
Strange started 44 games at Chattanooga with 43 coming at guard.
The Patriots picked up third and fourth-round picks by trading down eight spots from No. 21.
Pick 50 Tyquan Thornton | WR, Baylor Bears
The 6-foot-2 Thornton put on a show at the combine. He ran the 40 in 4.28 seconds and posted a broad jump of 10-10 and a vertical jump of 36.5 inches which was one of the best performances at the combine.
Thornton averaged nearly 18 yards per catch as a freshman and caught 45 passes the following season. After a subpar 2020 campaign, Thornton had 62 catches for 942 yards and 10 touchdowns.
This is another pick that was panned by the analysts feeling that there were other receivers who would have been better choices in the second round.
The Patriots’ history of drafting receivers in recent drafts is not impressive. N’Keal Harry, a first-round pick in 2019, has been a disappointment while 2016 fourth-rounder Malcolm Mitchell is out of the league. The Las Vegas odds have Thornton (+4000) tied for ninth in the odds to be the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Pick 85 Marcus Jones | CB, Houston Cougars
Once again the Patriots went with a player with some top-end speed.
The 5-foot-8 Jones had three punt returns for touchdowns and brought back five kickoffs for scores during his time at Houston and Troy. He had five interceptions, four special-teams touchdowns, and 10 catches.
“The first day he walks on the field, he is a Top-10 returner in the league.”@UHCougarFB coach sees @MarcusJonesocho’s return and coverage skills as a natural fit in New England: https://t.co/CnfrnukI9x
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) May 19, 2022
It remains to be seen if he can get the job against NFL defenders at his height. If nothing else, the Patriots should have a more explosive returner on special teams. The Patriots did need to address cornerback after letting J.C. Jackson leave town.
Pick 121 Jack Jones | DB, Arizona State Sun Devils
Jack Jones displayed strong ball skills with 10 interceptions during his time at Arizona State and Southern California.
The 5-foot-10 Jones is another undersized cornerback. He isn’t quite as far as Jones but with a time of 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, he has the speed necessary to play at the next level.
Jones had 42 tackles and three interceptions during the 2021 season. He also forced three fumbles as a senior.
Jones did have some off-the-field issues at Arizona State but the Patriots haven’t shied from taking chances on players.
Pick 127 Pierre Strong | RB, South Dakota State Jackrabbits
The Patriots didn’t seem to need much help at running back, especially with the way that 2021 fourth-round pick Rhamondre Stevenson played a season ago. With Damien Harris, James White, and J.J. Taylor also on the roster, it won’t be easy for Strong to find carries.
Strong ran for more than 1,000 yards three times during his time at South Dakota State. He went to the combine, ran the 40 in 4.37 seconds, and had a 36-inch vertical leap.
Strong certainly deserved to be drafted when he did but was New England the right landing spot?
Pick 137 Bailey Zappe | QB, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
This is another interesting pick. Zappe led the country with 5,967 passing yards and 62 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in nearly 700 passing attempts.
Zappe won’t be beating out Mac Jones to become New England’s starting quarterback. Perhaps he can become a valuable backup quarterback. Veteran Brian Hoyer is the only other quarterback on the active roster for the Patriots so Zappe will have a chance to learn from both Hoyer and Jones.
Pick 183 Kevin Harris | RB, South Carolina Gamecocks
Another running back for New England? Perhaps the Patriots are going to debut a four or five running back offense.
Kevin Harris led South Carolina with 657 rushing yards in 2021 after running for 1,138 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore.
The 225-pound Harris joins quite the crowd running back room for the Patriots.
Belichick doesn’t hesitate in turning to the best player regardless of his age or experience. If Harris earns snaps, he will get the chance to shine.
Pick 200 Sam Roberts, DE | NW Missouri State Bearcats
Another small school prospect caught the eye of the Patriots scouts and coaches. Sam Roberts had 18 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks during the 2021 season. Roberts blocked three kicks during the 2019 season.
With the trade of Chase Winovich, the Patriots could use another pass rusher so Roberts will be given a chance to fill that role.
Pick 210 Chasen Hines | OL, Louisiana State Tigers
Hines is an intriguing prospect with the ability to play multiple positions on the interior of the offensive line. The 327-pound Hines went to the combine and ran the 40-yard dash in 5.22 seconds and had a vertical jump of 30.5 inches.
Chasen Hines was the backup center when LSU won the national title in 2019 before becoming a two-year starter at guard.
The Patriots used a late-round pick to draft Michael Onwenu in 2020 and they are hoping to find another steal at that position.
Pick 245 Andrew Stueber | OL, Michigan Wolverines
The Patriots doubled up on offensive lineman taking a New England native. Stueber didn’t become a full-time starter until his final season at Michigan. He started 14 games at right tackle to help the Wolverines win the Big Ten title.
He has a chance to play either guard or tackle for the Patriots.
Grading the draft
Time will tell if Belichick gets the last laugh. At first glance, this was probably the worst draft in 2022. There were reaches on players, addressing positions that didn’t really need addressing, and more questions than answers.
For all of Belichick’s strengths when it comes to putting together championship-caliber rosters, some of his recent drafts have not exactly been top of the line. If Strange becomes a Pro Bowl guard and Thornton is one of the top receivers in this draft, those who picked apart the picks will need to rethink things. Let’s check the Super Bowl odds.