New England Patriots News 4-29, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 29, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-29, & AFC East Notes

Quick Hitters: The Patriots made a curious decision to hold their post-Day 2 draft press conference immediately after the second round, while the 3rd round was just getting underway. While the Patriots didn’t have a third-round pick in the draft, they were essentially telling the world, that they weren’t interested in getting involved in it either.

When Nick Caserio came out on Friday night, the third round was just getting started. It just seemed a little odd to call it a night so early when there were many intriguing prospects on the board.

For those who are interested in these things,( I know I am), taking a look at the Patriots draft room when Belichick and Kraft called new addition Duke Dawson on Friday night, the Pats room looked like a ghost town compared to some of these other teams with a slew of staffers and coaches packed in the room like sardines. Belichick keeps it small and tight and while neither is right or wrong, it is just interesting.

If you’re trying to compute the final compensation for the Jimmy Garoppolo trade, good luck with that. The team’s trade has now taken it to the 2019 NFL Draft with the Bears second-round pick. And that may be in a prime position to….YES! Trade back.

Day 3 Highlights, Pats Get Going Late:
After trading back twice in the early going of Round 4, the Patriots finally selected a player at #143 with ILB Ja’whaun Bentley from Purdue. Before the draft, we all said that with no picks in over 100 selections, the Patriots would trade back in to not lose out on the mid-rounds talent. Well, they did it anyway, 87 picks went thru before the Patriots selected again.

Bentley is a big, 6’2, 260-pound thumper, a two-down run stuffer who is a liability in coverage. For those who were wanting an athletic, fast, sideline-to-sideline player, this isn’t it.

He will no doubt take on Elandon Roberts for a roster spot and could see duty as an inside linebacker on running downs but as we saw in the Super Bowl, the RPO game which is becoming the norm in the NFL, will not be a strong suit.

However, with their next pick at #178, the Patriots selected an athletic linebacker, arguably the best one they now have in Christian Sam from Arizona State. He’s got speed to get to the outside and takes very good angles to the ball. He covers good ground in coverage and has better than average ball skills.

He’s never out of position, strong and athletic. We had him going much earlier than this so it is a bit of a draft steal for the Patriots.

The Patriots traded back again at 198 and picked up  233 and 243 from the #198 pick.

With the # 210 pick, they selected slot receiver Braxton Berrios from Miami. He’s a small, fast, athletic player who can return kicks which will get him a look.

At #219, LSU QB Danny Etling was taken, the 6’2 three-year starter is a long-shot to make the roster and is likely a camp body. They then added CB Keion Crossen at #243 and TE Ryan Izzo with #250. Izzo is a big, physical blocking tight end.

With all of the talk about needing an off-the-ball linebacker and help on the edge, they didn’t take any linebackers until #143 and didn’t take any edge help. While they may sign a few of both with UDFAs, that should tell you that either, A. Belichick is planning on signing a free agent or making a trade or B. That they feel getting Hightower and Rivers back along with the addition of Adrian Clayborn will be enough. We shall see.  

Second Round Flurry of Activity Nets Dawson:
The Patriots have always been big draft day traders, the only year that Bill Belichick didn’t make a draft day trade was 2004. And the second round on Friday was a prime example of the wheeling and dealing Belichick as the team moved down twice and up once in the round.

The team had the #43 pick netted in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade plus their own pick #63. We thought the 43rd pick would be the place that they’d trade down and they did.

They traded #43 to the Detroit Lions for the #51 and a 4th round pick #117. They then flipped the #51 to the Chicago Bears for a 2019 2nd round draft pick and 4th round pick #105 this season. The team is banking on the Bears being as bad as most pundits think they’ll be this season. Then that 2nd round pick would be at the top of the round.

They then took their own #63 and #117 from the Lions and moved back up to #56 to select Florida slot corner, Duke Dawson. Dawson had been on a visit to Foxboro this spring and they liked the feistiness, versatility and compete level. Our analysis of the pick was here:

Patriots Go and See Red Everywhere Early in the Draft:
The first three additions by the Patriots all came from teams wearing red jerseys and have high ceilings that could really help the team in 2018 and beyond. But coincidentally all come with red flags medically that could also make their floors really low as well.

Georgia T/G Isaiah Wynn is a player that was considered a guard in the NFL due to his height (6’2) despite his playing at left tackle at a high level for the Bulldogs. He was the third-rated guard in the draft but the Patriots are planning on keeping him at tackle. He’s got a quick first step, moves well for a big man and uses his hands well against power rushers. And despite his lack of length, handled speed rushers well in the SEC.

But he is coming off labrum surgery on his shoulder and while he says he’ll be ready for mini-camp, that probably won’t be in the cards as they will err on the side of caution.

Wynn’s teammate in Georgia RB Sony Michel is a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. He has a nice blend of size, speed, and power. He has excellent vision, is quick to the hole and runs excellently between the tackles with true breakaway speed. While not as elusive as Dion Lewis, he has much better speed once he gets to the second level. He’s very good in both the running game as well as the passing game.

But Michel has red flags of his own with a knee that has already had ACL surgery. With Michel, the only question is will he stay healthy long enough to become a star in the NFL because he has the star quality at the position and was arguably the second-best player at the position. But his knee turned some teams off.

The Patriots made a trade with the 49ers early on Friday before the Day 2 of the draft opened, getting RT Trent Brown and the #143 pick for the Patriots pick #95. Brown is a huge right tackle at 6’8, 355 and was considered one of the pass blocking tackles…when healthy. Are we seeing a trend here?

The 2015 7th round draft pick is coming off season-ending shoulder surgery that he had at the end of last season. He is also in the final season of his contract which pays him $1.9 million in 2018, which isn’t an issue. But by trading for Brown, is that a bad sign that starting RT Marcus Cannon who himself is coming off of IR isn’t going to be ready to go.

So in looking at the Patriots first three draft acquisitions this spring, while the ceiling is certainly high, the floor because of injuries is also very low. Shoulder injuries, like those suffered by Wynn and Brown, can be similar to that which has limited Dont’a Hightower. This will bear watching moving forward.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Get Their QB and a Premier Linebacker:
The Buffalo Bills had a solid 2018 draft. They entered needing to land a franchise QB and they did just that in Round 1 by selecting gunslinger Wyoming QB Josh Allen. He won’t be rushed into service however as they signed A.J. McCarron as their bridge guy. They also signed one of the best linebackers in the draft with Tremaine Edwards from Virginia Tech. They also added depth on the DL with Harrison Phillips and a good slot or nickel corner in Taron Johnson.

Dolphins Don’t Get a QB But Load Up:
The Miami Dolphins also had a solid draft, they wanted to beef up a defense that had issues covering tight ends so they drafted three possible solutions to it. Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick was the Fins’ first pick and the 11th overall. They then added Ohio State Linebacker  Jerome Baker in Round three, as well as linebacker Quentin Poling, and defensive back Cornell Armstrong.

On offense, the Dolphins needed help at tight end and drafted two, taking Penn State’s Mike Gesicki and Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe in the fourth. They also added running back Kalen Ballage

Jets Grab Darnold and Need Herndon to Step Up as a Rookie:
The New York Jets got their franchise QB in Sam Darnold from USC. Most people thought Darnold would go to the Cleveland Browns with the #1 pick and Baker Mayfield would go to Gang Green. But the situation was reversed and the Jets ended up with the talented Darnold, who should be ready to handle playing in the  Big Apple.

But with no Austin Seferian-Jenkins who left in free agency, Darnold needs a security blanket in the passing game. The Jets hope that they found one in Chris Herndon from Miami in the fourth round.  

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.



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