This weekend’s draft was certainly one of the more interesting ones in recent memory, with the team making 10 selections, many of which seemed to address quite a few key needs heading into the 2019 season.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we came away with after everything that went down this weekend:
1 ) The addition of receiver N’Keal Harry was a selection that essentially let everyone know that Bill Belichick is aware of the fact that there was plenty of uncertainty surrounding the wide receiver position this year, leaving the club obviously prioritizing the position in round one. What’s interesting is the fact that Harry was clearly on their radar and when he ended up being available with the 32nd overall selection, with the Patriots obviously feeling he was too good of a value to pass up.
If the Patriots have the same success they had when they took a skill position player in the first-round last year, they’ll likely be pretty happy. Last year’s selection of Sony Michel in round one ended up being one of the more talked about moves once the draft was over but the results from last season are indisputable. While some in the media still beat the drum that any running back could have accomplished what Michel did last season, that seems a little off base after the former Georgia standout exceeded expectations and more than lived up to his first-round billing. If Harry can become the same type of gem that Michel did, fans should end up being pretty thrilled with this pick.
1a) Looking back at film of Harry, along with listening to his comments after being drafted, he seems to perfectly fit the mold of what this team usually covets when it comes to the players they like to bring in. He’s hard-working, loves to fight for the football and just loves the game, all great attributes for someone like him at his position. More importantly, he told the media that he met with the team prior to the draft and handled what they threw at him well, which speaks volumes given how difficult other previous players have struggled coming in. At 6’2″ 228-pounds, he’s a big athletic target who could be poised to make an immediate impact and at 21-years old gives them some much needed youth for the foreseeable future alongside veteran Julian Edelman.
Williams’ size should make him a solid asset in the Patriots’ secondary.
2 ) The selection of Vanderbilt defensive back Joejuan Williams was another move that was interesting as he was a player who many touted as a first-round talent, yet New England was able to get him with their second round selection.
What’s surprising about Williams is he’s a big player, standing at 6’3″ and gives the Patriots someone in their secondary who should be able to handle covering some of the bigger receivers around the league, which is something Belichick talked about during his pre-draft press conference.
Williams said during his conference call that he met with the team prior to the draft and it went well. While he doesn’t know what his role will be just yet, he’s ready to do whatever he’s asked as he gets to work with his new team.
“He said he saw me as a corner,” Williams said of his conversation with Belichick before the draft. “But at the end of the day, I’ll play wherever he sees me to fit and I trust in the system. I trust in him and I trust in the system and I just want to contribute to the team.”
While some may not realize it, New England’s secondary was already pretty deep going into the draft, but his addition adds size and athleticism to a group that is now pretty stacked heading into training camp. The scouting reports on Williams are positive, with the defensive back not afraid to compete for the football and he plays physical, while many believe he’s got what it takes to be an NFL starter.
Granted, it’s hard to make a real evaluation until we see him in action but if he ends up being as he appears to be advertised, it appears the Patriots could have snagged themselves a pretty good player for the foreseeable future in their secondary.
Chase Winovich is one of those hard-working players you can’t help but root for. (USA TODAY Images)
3 ) There’s no better type of player than a gritty hard-working guy who loves to work hard and the Patriots seemingly got just that when they selected defensive end Chase Winovich with their first selection of Round 3.
A lot of people are comparing Winovich to former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich as there definitely appears to be some similar attributes when looking at the film. But at the same time, he’s got a Rob Gronkowski-like personality when it comes to how he handles himself off the field. He’s a fun-loving guy who likes to have a good time and spends a lot of time with charities away from the game. So like Gronk, definitely an out of the box type of guy (he said during his press conference after being drafted that he once ate a live fish for $20 when he was in 5th or 6th grade). He’s similar in that off the field he enjoys having a little fun while focusing on helping people, but on the field he’s simply doing everything he can to help his team win football games.
He was a big contributor to Michigan’s defense and finished his final season with 69 tackles, including 17 for a loss along with 5 sacks. He finished with 79 tackles the previous year, including 18.5 for a loss and 8 sacks. He’s got an opportunity to potentially compete for playing time right away with Deatrich Wise, John Simon and Derek Rivers each as players who have yet to establish themselves as full-time contributors.
What’s also interesting about Winovich is that he’s not afraid to do the little things. He spent some time back in 2017 learning ballet to work on his agility and while looking for ways to always keep improving himself. One of the things he said after he was drafted was that he’s not afraid to do whatever it takes and his goal is “to outwork everybody” as he looks to be establish himself in the NFL.
“That’s kind of always been my mantra – just to outwork everybody,” said Winovich. “That’s always been my goal, and obviously at the next level with someone like the New England Patriots, hard work is a fundamental key component and they’ve done a great job I think of making that a cultural thing.”
“I’m just lucky to be a part of it. I take that as a big compliment. Not everybody can do that and go as hard as I can on every play. That’s definitely a bonus for me.”
Harris is a tough RB who should be a good compliment to Sony Michel.
4 ) For anyone who follows college football, third-round pick Damien Harris was one of the key contributors during Alabama’s success last season. Over 15 games he rushed for 876-yards on 150 carries along with 9 touchdowns, while averaging 5.84 yards per carry.
His addition is interesting because he adds youth and talent alongside last year’s standout in Michel, who was absolutely terrific all season. Given the injury history with Rex Burkhead, Harris provides some additional depth to take some of the load off of Michel as he heads into his sophomore season.
What stood out about Harris in watching him play is that he’s a strong back who doesn’t go down on first contact and does a great job of accelerating as he gets up field, while making it even tougher on defenders when they do finally try and bring him down.
Some were surprised with the selection because many expected the Patriots to address the tight end position, which never occurred. The problem was, four tight ends were selected in that round, three of which came off the board before the Patriots had a chance to pick. As a result, the Patriots jumped at the chance to add another big talented player to their backfield.
The expectations will be high for Harris, who played in a tough SEC conference yet still averaged 1,000-yards each season despite facing some of the toughest competition in the country. He’s now coming to a team who, like Alabama, is battling every season for a championship and he’ll need to bring the same type of effort with his new team.
“I think I’m just a dependable player, somebody that whenever you ask me to do something, I’ll do it,” said Harris after he was selected. “I think I just show a lot of great attributes on the field, things that help me be a great running back and they can help the team be successful.”
“There’s a lot of things that I can do well, there’s a lot of things I can still improve on, so I’m just ready to come in and be my best me and get to work Day 1. “
If Harris can be as productive at the NFL level, it will definitely be a nice 1-2 punch for this offense.
5) The Patriots certainly have a need at tackle after seeing Trent Brown depart during free agency and the selection of Yodny Cajuste out of West Virginia in round 3 appears like it could be a quality one for the Patriots.
He’ll join last year’s first round draft pick Isaiah Wynn, who is coming off of an Achilles injury as he tries to establish a role for himself. Wynn’s season came to an end before it ever got started last season after the rookie suffered the injury during training camp and ended up on injured reserve. He was playing right tackle with the first offense and battling against, ironically enough, then Eagles defensive tackle and new Patriot Michael Bennett when he suffered the injury on a seemingly innocuous play. He walked off the field but was carted back to the locker room from the sidelines shortly after.
Wynn was thought to compete for playing time at left tackle last season, but offseason addition Trent Brown ended up handling the role well early in preseason and grabbed a foothold on the job. He ended up as pleasant surprise and a was definitely a key addition during the team’s championship run. His performance ultimately resulted in a big payday, with Brown departing via free agency after signing a massive $66-million deal with the Raiders.
Cajuste is a raw talent who the Patriots will look to develop. (USA TODAY Images)
With the job back up for grabs, it will be interesting to see where Wynn’s at this season and Cajuste’s addition should also be fun to watch. The former West Virginia standout is huge, coming in at 6’5″ 312 pounds. He redshirted his first year but played left tackle during most of his career with the Mountaineers, although two seasons (2015 and 2016) were both marred by knee injuries. But he was healthy the following year in 2017 and started 13 games. He finished with a solid final season in 2018 while sharing the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year award with two other draft prospects.
It’s hard not to like this selection given his size and the fact that most scouting reports say that he has the talent to be a starting tackle as well as the ability to be successful inside. Given the success we’ve seen offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia have with players, it should be fun to see what he can do with Cajuste. Where he’ll ultimately end up playing will be interesting and the rookie said during his conference call he’s excited to learn as much as he can.
“I know he’s one of the greatest football coaches in the NFL right now,” said Cajuste of Scarnecchia. “I’m just ready to learn as much as I can from him, soak up as much as I can from him.”
Froholdt has some versatility, which may help him earn a roster spot.
6 ) One of the things that has made the Patriots so successful has been their ability to adjust on the fly when it comes to injuries, especially along the offensive line. They love guys who can do multiple things and that’s essentially the role fourth-round selection Hjalte Froholdt will likely take on.
Froholdt is about as versatile as it gets, having started his career on the defensive side of the football as a defensive lineman where he managed to find himself ranked among the top 20 defensive linemen in the country. He instead moved to the other side of the football and became a solid contributor at both center and right and left guard.
While many won’t view this as much of a pick, he appears to be a smart player and watching some film of him reveals that he’s strong and athletic and should be a nice addition to a group that can never have too many good offensive lineman. We’ll have to wait and see where he ends up after he starts working with Scarnecchia, which like his new teammates, he’s also looking forward to seeing where he fits in.
“You know, my first two years I started at left guard all of the games, and I played at some center and some right guard last year, said Froholdt. “But I feel pretty comfortable with all of them. It doesn’t really matter – I I’ll play wherever Coach Scar [Dante Scarnecchia] will put me and I’m excited to get to work with him and see where this goes.”
Like any QB drafted while Brady is here, all eyes will be on Stidham. (USA TODAY Images)
7 ) One of the most interesting picks of day 3, of course, will likely center around Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who the Patriots selected in the fourth round.
Given Tom Brady’s age and the team’s obvious need at the position should Brady decide to hang it up at any point in the foreseeable future, any quarterback who is brought in will immediately be placed in the crosshairs by those wondering if he’s potentially the guy who can step into Brady’s irreplaceable role with the team.
Last year’s selection of Danny Etling was relatively uneventful after he did little last preseason to open anyone’s eyes. After a full season with the team, it will be interesting to see if he’s able to take a step forward from where he was when we last saw him in preseason.
With fans already having forgotten about Etling, that puts Stidham in the spotlight to find out if he’s potentially got what it takes to someday take over the starting role. The Patriots are no stranger to doing their due diligence and they clearly felt confident enough to take him at that spot.
Stidham had an up and down collegiate career, starting out at Baylor before a sexual assualt scandal there that led to the firing of then coach Art Briles caused Stidham to decide to transfer. After sitting out 2016 while taking classes at a community college, he ended up at Auburn. In his first year, he completed 66.5 percent of his throws along with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. He took a step backward as a junior, completing just 60.7 percent of his passes while again throwing 18 touchdowns and five interceptions as his team finished 8-5.
That’s what caused him to drop as far as he did. Scouting reports seem to question his intangibles, believing that a better performance may have seen him go earlier in the draft. That being said, it now sets the Patriots up for potentially finding good value with where they took him. Josh McDaniels has had success when it comes to developing quarterbacks in recent years, which could see them iron out whatever kinks they may find he has.
Stidham said during his conference call that he met with the Patriots during his top-30 visit and actually spent some time chatting with Etling, also a fellow former SEC quarterback, who talked about some of the expectations and gave him a little insight into things. He knows he’s got his work cut out for him, and also acknowledged some of the problems he had last season during his press conference and admitted that he’s spent quite a bit of time leading up to the draft trying to correct them.
“I told Coach McDaniels and Coach Belichick, there were definitely times last year where for whatever reason, I just decided to get out of the pocket when I shouldn’t have or just didn’t trust my eyes at a certain point or my feet,” explained Stidham. “That’s something I’ve obviously been working on this spring up to the draft and it’s something I’m going to have to continue to work at in order to get better at the quarterback position.”
“I’m really looking forward to doing that, and there’s no one better to learn from than Coach McDaniels and Coach Belichick and those guys in the quarterback room.”
Cowart will be interesting to watch this training camp. (USA TODAY Images)
8) Coming out of this weekend, fifth-round pick, Byron Cowart, is somewhat of a wild card when it comes to where he’ll fit in.
According to scouting reports, the defensive tackle out of Maryland is a strong, tough player who at 6’3″, 298 pounds possesses a lot of size and has the physical attributes to be an NFL defender. One of his strengths has been his ability to set the edge, which he told reporters was something that Belichick spoke to him about after selecting him.
“They’ve just told me I have the ability to play to set the edge or go inside,” said Cowart. “So, they’re going to throw it at me, I believe, and give me the opportunity to show them where do I need to be within the defense.”
Once one of the top recruits in the country, he took a step back after first attending Auburn where he struggled and was faced with somewhat of a reality check. Three games into his junior season he transferred to a community college before eventually landing at Maryland where he started 12 games and totaled 38 tackles including 5 for a loss, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions. He also forced a fumble.
Needless to say, it’s been a long road for Cowart and after turning things around, he comes into the NFL with plenty of potential. Whether or not he can become the diamond in the rough the Patriots might feel he can be remains to be seen, but he’s certainly going to be an intriguing player to watch in camp.
Bailey’s addition sets up another punting battle in camp.
9 ) With Ryan Allen back on just a one-year deal, the Patriots made a move during the draft to select Jake Bailey out of Stanford.
They actually traded up in the fifth round to get him, which was a bit of an eye-opener considering how key Allen was during the Super Bowl and for most of last season. During the historic defensive battle against the Rams where the Patriots held Los Angeles to 3 points, Allen played a massive part in that as he consistently flipped the field position each time New England’s offense faltered. It kept the Rams with a long field, forcing them to consistently have to put long drives together against a Patriots defense who played one of their best games of the year when it mattered most.
While Allen would seemingly be the clear-cut starter, the Patriots look as though they’re making sure they at least have some sort of a back-up plan and will push him again for the second straight year in training camp after Bailey’s addition.
Bailey’s not a left-footed punter, which is a little unusal given Belichick’s affinity for non-right-footed punters. But he’s a talented player with a strong leg who, like Allen, also has experience holding on extra points.
Watching how the Super Bowl unfolded where the two clubs combined for 14 punts, it was something that Bailey got a kick out of it and it got him excited for what could someday be his future in the NFL.
“Oh, it got me fired up,” said Bailey. “I remember watching the game and all of my friends were kind of like, ‘What the heck is going on,’ and I was glued to the TV. It was one of my favorite football games of all time to watch.”
Replacing Allen is a tall order, but that’s what Bailey is now faced with as we get ready for yet another preseason battle at that position. Get your stopwatches ready.
Webster likely faces an uphill battle to make the roster.
10) Seventh-round pick Ken Webster is another player who had a rough go of things early on but came on strong during his final season at Ole Miss, with the defensive back finishing with 29 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss along with two pass break-ups.
Players taken in that round tend to be longshots, but there have been plenty of times where guys have surprised us and turned into solid contributors. Webster seems to be one of those players where it’s hard to really gauge what to expect given how his college career played out.
He missed the 2016 season due to a torn ligament in his knee, but recovered enough to return the next season and play in 10 games with five starts in 2017, along with nine games in 2018.
He’s played cornerback and safety and turned into one of the better cover corners in the SEC. As we know, Belichick favors players who can do multiple things and if he’s able to carry that over with his new team, the opportunity is certainly there. The downside for him is the fact New England’s secondary is pretty deep at this point so he faces an uphill battle to establish himself.
Overall, this was definitely one of the most interesting drafts we’ve seen in years and it sets up a training camp filled with storylines and things to keep an eye on. As a result, with minicamps and OTAs now looming, it’s hard not to be a little bit excited to see how things begin to come together as the 2019 season inches closer.