One of the key things that the New England Patriots have talked about this offseason was trying to add youth and speed to their roster, and Day Two of the 2022 NFL Draft definitely allowed them to accomplish that.
While the thought initially had seemed to be that the Patriots would potentially target linebacker or defensive line in the early rounds, the team went the other way and made a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs to move up from #54 to #50 in Round 2 to take wide receiver Tyquan Thornton, who was the fastest receiver in the draft.
Thornton’s addition was interesting because he’s a player who has blazing speed and athleticism, giving New England someone who at least provides them a player of their own for opposing defenses to have to deal with. Miami currently has two of their own in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, while the Bills also have Stefon Diggs and Isaiah McKenzie.
The Patriots have Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor, both of whom are very athletic and quick players. New addition DeVante Parker is also athletic, but New England needed another player who could garner some attention and Thornton certainly seems to give them that.
At 6’2″, Thornton provides good height and a lengthy target for quarterback Mac Jones, who now has a pretty solid group of wideouts heading into 2022. The knock against Thornton is he’s fairly lanky, coming in at just 182 pounds, but he’s a tough player. He’s shown little fear in going over the middle and making plays in traffic, however, he’ll still need to bulk up in order to endure the hits he’ll likely see in the NFL.
But what should be interesting to watch will be the fact that the Patriots will have the luxury of easing him into the line-up. He’s someone who given their current group of receivers will likely end up with mismatches where he finds himself matched up one-on-one with a team’s 3rd or 4th defensive back, which could open up some potential big opportunities for the offense this season.
Not to mention if New England can move him around and allow him to make some plays in space, his acceleration is crazy and it should be fun to see how they use him.
In Round 3, the Patriots used the #85th overall pick to select Houston defensive back Marcus Jones, and he certainly appears to be an intriguing addition.
Jones, who initially started his career at Troy before transferring to Houston, was one of the better coverage corners in college football last season, albeit he’s primarily considered to be a slot corner thanks to his 5’8″, 185lb size.
But watching Jones on film, it’s clear why the Patriots chose him. He’s incredibly quick and athletic, showing an unbelievable change of direction along with an extremely quick break on the ball. He’s also a solid tackler and for a guy his size, he does a fantastic job of contesting catches with a fairly good leaping ability where he attacks the ball up high.
ProFootballFocus.com actually gave him a coverage grade of 80 during his time at both Troy and Houston, with Jones finishing with 12 pass breakups as well as five interceptions during his final season.
But where he also excels is in the kicking game, which gives the Patriots another extremely dynamic asset. He was electric with the ball in his hands, showing incredible vision as well as an impressive ability to change direction on a dime and evade would-be tacklers.
He finished his 2020 season averaging 19.8 yards on 17 punt returns for a FBS leading 337-yards along with a touchdown. His 2021 season was also impressive as he returned 26 punts for 374 yards and two touchdowns.
Jones was also used on kick returns more in 2021, including single-handedly winning a game for Houston against unbeaten SMU, who came into the game 7-0 against a Cougars team that was 6-1 coming into the contest.
With the score tied at 37-37 with 0:30 left to play, Jones broke off what ended up being a game-winning 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which allowed his team to pull off the 44-37 upset.
In that role, he finished the year returning 15 kicks for 510-yards and two touchdowns, with 100 of those yards and 1 TD coming on the play above.
With Gunner Olszewski now wearing black and gold in Pittsburgh, Jones appears to be a player who could be ready to step into his role and fill two needs, which definitely makes him a good addition.
Jones has even played offense, which saw him see some action during his senior season as a receiver.
All of the above is likely the reason why he earned the 2021 Paul Hornung Award winner as the nation’s most versatile player, which most certainly had to play a factor in why he ended up on Bill Belichick’s radar.
Both Thornton and Jones ended up being the Patriots’ only two selections Friday night, with New England trading out of the 94th spot in round three with the Panthers, with the Patriots acquiring the 137th pick as well as Carolina’s 3rd round selection in 2023.
We’ll see how Day 3 goes, but after selecting offensive lineman Cole Strange on night one in the first round, the Patriots already appear to have three people who could contribute right away in 2022. Hopefully, if all goes well, they’ll add a few more before Saturday is over.
Posted Under: 2022 Patriots Draft
Tags: 2022 Patriots Draft Marcus Jones New England Patriots Tyquan Thornton