The voters have spoken for the Patriots team Hall of Fame and Rodney Harrison has garnered the most votes, having bested both Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel. He’ll be getting his red jacket at a ceremony later this summer.
Harrison, on a teleconference call with the media, said he was surprised by the vote. “I was kind of like frozen because I’m telling you, I had it in my mind that I wasn’t going to be the guy,” Harrison said. “You just kind of get used to that, whether it’s Pro Bowls or things like that. Once they told me, I just thanked God and gave Him all this praise. And I just started receiving all these text messages from (Patriots LB Tedy) Bruschi and a whole bunch of people, so it was just a really, really proud moment for me and my family.”
Harrison was often overlooked at how good he was because of his reputation as a dirty player. He only garnered two Pro Bowl nods but between 2003 and 2008, he was one of the most valuable players on the Patriots defense. Bill Belichick has said that Harrison was the best practice player he ever coached.
“That’s why it meant so much to me, so much more to me because it’s not going by reputation. You don’t have to have a certain reputation — good, bad or indifferent. The fans knew that I loved football. I gave everything for the organization, for my teammates, and for the fans and my family.”
Harrison had seven interceptions in nine playoff games for the Patriots, including two in Super Bowl XXXIX against Philadelphia. He also came to the Patriots with a reputation for tough, physical play and in his first two seasons (both Super Bowl wins) he led the Patriots in tackles with 140 (a career high) and 138.
Harrison is the only defensive back in NFL history with 30 sacks (30.5) and 30 interceptions. He was a team captain for all six of his Patriots seasons. He will be inducted with Leon Gray at a ceremony to be determined later this summer.
All three nominees are very deserving but Harrison has been the most visible with his hosting of Sunday Night Football telecasts with Tony Dungy. That certainly didn’t hurt his candidacy. Both Harrison and Seymour belong in Canton.
Of those Patriots’ teams that won three Super Bowls in four years, Harrison becomes the seventh player to be inducted into the team’s HOF. He’ll join Troy Brown (2012), Tedy Bruschi (2013), Ty Law (2014), Willie McGinest (2015), Kevin Faulk (2016) and Matt Light (2018).
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.
With the 2019 NFL Draft in the books, the Patriots have added 10 players via the draft and the first group of undrafted free agents. Look for some movement among those, as those positions, at least initially tend to be in flux for the first week to 10 days after the draft.
The roster as it currently stands has 88 players, fullback Jakob Johnson is an international gateway program player and doesn’t count against the 90-man limit. He’ll be on the practice squad once the season starts.
At first glance, the team has a deep, strong, solid base, especially along the offensive line and at cornerback. Players in bold are draft picks. So, how is the team shaping up post draft? Let’s look at each position and where they may need to still look to add more depth this spring.
Tom Brady Brian Hoyer Jarrett Stidham Danny Etling
Four quarterbacks are probably going to be one too many, even if Tom Brady decides to skip the voluntary workout OTAs. Etling would be the odd man out, they just invested a draft pick in Stidham, who along with Hoyer should see a ton of work this spring. This position is set for the year
Running Back: (5)
Sony Michel James White Rex Burkhead Brandon Bolden Damien Harris
With the addition of Harris, this takes an already good group and makes them better. Injuries last year hurt this position. So, the only question is, will they keep all five? Bolden was brought back for STs but can fill in with the odd carry here and there. Very solid, and versatile group of backs here.
James Develin Jakob Johnson **International Gateway Player** Doesn’t Count against 90 player limit
Johnson doesn’t count against the limit and should be on the practice squad in September. Develin is extremely valuable.
Wide Receiver: (13)
Julian Edelman Josh Gordon (suspended) Demaryius Thomas Phillip Dorsett N’Keal Harry Matthew Slater Bruce Ellington Maurice Harris Braxton Berrios Damoun Patterson Jakobi Meyers UDFA Xavier Ubosi UDFA Ryan Davis UDFA
Edelman and Harry begin the season as the #1-2 WRs on the roster, Dorsett as the #3. The team brought in Ellington and Harris earlier this spring. Demaryius Thomas will probably begin the year on PUP and we don’t know when we’ll see Gordon again.
Fans have been gaga over Berrios since last spring, now we’ll get to see if the optimism there is justified. Of the UDFAs, Meyers is intriguing and had a lot of production at NC State. He has good size at 6’2, 203 but doesn’t run well (4.63 time in the 40). Ubosi is also big (6’2, 217) and averaged 23.9 yards per catch but isn’t fast either (4.58 in the 40). Davis is a slot guy who caught 69 passes but most were extended handoffs.
With questions around both Thomas and Gordon’s availability this season, they’d do well to bring in another veteran to help take the heat off their top two. Or perhaps the team feels that Ellington (23 catches for the Lions) or Harris (28 catches for the Redskins) can add something to the offense.
Tight End: (6)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins Matt Lacosse Jacob Hollister Stephen Anderson Ryan Izzo Andrew Beck UDFA
Everyone, including here, expected the team to address tight end in the draft and probably early. But they didn’t draft one, only adding UDFA Andrew Beck from Texas. Beck is known more for his blocking than pass receiving (28 catches, 281 yards 2 TDs in 2018) as is Ryan Izzo.
The team is hoping Austin Seferian-Jenkins can find his game here in New England. Newcomer Matt Lacosse had 24 catches for the Broncos last year. Hollister has shown flashes but can’t stay healthy.
Will the team add another veteran tight end (the hype is on Kyle Rudolph) or decide that for 2019, they’ll be content with the production they can get from the current crop and keep them inside as blockers and put the onus elsewhere on the roster?
Offensive Line: (18)
LT Isaiah Wynn LG Joe Thuney C David Andrews RG Shaq Mason RT Marcus Cannon OL Ted Karras OT Yodny Cajuste OL Hjalte Froholdt OL Brian Schwenke OL James Ferentz OT Cole Croston OT Cedrick Lang OL Jake Eldrenkamp OT Ryker Mathews OT Dan Skipper OT Tyree St. Louis UDFA OL Tyler Gauthier UDFA OL Calvin Anderson UDFA
Huge positional group here. They draft Wynn to be the LT last year but he got hurt in camp. All the other starters return. They drafted Cajuste to be the RT of the future and he’ll be the swing tackle this year, backed up by Croston…right now.
Draft pick Froholdt is an intriguing guy who can play guard or center and may push Karras as the top interior backup. It is going to be tough to evaluate all of these guys this spring/summer. The roster should be set unless Wynn isn’t ready to go and then they may opt for another veteran tackle.
(7)Michael Bennett John Simon Deatrich Wise Chase Winovich Derek Rivers Keionta Davis Trent Harris
After losing Trey Flowers in FA, the team brought in Michael Bennett and just added Michigan’s Chase Winovich who brings the good speed and athleticism needed for the edge. In their scheme, he was kind of their ”designated pass rusher” opposite the TE on the weak side. He should get starter reps early. Simon and Wise and solid contributors.
What do the Patriots have in Rivers? It is Year 3 so, the time is now and the clock is ticking on him, Davis and Harris. They are essentially playing for one roster spot.
Interior Defensive Line: (7)
Lawrence Guy Mike Pennel Adam Butler Byron Cowart Ufomba Kamalu Frank Herron David Parry
Lawrence Guy is an underrated solid player. The Patriots picked up Pennel to solidify the middle and he’ll be a two-down starter. Butler is a good contributor. Cowart, the big kid from Maryland is a potential 5th round steal. He was highly regarded but flamed out in Auburn before having a really good season for the Terps. He and Kamalu have the versatility to play inside or outside.
Depending on how the young guys develop, they may later opt to bring in another veteran. Allen Bailey is still out there.
Kyle Van Noy Dont’a Hightower Ja’Whaun Bentley Elandon Roberts Christian Sam Brandon King Calvin Munson Terez Hall UDFA
The team made no moves here other than bringing in Hall as an UDFA. The top three from last year (Van Noy, Hightower, and Roberts) return. Bentley impressed in the early going before getting hurt and Sam is an athletic type who was hurt in camp. King is a LB in name only. He’s a ST ace.
They should be set here unless the injury bug starts to hit.
Stephon Gilmore JC Jackson Jason McCourty Jonathan Jones Duke Dawson Keion Crossen JoeJuan Williams Ken Webster
This is the deepest position on the team with eight (8) viable players who can step in and play. The top four were the stalwarts from last year’s Super Bowl run. Crossen played a bit, Dawson was a 2nd round pick who got hurt and never saw the field.
They obviously liked Williams and moved up for him. Webster is an athletic freak who tested extremely well at the Combine. They can’t carry eight corners, so the obvious thought is they’ll try to trade some of these guys rather than just release them.
Devin McCourty Patrick Chung Duron Harmon Obi Melifonwu Terrence Brooks Nate Ebner A.J. Howard Malik Gant UDFA
The Patriots didn’t add any during the draft and signed Gant as an UDFA. The top three return and now we’ll see if they can get out of Melifonwu. Again, barring injury, this position is set for 2019.
Special Teams: (4)
K Stephen Gostkowski LS Joe Cardona P Ryan Allen P Jake Bailey
The team re-signed Gostkowski and Allen but moved up in the draft to select Bailey. He and Allen should battle it out as the #1 punter. He has a strong leg and led the nation in hang time. He can also kickoff and serve as an emergency field goal kicker.
The initial roster here and we must remember it is only the end of April looks pretty strong and barring health concerns, they should be in really good shape come September.
The thinking here is they could really use another WR and TE but they set themselves up very well with an extremely solid draft in 2019. They’ll tinker with the roster and constantly look at ways at improving the team. As we’ve said many times, the team you see in April won’t look like the team you see in September.
But for the start of OTAs, the roster is looking pretty solid.
The Patriots stayed put in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft and with the 32nd selection took N’Keal Harry, WR from Arizona State.
In selecting Harry, this is the first time the Patriots drafted a wide receiver in the first round since the days of Terry Glenn, back during the Bill Parcells era. He has long arms and uses his catch radius and body positioning to always seem to get open. He’s a threat for big yards after the catch (YAC) and while not a burner in the 4.3 range, he has good speed. He will immediately become a matchup issue for opposing defenses because of his size, physicality, and athleticism.
The pick should have brought a big smile to the face of Patriots QB Tom Brady, he gets a big (6’2, 228) physical wide receiver who was extremely productive in college. In 37 career college games, Harry caught 213 passes for 2889 years and 22 touchdowns.P
Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio told the Patriots media after Round 1, the team was getting phone calls about moving back but decided that selecting Harry was the better option. Caserio said that Harry is, “a big, strong receiver with good hands … good with the ball after the catch.” Harry after being selected, spoke to the Patriots media and to the NFL Network and stated he thought his home state team the Arizona Cardinals would take him at #33 which may have convinced New England to stick with the pick and take him.
Within the Patriots system, Harry seems to be a tremendous fit. He can attack zones in the short to intermediate area and presents a big target with the ability to high point and win contested passes and those in traffic. Those quick slants that Brady likes to throw and did with Josh Gordon will quickly become a specialty with Harry. He has strong hands and is a tough run blocker.
He’s arguably one of the top three WRs in the draft and the Patriots just got him. Adding him to the mix with Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Demaryius Thomas and possibly Josh Gordon in the future just made the cupboard a lot less bare in the meantime. After Edelman, he’s already the best receiver among the WRs and TEs on the roster.
Former Patriots front office man Michael Lombardi called Harry “a beast with the ball n his hands.” Harry’s comments make him seem like a perfect Patriot. “I play with a lot of passion. Whenever that ball’s in the air, I’ll sacrifice anything to go get it,” he said to the media after being drafted. “I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win. Anything coach wants me to do — whether it’s on special teams, offense, anything — I’ll do it.”
And it should be noted, Harry ran back a punt 92 yards last fall against USC.
As we count down the days until the 2019 NFL Draft is upon us, we’re going to look at some of the positions that the Patriots need to address to restock, reload and prepare to defend their Super Bowl title. As everyone knows, winning back-to-back titles is never easy.
So, with that in mind, we’ve been taking a look at several positions that the team needs to address. And next up is the defensive tackle position. The Patriots lost former first-round pick Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton during free agency. But then they turned around and signed Mike Pennel of the Jets, who we called for before free agency began on one of our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts. You can go back and listen to that here .
With a plethora of draft picks, the Patriots could still swing a trade for an established veteran, which we assume, they’ll try to do. One veteran who has been linked to the Patriots (I know, isn’t everybody?), is Chiefs DT Allen Bailey. Or the team can add thru the draft and they can possibly do both.
Here’s a list of some guys slotted to go early in the draft, in the mid-rounds and some late round guys that we believe would be a good fit here. We can start off by saying that we’d love Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver from Houston, or Christian Wilkins from Clemson. But none of those guys in our opinion will last long enough for the Patriots to pounce…so we move on. One name to keep an eye on is Mississippi State’s, Jeffery Simmons. He was a top 4 interior DL on most boards but tore his ACL while prepping for the draft. He could be a steal later.
Dexter Lawrence, Clemson:
Lawrence is a natural two-gap run stuff who was an anchor in Clemson’s outstanding defense in 2018. He is a huge 6’4, 342-pound immovable object in the middle of the defense, but is not fat. He’s surprisingly athletic for his size with incredible size and strength. He’s a natural nose guard in the Vince Wilfork, Haloti Ngata mold.
Outstanding run defender
Quick off the line
Doesn’t give ground on double teams
Very disruptive inside
Not a great pass rusher
Can tire easily, works best in a rotation
PED red flag caused him to be suspended for the playoffs and championship
What his Role Will Be: Lawrence could step in and start on Day 1 as a two-down run stuffer. The Pats love big guys who can play over the nose.
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? Not much, he should have a big role right off the bat, if anything, with some improved pass rush moves, he could see more snaps
How Many Downs Can He Play? Three
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Lawrence would replace either Shelton or Brown as another big body on the inside as a run stuffer
What is his ST Value? None
Lawrence has that big red flag when he tested positive for Ostarine and was suspended for all of Clemson’s playoff run. But if those issues are capped, he would immediately provide a huge presence inside against the run and would immediately become quite popular with the linebackers.
Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame:
Tillery is a guy that has been frequently linked to the Patriots lately in many mock drafts. Tillery played in a rotation his first two years and was a starter for his final two. He has excellent size, (6’6, 295), speed (4.93), and athleticism (7.45 in the Three Cone) for a man of his size.
Excellent penetrator in a one-gap scheme
Quick off the snap
Good closing speed on runners
Improving as a pass rusher, went from 4.5 to 8 sacks in 2018
Plays too tall and upright at times
Had maturity issues earlier in college
Many interests outside of football have some questioning his commitment
What his Role Will Be: Tillery also could step in and start on Day 1 as a one-gap penetrating interior lineman.
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? Depending on how much is asked of him in Year 1, he could see a huge uptick in snaps in Year 2
How Many Downs Can He Play? Three
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Tillery would replace the aforementioned free agents but could cut into the snap totals of Adam Butler, the interior pass rusher in the NE defense
What is his ST Value? Minimal, potential kick blocker on FGs/EPs.
Watching the tape of Tillery, one is immediately reminded of Stephon Tuitt. He is an interesting prospect and there were times last year, where he appeared absolutely dominant inside. He has that potential. If the Patriots go after him, they’d be more of a one-gap penetration type of defensive call. Tillery, like Lawrence, is a 1st or 2nd round pick.
Gerald Willis, Miami:
Willis is another one-gap penetrator who has had some off-field issues but was a very productive player for the Canes this season. Willis was very disruptive in the backfield with a terrific blend of quickness, and agility with excellent hand usage. He had 18 tackles for a loss and 4 sacks rushing from the interior.
Very athletic for a big man
Very quick off the snap
Hands are quick and powerful
Ideal fit is a 3-technique in a 4-3 defense
Gets too upright at times
Red flags at Florida and Miami earlier will have to be checked out.
Could add some size and strength at the NFL level
What his Role Will Be: Willis could initially start as a 3rd down interior guy and gradually work his way up to being a three-down lineman
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? With improved size, strength and technique, Willis could become a very effective all-around player.
How Many Downs Can He Play? Three
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
No one, he isn’t a two-gapping space eater
What is his ST Value? Minimal
Willis is a guy who when he’s on his game, literally jumps off the screen on tape. He’s very disruptive and has the type of penetration skills the NFL is looking for. He can get washed out at times in the running game and won’t be a two-gap guy but has a ton of upside.
Isaiah Buggs, Alabama:
Buggs is another one of those Alabama defensive linemen who they played out on the edge but will move inside at the next level. Good size at 6’3, 306 pounds. He’s versatile and can one-gap or two-gap. Buggs didn’t test well at the NFL Combine and that may cause his draft stock to go down.
Had a productive 2018, with 9.5 sacks
Very quick off the snap and instinctive
Very good physicality
Versatile, interior pass rusher
Very short arms
Long speed a question
Pass rush repertoire lacking
What his Role Will Be: Buggs will be a guy that will have to be more consistent at the next level. But it seems he could fill in at any down as a one, or two-gapping lineman.
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? With coaching and consistency, he has the talent to be an every-down player from the interior for the team
How Many Downs Can He Play? Three
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Brown or Shelton on the interior, but has work to do.
What is his ST Value? Minimal
Buggs is a good, but not a great interior pass rusher. He cleaned up last year because of Quinnen Williams being next to him. But he can be a productive interior rusher at the pro level. He’s versatile and can play 3-technique, 5-technique, out wide in a 3-4 look or as a nose shade defensively. Buggs is a mid-round prospect whose versatility good be a good fit with the Patriots.
Renell Wren, Arizona State:
Wren is kind of a sleeper and could be a “boom or bust” prospect at the next level. At this time he may be a better athlete than football player and whatever team drafts him may require patience until he can show his potential.
Freaky athlete, great explosion
Disruptive in the gaps
Can play one or two-gap style
Production doesn’t match physical traits
Bad footwork needs fixing
Plays upright too much
What his Role Will Be: Wrenn is a developmental guy, in his first year, he may see the field only sparingly but has the physical capability for much more.
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? With hard work with his coaches on his hand and footwork, he has the ability to be a pocket pusher inside.
How Many Downs Can He Play? Three
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
No one, he’ll be trying to make the roster as a project.
What is his ST Value? Minimal
Wrenn is a good gamble for a late round pick, if he’s there in the 6th or 7th round, he could be an enticing player with a lot of potential upside. He’s got the size at 6’5, 318 pounds to be a very enticing prospect.
Daylon Mack, Texas A&M:
Mack is still somewhat of a raw talent and plays the zero technique, as a true nose tackle. Mack underwhelmed for three years at A&M but a coaching shuffle brought the most out of him in his senior season. He’s a 6’1, 336 bowling ball who flashed big time at the Senior Bowl, being basically immovable at the point of attack.
Very stout, thick build, perfect for a NT
Immovable object against double teams
Excellent leg drive
Can disrupt with good initial quickness
Just phone booth quickness
Not a good pass rusher
Gets too upright as he tires
What his Role Will Be: Mack is a classic nose tackle in the Wilfork, Ngata mold. He can eat two gaps and be a two-down run stuffer.
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? With some increased pass rush moves, he could see a slight uptick in playing time
How Many Downs Can He Play? Two
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
He is a good run stuffing replacement for the departed Brown and Shelton.
What is his ST Value? None
Mack is a guy who the NFL is moving away from, with the trend moving towards pass rushing specialists, but the Patriots love a big guy who can set the anchor and two gap over the nose. He’s probably going to go later in the draft and would be a big body who can defend the run and be a good disruptor for two downs.
Other players that could fit the Patriots defense depending on how the board plays out, include Kingsley Keke, Texas A&M, Ed Alexander, LSU, Chris Slayton, Syracuse, and Daniel Wise, Kansas (brother of Deatrich)
The Patriots will address the defensive tackle position in the draft and still possibly add a veteran free agent. After losing Brown and Shelton in free agency, they were thin there but the addition of Mike Pennel should immediately ease some of that as he should get starter reps right off the bat.
They have Adam Butler who is more of an interior pass rusher like Wise who they can kick inside, Lawrence Guy is a big man who can stuff the run and generate some pass rush. I’d look for another big man inside who can anchor and take on double teams but there are some very disruptive, penetrating tackles in this draft. It should be interesting to see how they approach this year’s crop of rookies.
Well, folks, he did it.
He’s calling it a career at 29.
Listening to his body, Rob Gronkowski put out a message on Instagram on Sunday saying that he is retiring from the NFL after eight seasons, all with the Super Bowl Champion Patriots. After years and years of this surgery and that surgery, of this shortened season and that shortened season, Gronk is walking away. One has to wonder if he will become the next biggest movie star, the next biggest YouTube sensation, the next biggest anything he puts his mind to.
But one melancholy element remains. Gronk will never play for the Patriots
again. Gronk likes to party, but that
thought is as sobering as it gets.
Kansas City fans will say Tony Gonzalez. Charger fans will throw the name Antonio
Gates into the fray. The Cowboys will
offer up former ESPN broadcaster/returning tight end Jason Witten. Heck, Chicagoland will strike back with “Ditka!” Other teams will throw in their entry for the
tight end GOAT.
Patriot fans will yell “Gronk” loudly, strongly, and quite
Are they right?
Gronkowski is 104th all time in receiving yards
(Gonzalez is 6th, the next tight end is Witten at 21), and is 130th
in total receptions (Gonzalez is 2nd, Witten is 4th,
Gates is 17th). So by the
numbers, the case is a weak one.
Gronkowski missed a lot of playing time due to injury, and he doesn’t
have the longevity of the other gentlemen.
But many NFL experts not only see Gronkowski as a future Hall
of Famer, they see him as a first ballot enshrinee. If that be the case, Gronk enters some very rarefied
air, some very select company, and this might help support a ground swell to make
him the tight end GOAT.
Gronk is not yet 30.
Only two other former NFL players became first ballot Hall of Famers
without ever playing a game into their 30s.
The other two players? Jim Brown
and Gale Sayers. That right there has to
put Gronk in the discussion.
Numbers aside, when healthy, who was Tom Brady’s number one
go-to guy over the last two decades?
Troy Brown? Wes Welker? Julian Edelman?
Or was it Gronk?
If Gronkowski does indeed become the tight end GOAT in the
eyes of the majority of NFL experts, it will have to be based on subjective
analysis, not stats-based. The stats don’t
support him. But watching him play
either does, or perhaps does.
Gronkowski was the guy who could always get you that first
down. He could do it even being held by
one defender. Sometimes being held by
His athleticism for a guy his size is freakish. He could physically do things a guy his size
can’t normally do. He was strong, fast
and quick. He had great hands, one of
the best pair of hands of the present day and the past decade. He could make wideout-type circus
catches. He was uncoverable. He was a matchup nightmare. He would eat linebackers all day long. Just listen to Scott Zolak during Super Bowl
XLIX: “A linebacker? In man-to-man coverage? All day long, baby!”
Then there’s his blocking skills. How often do you hear the praises of the
blocking skills of Gonzalez, Gates and Witten being extolled? If you do, go ahead and tweet your claim. Gronk was one of the best, if not the best,
blocking tight end of his day. And that
goes along with all the aforementioned skills he has become legend over.
What the Patriots will miss most is his clutch. His final catch as a Patriot encapsulates the
clutch element of Gronk perfectly.
It was a lob pass down the left seam late in the fourth
quarter of Super Bowl LIII. It went for
29 yards and it put the Patriots at the Rams’ 2-yard line, first and goal. Sony Michel scored the game’s only touchdown
on the next play.
The Last Catch. Brady
laid it in there, as perfectly as the GOAT quarterback usually does. Gronk had linebacker Cory Littleton draped
all over him (but not holding him).
Brady’s pass was pinpoint perfect.
Gronk extended his arms, caught the ball, then fell perfectly so as not
to fumble or to have the catch overturned on replay as “not finished”. The catch set up the first Red Zone play of
the game for either team, with 7:03 left in the contest. In what was the tightest defensive struggle
in Super Bowl history, the Last Catch will probably go down as Gronk’s
The Last Catch is what Joe Average NFL Expert, one with no ties
to New England, should look at as Exhibit 1 of why Gronk should be the tight end
GOAT. No, he can’t match Gonzalez, Gates
or Witten on numbers. But Gronk has
three Super Bowl rings, three more than any of those gentlemen combined. Call that Exhibit 2. Or 1A.
Exhibits 3 through 521 (his career catch total) should cast
a better light on Gronkowski. What we have
borne witness to these last eight years has been tight end masterpieces. Great catch after great catch. Miraculous catch after miraculous catch. Clutch catch after clutch catch. On and on.
You’ve seen them all. And you’ve
loved every one of them.
Replacing Gronk will be impossible. Had Aaron Hernandez not made some tragic life
choices, he might still be around. The
last previous “great” tight end was Ben Coates.
He was replaced. Someone will
come in and play tight end for the Patriots.
But replace Gronk? Uh-uh.
The Patriots have been blessed with terrific players over
the last 20 years. Ty Law will head for
Canton this summer. Five years from now,
Gronk probably will also.
And you the Patriot fan will head there, cheer your heart
out for him when he gets his bust, and reflect on his greatness, something you’ve
enjoyed so much since 2011.
But you need to calcify what you know. This is not the last time this next sentence
will be typed, allowing for name substitution.
You will never, ever, see a player like Rob Gronkowski ever
It’s funny, moments like these are ones that you’re never really ready for.
With news floating out there that Gronkowski might have been returning in 2019, the idea that the Patriots would be without him this season seemed hard to fathom.
After all, his final reception of the year ended up being one of the most crucial of the game during the Patriots Super Bowl win over the Rams. With the score knotted at 3-3 in the fourth qaurter and New England driving, Gronkowski caught a 29-yard pass on a 2nd-and-3 from the Rams’ 31-yard line, hauling in a diving reception at the Los Angeles’ 2, just short of the goal line. One play later, rookie running back Sony Michel took the ball in for the touchdown. Putting the Patriots up 10-3 in a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as they won their sixth Super Bowl Championship.
Following the win, Gronkowski was all smiles and it seemed like the euphoria around this victory might have been enough to bring him back for one more run.
On Sunday night, he put the chances of that to rest after announcing his retirement on Instagram.
For any fan who has watched Gronkowski over the course of his career, you couldn’t have asked for a better player. He made an immediate impact from the time he was drafted in 2010 and his larger-than-life persona was apparent both off the field and on it, with the happy-go-lucky tight end always smiling in front of the camera while quietly working hard behind the scenes.
Both Bill Belichick and his teammates have always talked about his incredible football I.Q., along with the effort he put in day in and day out on the practice field. But what really made Gronkowski unique was how much of a complete player he was. Not only was he a dangerous threat in the passing game, he was a dominant force as a blocker and he seemingly took just as much enjoyment making a key block as he did in spiking the football after scoring touchdowns.
That’s rare in this day and age. Most players tend to focus more on their numbers and less on doing the little things, but Gronkowski was a complete player and took pride in doing all of it.
One of the biggest questions now will be where he’ll end up in his place in NFL history, with many wondering if he’ll someday end up in Canton. He leaves the game with the NFL record in receptions (81), receiving yards (1,163) and receiving touchdowns (12) by a tight end in playoff history. He’s also scored more touchdowns (79) than any other player since 2010, which given that he had several injury-shortened season over that span, is astounding.
The injuries are likely what played a role in the veteran announcing his retirement. He’s had knee injuries, several back surgeries, ankle injuries, his forearm injury, to name a few. Each time he went down, fans penciled him in for the following season likely not realizing the tremendous amount of rehabilitation and pain that went along with making it back to the football field.
The most memorable example of that was when he took a significant hit against the Broncos in Denver in 2015, with the tight end screaming and writhing around on the ground after he went down. What was tough about that moment is the reaction likely stemmed from the knowledge of having been through it in the past, with the obvious fear of his season ending and another offseason of rehab clearly on his mind during the time from when he hit the turf, to when the cart finally took him off the field.
Gronk’s injury scare in 2015 was a reminder of how tough it was on him.
Fortunately, it was just a scare and he avoided disaster. But it was a reminder that he’s only human and the frustration fans voiced at times about his injury history was nothing compared to what he endured personally each time he dealt with one.
Seeing him struggle this past season was a shocking reminder that all of those big hits he sustained over the years had seemingly finally taken their toll. He caught just 47 passes for 682-yards during the regular season, while still averaging 14.5 yards per reception. Of those 47 passes, 34 went for first downs and moved the chains.
In the playoffs, he was big. He was third on the team in receptions with 13 catches for 191-yards, including 4 receptions for – how fitting – 69-yards. The best players step up in key moments and even as hampered as he was, the fact he was able to come through when it mattered most is really a testament of just how good he really was.
Gronkowski’s final reception was a memorable one.
However, he wasn’t just a terrific player, he’s also a terrific person. Behind the scenes, he was known to spend a lot of time at children’s hospitals and other charities, giving up a lot of time to help put smiles on the faces of each person he spent time with. He’s taken his fair share of criticism over the years when it came to his fun-loving ways (his party bus was a target of that), but he was never involved in any off-the-field incidents and never garnered any negative attention.
He’s been pretty care free, with fans even seeing him pounding beers during championship parades. Some took it too far, even believing it was O.K. to treat him like an animal while firing cans at him during the most recent championship parade, causing him to suffer a pretty good cut on his eye. As usual, he took it in stride, despite the fact there were some of his teammates who seemingly took it harder than he did.
For Gronkowski, he goes out the way a player can only hope. He leaves the game with his final moments seeing him raise the Lombardi Trophy, knowing that he made the key play that helped his team get there. He leaves with the love and adoration of every player in the locker room and countless others who played with him and even the respect and appreciation from many more around the league. Opposing players might dislike the Patriots, but very few seemed to have anything negative to say about the veteran tight end.
But the biggest takeaway from this news is the fact it closes the door on an era of a player we’ll likely never see again, which will probably take a little while to sink in. Players like Gronkowski are rare and it’s even more surprising for a player of his caliber to have made it through his entire career with one football team. Fortunately, Patriots fans were able to see end enjoy every moment of his incredible career and as hard as it will be not to see #87 out there next season, every one of them should be thankful for the impact he had during this run.
While everything eventually comes to an end, it’s safe to say there won’t ever be another Rob Gronkowski. Whatever he decides to do next should be fun to watch, whether it be acting, professional wrestling, or whatever lies ahead as he walks away from the game.
But whatever he does next, it won’t be anywhere near as much fun as it was seeing him on the field. One thing you can likely bet is he’ll hit it just as hard as he has everything else, so here’s hoping he has a blast in retirement. He’s definitely earned it.