The 2022 NFL Draft came and went with the Patriots putting together a 10-player draft class that elicited plenty of emotion from local fans and draft pundits.
It’s clear that not everyone agreed with the way the Patriots went about handling this draft. That’s not surprising. When it comes to the draft, it’s always better to expect the unexpected from Bill Belichick and his staff. Although the current draft grades aren’t kind to the Patriots, we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you that none of us will know how this draft class turns out until about three years down the road.
Day 1 Recap:Patriots draft Chattanooga G Cole Strange in the NFL 2022 Draft 1st round
Recap of Day 2 and Day 3 of the Draft:Patriots wrap up 10-player draft class
Hidden Gems:Patriots undrafted free agent tracker
For example, we’re confident enough to give the Patriots failing grades for their 2019 picks of N’Keal Harry and Joejuan Williams, but players from draft classes in 2020 and 2021 still have time to turn it around and contribute if they haven’t already.
That being said, here are three things that the Patriots revealed to us about their 2022 draft selections.
Patriots don’t care about your draft grades
This might be the least surprising statement of the century: Belichick doesn’t care about your draft grades or mock drafts.
Listen, mock drafts are fun. NFL draft analysts also do a great job. It’s difficult to preview a draft with hundreds of prospects who play for college teams and go up against college players. The NFL Draft is a crapshoot and that is why there will be later-round selections in 2022 that end up being better than first-round picks.
When it comes to the Patriots, they’re not listening to ProFootballFocus, The Athletic or Mel Kiper. That was obvious with almost every selection last week. The Pats have their own draft board, they stick to it and they don’t give a damn if you agree or not. People were up in arms with the Patriots “reaching” for players like Cole Strange, Tyquan Thornton and Jack Jones.
“I think that’s really easy for people to say,” said Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh, when asked about the notion they reached for Strange and Thornton. “Nobody knows what the teams are going to do behind you. When you come back up, you don’t want to miss out on a player. … It’s not all so cut and dry with where you think a guy is going to go, and you’ve got to look at what the rest of the board is telling you. If you value a player high enough, then you want that player to be a part of your team.”
Patriots were clear with their intentions
We saw that the Patriots had a clear problem with team speed last season. It was obvious in their wild-card loss to Buffalo. Prior to the draft, Groh told us that the Pats wanted to add speed everywhere — not just on defense.
That kind of candor is rare in New England, but it held true last week. The Patriots’ first four picks — Strange, Thornton, Marcus Jones and Pierre Strong are otherworldly athletes for their positions. A great tool to use to measure athleticism is the RAS (relative athletic score) by Kent Lee Platte. This takes every Combine time plus a player’s physical measurements and puts it all into a 0-to-10 scale.
Strange scored a 9.95 out of 10. That gives him the seventh-best RAS score out of 1,298 guards dating back to 1987. His RAS comps are Pro Bowler Ali Marpet, All-Pro Joe Thuney and Pro Bowler Evan Mathis.
Thornton had a RAS score of 8.55 and ranked him 405 out of 2,785 players. His composite speed grade was elite and his top RAS comp was receiver D.J. Chark.
Strong’s RAS score was 9.35. That ranked him 107 out of 1,632 running backs. His athletic comps are Hall-of-Famer Curtis Martin, All-Pro Christian McCaffrey and All-Pro Chris Johnson.
“At certain positions, there are only so many ways to handle speed, and these guys wake up every morning and they’re fast,” said Groh. “It’s a great gift I was never fortunate enough to have. But we’re going to try and put them in the best position to use that speed and open things up for us.”
Jones didn’t have a RAS score because he didn’t run this offseason due to shoulder surgery, but he too was considered one of the best athletes in this draft.
Patriots like their linebackers better than you do
Why didn’t the Patriots draft a linebacker?
That was the biggest question being asked by most Patriots fans. We’ll admit we focused a lot of time on this year’s linebacker draft class. The Pats released Kyle Van Noy, traded Chase Winovich and haven’t re-signed Dont’a Hightower or Jamie Collins. That made many think linebacker was one of the Pats’ top needs.
We were wrong.
The Patriots didn’t take a single linebacker with their 10 selections. The reason is that the team likes the young group of linebackers it already has. It also believes that newcomers such as Mack Wilson and Jabrill Peppers will help. One name to watch here is Cameron McGrone.
Last year, a member of the Patriots front office told The Providence Journal, “We’re excited about Cam McGrone.” After the draft, Groh said the same thing about the Patriots’ 2021 fifth-rounder who fell in that draft due to a knee injury.
“Yeah, really excited about (our linebacker) group,” said Groh. “Excited to see Cam McGrone was able to get on the field a little bit last year, excited to see him be in an expanded role. He’s kind of an additional draft pick. … I think we’ve got a lot of names there and a lot of experience, and mix in some youth, so I think it’s a good group.”
The Patriots have already invested a lot of draft capital into the linebacker position — McGrone (fifth round, 2021), Ronnie Perkins (third round, 2021), Josh Uche (second round, 2020), Anfernee Jennings (third round, 2020) and Cassh Maluia (sixth round, 2020). Add in Wilson, Peppers, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Raekwon McMillan and Jahlani Tavai and it’s clear the Patriots are more than comfortable with this group than we all thought.
Patriots 2022 draft choices:
Round 1 • Pick 29 (29) • G Cole Strange
Round 2 • Pick 18 (50) • WR Tyquan Thornton
Round 3 • Pick 21 (85) • CB Marcus Jones
Round 4 • Pick 16 (121) • CB Jack Jones
Round 4 • Pick 22 (127) • RB Pierre Strong
Round 4 • Pick 32 (137) • QB Bailey Zappe
Round 6 • Pick 4 (183) • RB Kevin Harris
Round 6 • Pick 22 (200) • DT Sam Roberts
Round 6 • Pick 32 (210) • C Chasen Hines
Round 7 • Pick 24 (245) • OT Andrew Stueber