This Draft was definitely one of the more anticipated drafts of recent memory. Rumors and trade talks were as active as we have ever seen them, and it made for a crazy night. Now that the noise is quieting down and rookies are signing their contracts, we can now evaluate and discuss team drafts and what we as NFL Fans think of them.
The New England Patriots entered the draft with great expectations, which made fans anxious as they selected a total nine times during the NFL Draft. Outside of their nine selections, their additional nine trades included gaining San Francisco 49ers OT Trent Brown, a 2019 Second-Round selection from the Chicago Bears, a Third-Round selection from the Detroit Lions, and a 2019 Seventh-Round Selection from the Philadelphia Eagles.
Round 1, Pick 23 : Isaiah Wynn, OT, Georgia
The Patriots addressed a gaping hole in their offensive line with this selection, which was strong value in the first round. Isaiah Wynn was an extremely serviceable OT/OG hybrid in college. He seems to be expected to make immediate impact on the Patriots desperate offensive line that has struggled to keep Tom Brady on his feet in recent seasons. He has been regarded highly for his pass-blocking ability and his excellence as a pull blocker during his time at Georgia.
Although on the smaller end of the scale for offensive line, teammates say that it would not be wise to underestimate him. Former teammate Lorenzo Carter even stated “I’m used to going up against a 6-6, 300-pounder, but man, he’s one of the toughest guys.”
Wynn should bring Tom Brady some type of relaxation and comfort-ability as he starts his age 41 campaign and sets the Patriots up with both protection and hole openings for the running game.
Round 1 Pick 30 : Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
The New England Patriots went ahead and selected Wynn’s College roommate RB Sony Michel with their next first round pick. The Patriots certainly had a need for a running back, and many believed that it would be addressed at some point in this draft. Even then, this came to many as a shock, as Bill Belichick and company decided to pull the trigger on Michel in the first round instead of drafting elsewhere.
With the departure of Dion Lewis, it seemed almost certain that New England was going to look to fill that gap, and Sony Michel does just that. He offers a great amount of diversity with his ability to run between the tackles, and provides options in the pass game. Although he has never been able to prove that he can be the feature back of a team, the Patriots have plenty of options to be able to switch and flex his roll. Michel does not “wow” you with his power, but he is extremely elusive and can shake his way out of tackles. This was a extremely solid selection for New England, and should provide a solid competition for being the starting running back in Foxborough.
Round 2, Pick 56 : Duke Dawson, DB, Florida
With Malcolm Butler’s benching in Super Bowl 52, it was to be expected that he was leaving the Patriots this off-season. The Patriots did bring in the other half of the McCourty twins in a trade with Cleveland prior to the draft, but it is only viewed as a band-aid solution. Thus the second round selection of Duke Dawson, who was a solid corner while playing for the Florida Gators, but what kind of impact can we see the rookie CB make in his first year in New England?
Because of his size, Dawson will be limited to the slot role, where he will have to battle Jonathan Jones (coming off of injury) for the starting gig. I wouldn’t expect him to match up with WRs like Julio Jones or Brandin Cooks, who could easily have their way with him on the outside. What he lacks in size, he is able to make up for in speed, very rarely getting burned in college.
In addition, Dawson has great instincts and is an efficient tackler. He should be able to fit perfectly in with New England, taking the Malcolm Butler role of playing the receiver.
Round 5, Pick 143 : Ja’Whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue
After two and a half rounds of trading down for future selections in both the later rounds and the next season, New England finally made a selection and addressed their need at the linebacker position. Ja’Whaun Bentley will look to take over a role in the Patriots linebacker core that just never seemed to find its comfort zone in 2017.
His size has amazed scouts, and many think that he can provide sufficient run defense that the twentieth-ranked New England defense desperately needs. Outside of such ability, he is not highly regarded in many other spots. Scouts call him “almost unplayable in zone schemes” with “highly-concerning speed”. Also with a torn ACL, it isn’t surprising he fell this far down the board. On the other hand, he does provide some upside as a blitzing linebacker, and can possibly develop into a solid plug.
Round 6, Pick 178 : Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State
The Patriots started their sixth round with yet another linebacker in Christian Sam out of Arizona State. This Patriots defense looks to turn around a forgettable 2017 campaign, as they allowed 366 passing yards per game, as well as an additional average of 115 rushing yards.
Sam has been condoned on his three-down linebacking ability, as he can do it all according to most scouts. He has explosiveness and the ability to shoot the gap, as well as an above-average ability to run in coverage. His coverage instincts are regarded very highly, but his durability is a concernm as he missed all of 2016 with a foot injury.
Round 6, Pick 210 : Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami (FL)
This is easily my favorite selection of this draft class for the New England Patriots. With the departure of playoff star Danny Amendola, the Patriots were in need of a slot wide receiver to play alongside Julian Edelman and company. With Berrios, this was a great value pick in the sixth round.
Berrios is praised for his fearlessness in traffic and in the middle of the field. In addition, he is also spectacular as a punt returner, which is something New England has lacked for some time. In fact, he should see some immediate impact in the special teams department.
His weaknesses are pretty common for slot wide receivers. Known as undersized to a degree can come with criticism. With one of the NFL’s best slot receivers in Julian Edelman to learn under, Berrios could very well take over that role over time.
Overall, this was a great pick for the New England Patriots, and Berrios should have no issue making the active roster. He should be fun to watch on punt returns, and could have a similar role to Wes Welker and Julian Edelman.
Round 7, Pick 219 : Danny Etling, QB, LSU
Within the seventh round, the Patriots selected Danny Etling, who gets to learn under Tom Brady for the next however many years. The LSU quarterback wasn’t ranked too kindly, but will still be viewed as the next man up.
Etling is commended for his ball protection, only throwing two interceptions last season. He also has been noted to stand in the pocket and scan the field in a solid fashion. These are a few favorable attributes when talking about an NFL quarterback.
On the other side, Etling been said to have poor footwork and drops his hand quite often. In addition, he has also been criticized for his lack of overall production.
Overall, if Etling fails, it isn’t detrimental to the Patriots plans. Although there are rumors of turmoil between Brady, Belichick and Robert Kraft, many don’t expect it to be the catalyst that ends the Patriots dynasty.
Round 7, Pick 243 : Keion Crossen, CB, Western Carolina
The New England Patriots selected another cornerback for depth in this secondary who struggled to handle opposing quarterbacks last season. Keion Crossen was one of the less known defensive backs of this class, which is why he fell to this point.
He is regarded as highly athletic and extremely fast, running a 4.33 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. He did what he had to do to make his way onto the New England Patriots draft board.
In terms of weaknesses, he is listed at 5’9 and 185 lbs, which is considered undersized for his position. He also is late to react off of the initial wide receiver release, which could be detrimental when playing coverage.
It will be tough for him to make the active roster with such a deep cornerback competition. He could possibly work his way onto the practice squad, but it’s difficult to say he will be an immediate impact player.
Round 7, Pick 250 : Ryan Izzo, TE, Florida State
With questions looming around Rob Gronkowski’s longevity, it was wise for New England to take a tight end with their final pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Ryan Izzo showed a solid amount of promise at the collegiate level, and enters a tight end depth chart which holds Troy Niklas, Dwayne Allen, Will Tye and Cody Hollister behind Gronkowski.
Izzo is known as a trusted blocker in a spread offense, uses his hands as a receiver, and doesn’t let the ball hit his body too often. These are all quality traits you desire in a tight end.
His weaknesses are minimal, and can easily be fixed and developed. In college, Izzo’s catching radius wasn’t that large, and he also got called for a fair amount of holding penalties due to poor hand placement. If these aspects can be fixed, Izzo could be a premier receiving tight end in this league.
That was the final assessment of the New England Patriots ever important 2018 draft class. If you feel that you disagree with any of my points made, feel free to tweet them at me @kalebemcee or comment below!
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