The NFL Draft is in the books, and it finished with the New England Patriots adding 10 players and making seven trades along the way, one of which netted a 2020 fourth-round pick.
Entering the weekend with 12 overall selections and six in the top 101, the Patriots walked away with some solid players and by all accounts had a very solid draft.
Here are 10 thoughts to wrap it up:
1. For the first time in a few years, almost everyone walked away saying it was a successful draft for the Patriots. Part of it was the number of picks at the top following a few years in which they didn’t have a first-round selection, but even in the middle-to-later rounds, the team grabbed players who appear capable of making impacts for years to come.
2. One of the few questionable selections was trading up three spots for Stanford punter Jake Bailey in the fifth round, but when asked about it afterwards, Nick Caserio’s response indicated the Patriots just had too many selections, entering the weekend with four seventh-rounders, and just did not want to make all the picks, so why not get rid of one to move up three spots? The other selection to raise eyebrows was Alabama running back Damien Williams in the third round, and it seems he was just too good of a player to still be around when the Patriots were on the clock. He was graded by many as one of the top three running backs in the entire draft. They couldn’t pass him up
3. First-round pick N’Keal Harry has a very cool backstory, but the best of the Patriots’ selections may be offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt, who was selected in Round 4. A native of Denmark who played collegiately at Arkansas, he wanted to be a French art thief as a kid. “A burglar in France, specifically in France. I don’t know why," he said. "Me and my good childhood friend Carl, we wanted to be burglars in France, and you grow up and find out that’s frowned upon. So obviously the dream changed, but yeah, I think my mom still has the paintings of me — of stick figures — stealing diamonds in France.” Froholdt came to the United States first by going to Ohio, then to Florida and the IMG Academy before enrolling at Arkansas. His former coach at Arkansas, Bret Bielama, who is now with the Patriots, was the one to call him and pass along the good news.
4. Of all the picks, third-rounder Chase Winovich appears to have the biggest potential to be a fan favorite come the summer. He’s very outgoing and plays with a great deal of passion on the field. “I like to think of myself as kind of a junkyard dog, just tenacious, relentless effort and motor, just scrapping for every inch,” he said on a conference call. “But at the same time, I like to think I’m slippery here – as they say in Pittsburgh, “slippy.” I think I bring some versatility, and I think my combine was an example of some of the speed that I have. And when you factor all of that in together, I think that makes me a pretty interesting pick and prospect and football player in general. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to go out there, prove my worth to the other guys on the team and ultimately to the rest of the world.”
5. With all the coaching turnover on defense this offseason, it’s still not known exactly who the positional coaches are, but fifth-round pick defensive lineman Byron Cowart out of Maryland may have given a clue as to who is the defensive line coach is. The Maryland product noted he worked out with the Patriots as part of the pre-draft process, so naturally he asked whom it was with. “It was the D-line coach,” he said, before adding it was “Coach Covington.” DeMarcus Covington has been a coaching assistant for the last several seasons, working heavily with the linebackers last year. Maybe now he will be heading up the D-line.
6. The pick that may have generated the most buzz was quarterback Jarrett Stidham in Round 4, but it’s important to stay patient with him and not be surprised to see some growing pains at the beginning. Caserio noted how different the Auburn system is from the Patriots', so it may take him awhile to get fully comfortable. The good news is Stidham is a tremendous talent and has the potential to one day replace Tom Brady (stress on potential).
7. It really is impressive to watch the Patriots work the board year after year when it comes to making trades. More often than not, they come away on the better end of the deals, which makes it worth wondering if teams are becoming less willing to deal with them. That didn’t seem to be the case this year. One of the more underrated parts to their deals is how they consistently are able to get selections in future years in better rounds.
8. Dante Scarnecchia will have his work cut out for him again after the team drafted two fairly raw linemen. Froholdt, who was drafted in the fourth round, came to the US from Denmark and also started his college career as a defensive lineman. The Patriots also selected offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste in Round 3 out of West Virginia. All through high school, basketball was his No. 1 sport, and he played just one season of football before West Virginia.
9. Josh McDaniels was once again in the war room for a second straight season. Last year it was was said to be so he can learn more about what it takes to one day be a head coach again. Also, while it likely has no bearing on anything, it's worth noting Robert Kraft wasn’t seen or heard from all weekend. Sometimes he’s present at the season-ticket-holder event on Day 1 and also has been shown in the past calling the first-round picks on the phone.
10. As always, the Patriots were very involved in the undrafted-free-agent market after the draft, and it’s very likely at least one of them makes the team, as has happened in 15 straight seasons. The two favorites are NC State wide receiver Jakobi Meyers and Marshall safety Malik Gant. Meyers converted from quarterback three years ago, so he is still growing at the position and seems to have tremendous upside. Gant totaled 195 tackles, 15 for loss, two INTs and 14 passes defensed over the last two seasons and is a solid player.
By Ryan Hannable