The New England Patriots broke their franchise record for trades during the 2018 NFL Draft, coming out of the weekend’s activity with two additional selections for 2019. But the team still assembled a deep pool of players, despite picking none in rounds 3-4.
Bill Belichick’s eight trades during the 2018 draft set a new mark for the Patriots franchise, besting the previous high of seven deals in 2010. But by compiling picks in the final two rounds, they ended up drafting nine players total over the course of the three days.
Here’s a complete rundown of the Pats’ 2018 draft class, with a quick look at what to know about them.
First round, No. 23: Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia
Wynn has the prototypical height (6-foot-2) of a guard at the NFL level, but played left tackle in his final year at Georgia. His athleticism and versatility give him the chance to make an immediate impact on the Patriots’ offensive line, which needs to find a new starting left tackle and could put Wynn into a competition at left guard with Joe Thuney. Patriots center David Andrews offered an appropriate welcome for his fellow Bulldog.
First round, No. 31: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
Despite concerns about knee problems entering the NFL, Michel remained a highly touted running back prospect – perhaps the best other than Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, who went No. 2 to the Giants. Michel is an explosive north-to-south runner who could be a serious three-down weapon in the Patriots offense, especially if he can clean up his fumbling problems, and is also a good pass-blocking back. He sounded like the kind of player Belichick loves in his introductory conference call.
Second round, No. 56: Duke Dawson, CB, Florida
The Patriots traded down twice in the second round, jettisoning picks 43 and 51 before trading up from 63rd to 56th. With that pick they took Dawson, who projects as a slot corner at the NFL level. He’ll have a chance to become a regular in nickel packages and against tough inside receivers as soon as his rookie year.
Fifth round, No. 143: Ja’Whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue
With the pick acquired along with tackle Trent Brown from the 49ers, Purdue linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley became a member of the Patriots at No. 143. He described himself as a “thumper” to reporters on Saturday. Bentley has the size and physicality to contribute against the run and man the middle of the field, the kind of heavy, hard-hitting presence the Patriots’ linebacking corps missed in 2017 – especially after losing Dont’a Hightower.
Sixth Round, No. 178: Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State
Sam brings the physical traits and coverage skills of the kind of linebacker the Patriots could really use. But his NFL.com profile lists one of his weaknesses as “he’s not the alpha leader in the locker room and doesn’t love to practice.” He disputed the latter point to reporters, and doesn’t necessarily need to be the locker room leader on this team. The Patriots are obviously comfortable with those scouts’ reports, and if he can prove those practice arguments wrong he could be very useful for the Pats on defense and special teams.
Seventh round, No. 210: Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami
Of all the prospects in the 2018 class, Berrios may be the closest to a prototypical Patriot at his position. Berrios is an undersized but tough, sure-handed slot receiver who runs tight routes and isn’t afraid to work over the middle of the field. If he can grasp the Patriots’ playbook and develop chemistry with Tom Brady, Berrios has a chance to be in the mix in the offense from day one.
Seventh round, No. 219: Danny Etling, QB, LSU
The Patriots did the opposite of what many speculated or even expected at the 2018 draft, taking a late-round flyer on Etling instead of targeting one of the many hot QB prospects in the early rounds. They even passed on the likes of Kyle Lauletta (108th to the Giants), Mike White (171st to the Cowboys), and Luke Falk (199th to the Titans), instead waiting until 219th to draft Etling. The former LSU and Purdue signal-caller has been working on his mechanics with Tom House, who has been a personal coach for Tom Brady for several years. Nick Caserio complimented Etling’s ball security after the draft, noting that he threw only two interceptions in his senior year.
Seventh round, No. 243: Keion Crossen, CB, Western Carolina
An undersized cornerback who went under the radar when first recruited, Crossen filled out some while at Western Carolina. He turned out to be an explosive athlete who would’ve led the NFL Combine in 40-yard dash time had he been invited. Crossen may yet only contribute on special teams, but he’d offer elite speed on those coverage units.
Seventh round, No. 250: Ryan Izzo, Florida State
The Patriots finished off their draft class with a tight end, but not likely one who could contribute in the passing game. The 6-foot-5 Izzo projects well as a blocker at the NFL level, however, and has a chance to make an immediate impact on special teams. He also has potential as a run-blocking tight end for the Pats. He’ll compete for a spot on the team’s crowded, cloudy depth chart behind Rob Gronkowski.
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