New England Patriots

Projecting the NFL Draft is a lot of following trends. It’s taking a close look and what teams historically do or don’t do. That becomes easier when the same person has been leading the personnel department for over two decades.

That being said, trends are made to be broken. In many ways, that’s what the Patriots did when they took Chattanooga IOL Cole Strange 29th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft Thursday night. The selection goes against the grain somewhat compared to how the Patriots have generally operated under Bill Belichick.

Of course, Strange’s small school background stands out. While the Patriots like to explore all their options and aren’t afraid to take small school prospects (and usually with some success, ex. Kyle Dugger), it’s not often they do so in the first round. Of the now 20 first round picks made by Belichick in New England, 18 were from Power Five schools. The other was Logan Mankins from Fresno State in 2005. Strange is the first FCS player taken in the first round by the Patriots since they took running back John Stephens from Northwestern State 17th overall in 1988.

It’s not uncommon for the Patriots to take an offensive lineman in the draft. They’ve used more picks at the position than any other, taking at least one lineman in 17 of 22 (now 18 of 23) drafts since 2000, and multiple linemen in 14 of those 17. After not taking any linemen in 2012 or 2013, they’ve taken at least one every year since. However, of those 16 players, only three were taken in the top 100 and only one was taken in the top 50 (Isaiah Wynn, 23rd overall in 2018).

When the Patriots do draft linemen high, they’ve traditionally taken tackles. Of the five linemen they’d taken in the top 50 under Belichick before Thursday night, only one (Mankins, 32nd overall) was a true guard. Even expanding the view to the top 100, there’s only one other true guard (Joe Thuney) among the nine players.

While Strange does break a lot of trends, his selection is not totally unprecedented – but it does turn back the comp. There’s a lot in common with the 2005 selection of Mankins. They are the only two non-Power Five first round picks made by Belichick, and both are guards who were seen as over-drafted at the time.

Selecting strange also continues a more recently-developed trend for the Patriots. Their last three top picks have all be relatively older compared to average draft prospects. Kyle Dugger was 24 when they drafted him in 2020, Mac Jones was 23 last year. Strange will turn 24 this summer.

Another indication the Patriots would have been high on Strange is his Senior Bowl participation. It’s an event the Patriots focus on closely – 40 percent of all of their draft picks since 2008 played in the game. Strange was one of the standouts in Mobile earlier this year.

The Patriots took care of one other trend last night, not in picking Strange but trading back beforehand. With that deal with the Chiefs, they’re now up to 11 total picks (10 remaining). Over the last 10 years, they’ve averaged 8.6 selections per draft, and have made at least nine picks in seven of those 10 drafts. This their current draft capital, they’re in position to move up while still making a significant number of selections.

What trends should we be keeping an eye on heading into Friday night? The biggest pattern for the Patriots on Day 2 involves defensive linemen and edge rushers. They’ve taken at least one front seven player in the second or third round in each of the last three drafts, and in six of the last seven. They’ve doubled up at that spot the last two years, drafting Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings in 2020 and Christian Barmore and Ronnie Perkins in 2021.

The Patriots are currently scheduled to have three picks on Day 2, at 54 (second round), 85, and 94 (both third round). They’ve traded up on Day 2 in each of the last five years.

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Patriots big board for Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft

  • By drafting Cole Strange in the first round, the Patriots filled one of the most glaring needs on their depth chart at the guard position. As they turn their attention to Day 2, they draft is still deep at a number of other spots where the team has holes.

    Thanks to their trade with the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday night, the Patriots enter Day 2 with three more picks in the top-100. They’re currently scheduled to pick once in the second round (54th overall) and twice in the third round (85th overall, 94th overall).

    What names should Patriots fans know leading up to those picks? It’s time to reset the draft board heading into Day 2.

  • Defensive line

    Oct 9, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey (8) pressures Texas Longhorns quarterback Casey Thompson (11) during the game at the Cotton Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 9, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey (8) pressures Texas Longhorns quarterback Casey Thompson (11) during the game at the Cotton Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots have taken defensive linemen on Day 2 of the draft in two of the last three years and six of the last eight. After they ranked 25th against the run last year, there’s no reason to think that trend won’t continue.

    Last year, the Patriots traded up in the second round to take Christian Barmore 38th overall. Will they do something similar this year, or wait to see who falls in a deeper draft? Here’s the top names heading into Day 2, and which pick the Patriots may need to use to get them.

    –NT Travis Jones, UConn (trade up)
    –DL Logan Hall, Houston (54)
    –DL Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma (54)
    –DL Phidarian Mathis, Alabama (54)
    –DL Josh Paschal, Kentucky (trade between 54 and 85)
    –DT DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M (trade between 54 and 85)
    –DE Cameron Thomas, San Diego State (trade between 54 and 85)
    –DE Kingsley Enagbare (trade between 54 and 85)

  • Linebacker

    Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) is pressured by Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Christian Harris (8) in the fourth quarter during the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) is pressured by Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Christian Harris (8) in the fourth quarter during the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

    Linebacker was viewed as one of the Patriots’ biggest needs heading into this year’s draft. It also happens to be one of the deepest positions in this class.

    The board played out slightly unexpected on Thursday night, with projected second round pick Quay Walker being the first player selected 22nd overall. Only one other player – Devin Lloyd – went in the first round, leaving plenty of talent available.

    –MLB Nakobe Dean, Georgia (trade up)
    –OLB David Ojabo, Michigan (trade up)
    –OLB Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State (trade up)
    –OLB Boye Mafe, Minnesota (trade up)
    –MLB Christian Harris, Alabama (54)
    –MLB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin (54)
    –MLB Chad Muma, Wyoming (54)
    –OLB Nik Bonnito, Oklahoma (54)
    –OLB Drake Jackson, USC (trade between 54 and 85)
    –MLB Troy Andersen, Montana State (85)
    –MLB Channing Tindall, Georgia (85)
    –MLB Brian Asamoah, Oklahoma (85 or 94)
    –OLB Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati (85 or 94)
    –MLB Darian Beavers, Cincinnati (94)

  • Cornerback

    Dec 4, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Houston Cougars cornerback Marcus Jones (8) prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the American Athletic Conference championship at Nippert Stadium. Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 4, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Houston Cougars cornerback Marcus Jones (8) prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the American Athletic Conference championship at Nippert Stadium. Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots passed on a number of top cornerbacks in the first round. Is it because they like the Day 2 options at the position? Here’s who they’ll be looking at on the board tomorrow.

    –Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson (trade up)
    –Kyler Gordon, Washington (trade up)
    –Roger McCreary, Auburn (54)
    –Tariq Woolen, UTSA (trade between 54 and 85)
    –Coby Bryant, Cincinnati (85)
    –Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska (85)
    –Marcus Jones, Houston (85 or 94)
    –Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State (85 or 94)
    –Martin Emerson, Mississippi State (85 or 94)
    –Alontae Taylor, Tennessee (85 or 94)
    –Jalyn Armour-Davis, Alabama (94)

  • Safety

    Oct 23, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions safety Jaquan Brisker (1) reacts to a defensive play against the Illinois Fighting Illini during overtime at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 23, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions safety Jaquan Brisker (1) reacts to a defensive play against the Illinois Fighting Illini during overtime at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    There was a run on safeties late in the first round, but there are still players who project as fits for the Patriots still on the board. Along with defensive line, the safety position is one the Patriots have historically focused on on Day 2.

    –FS Jaquan Brisker, Penn State (trade up)
    –SS Jalen Pitre, Baylor (trade up)
    –FS Nick Cross, Maryland (85 or 94)
    –SS Bryan Cook, Cincinnati (94)
    –FS Kerby Joseph, Illinois (94)

  • Wide receiver

    TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA - SEPTEMBER 25:  John Metchie III #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide pulls in this reception as he is tackled by Camron Harrell #29 of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA – SEPTEMBER 25: John Metchie III #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide pulls in this reception as he is tackled by Camron Harrell #29 of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    As wild as the first round was at times, the wide receiver position ended up being chalk. The six players expected to go in the top 32 picks all went, albeit in a slightly different order.

    While wide receiver projects mainly as a luxury need for the Patriots overall, Jakobi Meyers’ expiring contract could make things a little more pressing at the slot receiver positions. There are some top-tier slot options among the players expected to be taken at the position on Day 2.

    –Skyy Moore, Western Michigan (trade up)
    –George Pickens, Georgia (trade up)
    –Christian Watson, North Dakota State (54)
    –John Metchie, Alabama (54)
    –Alec Pierce, Cincinnati (trade between 54 and 85)
    –Calvin Austin, Memphis (trade between 54 and 85)
    –Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama (85)
    –Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky (85)
    –Khalil Shakir, Boise State (85 or 94)
    –David Bell, Purdue (85 or 94)
    –Justyn Ross, Clemson (94)
    –Romeo Doubs, Nevada (94)

  • Running back

    Sep 25, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies running back Isaiah Spiller (28) in action during the game between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Texas A&M Aggies at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 25, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies running back Isaiah Spiller (28) in action during the game between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Texas A&M Aggies at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    So far, no running backs have been taken in this draft. That’s not much of a surprise, as none of the players at the position had consensus first round grades heading in.

    Will the Patriots be involved as the top backs start coming off the board? It’s a position of need – both short and long term. Their early-down back duo of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson is one of the best in the league, but there’s not much depth behind them and Harris is in a contract year. There’s also a potential opening for the pass catching back job, with James White returning from injury and Brandon Bolden now is Las Vegas.

    –Breece Hall, Iowa State (trade up)
    –Kenneth Walker, Michigan State (trade up)
    –Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M (54)
    –James Cook, Georgia  (85 or 94)
    –Brian Robinson, Alabama (94)
    –Dameon Pierce, Florida (94)
    –Zamir White, Georgia (94)

  • Offensive line

    LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY - SEPTEMBER 18: Darian Kinnard #70 of the Kentucky Wildcats against Chattanooga Mocs at Kroger Field on September 18, 2021 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY – SEPTEMBER 18: Darian Kinnard #70 of the Kentucky Wildcats against Chattanooga Mocs at Kroger Field on September 18, 2021 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    Would the Patriots double up on offensive line picks in the top-100? They generally attack the position in the draft – they’ve taken multiple offensive linemen in 14 of the 22 drafts overseen by Bill Belichick.

    Cole Strange fills the hole at guard, but there’s still a more long-term need at tackle with Isaiah Wynn entering a contract year. There are also some versatile offensive expected to go late on Day 3 who could offer multi-positional depth.

    –OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan (trade up)
    –OT Daniel Faalele, Minnesota (54)
    –OT Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State (trade between 54 and 85)
    –OL Darian Kinnard, Kentucky (trade between 54 and 85)
    –G Dylan Parham (trade between 54 and 85)
    –OL Jamaree Salyer, Georgia (trade between 54 and 85)
    –OT Abraham Lucas, Washington State (85)
    –IOL Cameron Jurgens, Nebraska (85 or 94)
    –OL Luke Goedeke, Central Michigan (85 or 94)
    –OL Zach Tom, Wake Forest (94)
    –OT Max Mitchell, Louisiana (94)
    –OT Rasheed Walker (94)

NEXT: Bill Belichick on drafting Cole Strange