New England Patriots

Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton was a hotter draft prospect than most analysts seemed to believe.

According to Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus, Bill Belichick’s trade-up to the 50th pick to select the Baylor wide receiver was a “necessary” move, in order to beat another GM to the punch. “At least one team had [Thornton] as their top WR on the board today,” Kyed tweeted.

This is notable, because three other receivers were picked soon after Thornton. The Pittsburgh Steelers took George Pickens out of Georgia at No. 52, then the Indianapolis Colts selected Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce at 53. The Chiefs then took a receiver with the 54th pick they got from the Pats, taking Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore.

If the Steelers had Thornton as their best receiver available, that’s a good sign for the Patriots. Pittsburgh has been a veritable receiver factory for years, with productive playmakers like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson in the previous five drafts alone.

Most prognosticators didn’t have Thornton pegged as a day-2 pick, but obviously, their draft boards didn’t align with some real-life ones. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein projected Thornton as a third or fourth-round pick, while the consensus evaluation at The Draft Network gave him a fourth-round value. Thornton ranked 16th on the “consensus big board” at NFLMockDraftDatabase.com.

Thornton stands at 6-foot-3 and 181 pounds, and ran a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, which ranked first among receivers and third overall. He started 14 games as a senior for Baylor and led the team with 62 catches and 10 touchdowns, and earned second team All-Big 12 honors.

Belichick and the Patriots are gambling that Thornton turns out to be a better, more productive pro than the wideouts selected right after him. You can be sure that he, Pickens, Pierce, and Moore will all be closely compared to each other in the coming years.

PHOTOS: Patriots 2022 second-round pick Tyquan Thornton

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Patriots Draft Tracker 2022: Day 2 picks, rumors, and more

  • NFL Draft 2022 Live Updates

  • Patriots trade down from 94

    According to Field Yates, the Patriots have traded the 94th pick to the Carolina Panthers. The Pats receive pick No. 137 and a 2023 third-round pick. So, that’ll do it for New England on day 2.

  • LISTEN: Adam Jones and Matt McCarthy react to Patriots’ selection of WR Tyquan Thornton

  • Patriots draft Houston CB Marcus Jones 85th overall

    Sep 18, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars cornerback Marcus Jones (8) celebrates his touchdown during the second quarter against the Grambling State Tigers at TDECU Stadium. Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 18, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars cornerback Marcus Jones (8) celebrates his touchdown during the second quarter against the Grambling State Tigers at TDECU Stadium. Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots have addressed the cornerback position. They’ve selected Houston’s Marcus Jones with the 85th overall pick. New England met with Jones pre-draft and attended his Pro Day.

    Jones played 13 games for the Cougars as a senior and made five interceptions, to go with 47 total tackles and one forced fumble. He also excelled as a returner, averaging 34 yards per kick return and 14.4 yards per punt return, with four total return touchdowns. He won the 2021 Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player and was a consensus All-American.

    The 23-year-old projects as a candidate to return kicks and/or punts immediately, and has a chance to stick as a slot corner, if not become a long-term replacement for Jonathan Jones. He doesn’t profile as a fit for the Patriots as an outside cornerback, but he has a dynamic-enough skill set to make an impact in a number of ways.

  • Trading up for WR Tyquan Thornton reportedly a ‘necessary’ move

    Nov 13, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (9) tries to elude Oklahoma Sooners safety Delarrin Turner-Yell (32) during the second half at McLane Stadium. Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 13, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (9) tries to elude Oklahoma Sooners safety Delarrin Turner-Yell (32) during the second half at McLane Stadium. Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    According to Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus, the Patriots’ trade-up to the 50th pick for Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton was a “necessary” move, in order to beat other teams to the punch. “At least one team had [Thornton] as their top WR on the board today,” Kyed tweeted.

    This is notable because two other receivers were picked soon after Thornton, and one of them was by the Pittsburgh Steelers with George Pickens out of Georgia. The Chiefs also took a receiver with the 54th pick they got from the Pats, taking Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore.

    If the Steelers had Thornton as their best receiver available, that’s a good sign for the Patriots. Pittsburgh has been a receiver factory for years, with productive playmakers like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson in just the last five years alone.

    Draft prognosticators didn’t seem to have Thornton pegged as a day-2 pick, but obviously, their draft boards didn’t align with the Patriots and at least one other team.

  • Patriots draft Baylor WR Tyquan Thornton

    Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (WO32) runs the 40-yard dash during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (WO32) runs the 40-yard dash during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots are targeting a wide receiver with their trade up to the 50th pick: they’re selecting Baylor wideout Tyquan Thornton.

    Thornton played four years at Baylor. He was slow to produce over his first three seasons, but as a senior, he started 14 games and led the team with 62 catches and 10 receiving touchdowns. His 2,242 receiving yards are 10th in school history.

    The 6-foot-2, 181-pound Thornton ranked as one of the fastest prospects in the entire NFL Draft. He ran a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash, which was third overall and first among receivers. Should he work his way into a major role in the Patriots’ offense, Thornton would provide some much-needed speed and explosiveness, and a potential big-play weapon for second-year quarterback Mac Jones.

    Per multiple reports, the Patriots traded picks 54 and 158 to the Chiefs for No. 50 before selecting Thornton.

  • Patriots trade up to No. 50

    The Patriots have made another draft trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, this time up. They’re at No. 50, and they’re on the clock…

  • Alabama WR John Metchie III off the board

    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)

    Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III, who was a popular prospect idea for the Patriots for obvious reasons, is instead joining old friend Nick Caserio with the Houston Texans as the 44th overall pick. There are still a few highly touted receivers left on the board, but if the Patriots want one of them, they’ll have to act quickly.

  • Jets take RB Breece Hall 36th overall

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 18: Running back Breece Hall #28 of the Iowa State Cyclones runs against the UNLV Rebels during the first half of a game at Allegiant Stadium on September 18, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – SEPTEMBER 18: Running back Breece Hall #28 of the Iowa State Cyclones runs against the UNLV Rebels during the first half of a game at Allegiant Stadium on September 18, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    On the night after a busy first round, the Jets add to their running back room with their first pick of the second. Iowa State running back Breece HallĀ is added to Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson (10th) as the second offensive skill player in the Jets’ 2022 draft class. They’ve also selected Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (4th) and Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson.

  • Best Players Available

    COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 27: Cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. #23 of the Clemson Tigers makes an interception on a pass intended for wide receiver Josh Vann #6 of the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second quarter during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

    COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA – NOVEMBER 27: Cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. #23 of the Clemson Tigers makes an interception on a pass intended for wide receiver Josh Vann #6 of the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second quarter during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

    This year’s draft is widely considered to be deep in the second and third rounds, so there’s still a chance that the Patriots add starting-caliber players with their next few picks. Some of the best players available are likely to go early on day 2, which means the Pats would have to trade up. But Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, Alabama wide receiver John Metchie, and Houston defensive end Logan Hall are a few of the notable names to know, either way.

    Our own Alex Barth has compiled a complete big board for day 2. Click here to go through the players and put together your own mini-mock.

  • ‘He wouldn’t have lasted much longer’

    Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chattanooga guard Cole Strange is announced as the twenty-ninth overall pick to the New England Patriots during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chattanooga guard Cole Strange is announced as the twenty-ninth overall pick to the New England Patriots during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Bill Belichick is always full of surprises. So in retrospect, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he drafted Tennessee-Chattanooga guard Cole Strange with the 29th overall pick, despite most mock drafts and big boards projecting him as a second-round pick at best. But Belichick doesn’t seem to think Strange would have made it as far as the Pats’ second pick at No. 54.

    “If we had stayed at 21, then we would have obviously picked somebody. Probably a good chance it would have been [Strange],” Belichick said in his post-draft video conference. “I don’t know, there were several teams that we talked to prior to when we made the trade. There were some other conversations going on there, but ultimately that’s the one we chose.

    “Glad Cole was there when we picked, and as I said, feel like we made the best decision that we could at 21.”

    According to Senior Bowl executive director and former Patriots scout Jim Nagy, the “majority” of teams he spoke with had a second-round grade on Strange. So it may have been a reach to take him at 29, but not necessarily as far down the board as it may seem on the surface.

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.

NEXT: Patriots select Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton 50th overall