Patriots may not be done cutting their losses from the 2019 draft
July 25th, 2022
Of all the Patriots’ draft classes under Bill Belichick, the 2019 group may have been the most damaging.
“Headlining” the class of 2019 was now-infamous wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who barely made traction on the Patriots’ roster in three years. Harry had all the opportunity in the world to seize a major role in the Pats’ offense in his first two seasons, when the team was depleted at the position and essentially drafted him to plug that hole. And he played a lot in 2021, too … just mainly as a blocker. So it’s fair to wonder if Harry is capable of a regular role as an actual pass-catcher at the NFL level. He certainly wasn’t in New England.
The Patriots recently traded Harry to the Chicago Bears for a 2024 seventh-round pick, mercifully ending one of the most painful stints ever witnessed for a first-round pick in Foxboro. They also traded their 2019 third-round pick, linebacker Chase Winovich, to the Cleveland Browns for fellow LB Mack Wilson earlier in the off-season. Winovich has flashed some legitimate ability as a pass-rusher, so his departure seems more like a “culture fit” thing for the free-spirited, somewhat outspoken linebacker.
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The Pats may not be done there, when it comes to purging Gillette Stadium of the stink of 2019. Mike Reiss recapped the Patriots’ moves in a recent column at ESPN.com, and said that cornerback Joejuan Williams could be “the next to go.” Reiss also projects Williams as a “long shot” to make the 53-man roster in 2022.
New England originally drafted Williams with the 45th overall pick in the 2019 draft. Oh, and they traded up there to do it; they sent the 56th and 101st picks to the Rams for No. 45. So they targeted Williams, aggressively.
Unfortunately, Williams now represents the double-whammy with Harry, as perhaps the most disappointing 1-2 picks in Bill Belichick’s draft history. Whenever Williams showed up on TV screens in 2021, he was often getting burned by receivers down the field.
The Patriots drafted two cornerbacks in the 2022 draft, third-rounder Marcus Jones out of Houston and fourth-rounder Jack Jones out of Arizona State. Hopefully, Jack Jones turns out to be a much better Sun Devil than Harry was in the NFL. But either way, it appears that the Joejuan Williams Experience™ is about to end in New England.
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 04: Joejuan Williams #33 of the New England Patriots is seen as they take on the Tennessee Titans in the first half of the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 04, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Here’s a quick look at the Patriots’ cornerback depth charts, as they stand on Monday, minus Williams…
The team entered the 2022 off-season with cornerback as arguably their position group with the biggest question mark attached to it. The ? only grew in size after J.C. Jackson agreed to a long-term deal with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Since then, they’ve signed Malcolm Butler and Terrance Mitchell in free agency, and drafted the two Joneses. Shaun Wade remains on the roster as something of a wild card. Bethel is an excellent special teamer who provides depth and speed at the position, but ideally he never has to play defense.
Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (4) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
This is a long way of saying that Williams is likely gone. He already felt like the odd man out at cornerback, and his ultimate departure will only be the latest underlining of a draft class that has mostly been a disaster, at least if you give more weight to the first two picks (you should).
Fortunately, the Patriots landed an All-Pro-caliber punter in Jake Bailey that year. They also drafted running back Damien Harris, who has been their most productive pure runner over the past two seasons. But even he feels like he won’t be in New England much longer, as he enters the final year of his rookie deal with the Patriots having drafted three running backs over the past two years (Rhamondre Stevenson, Pierre Strong Jr., Kevin Harris).
Williams’ status will be something to watch as the Patriots report to training camp this week in Foxboro. The first official day of camp is set for Wednesday morning and will be open to both the public and the media.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.