New England Patriots

L-R: Michigan DT Christopher Hinton Jr., Alabama WR John Metchie, Rutgers WR Bo Melton
  • Bill Belichick and the Patriots certainly have their go-to schools when it comes to the NFL Draft. The pipeline is hardly a hidden one, with the team regularly taking multiple players from the same program in a single draft. Look no further than last year, when the Patriots first four picks featured players from just two schools.

    As we start to look ahead to and project what the Patriots will do in the draft in 2022, these patterns are worth taking into consideration. Of course, a lot can change over the course of 22 years, so some sort of recency bias is worth applying. We’ll use 2010 as an even cutoff.

    In that window, the Patriots have drafted four or more players from seven different schools. Some of those schools are obvious, others may come as more of a surprise.

    How have the picks from each of those schools panned out for New England? And who are the top prospects from those programs this year? If the trends continue, here’s the schools and names to focus on over the next month and a half…

    Note: These counts only factor in draft picks, UDFAs are not included

  • Alabama

    TUSCALOOSA, AL – SEPTEMBER 24: Dont’a Hightower #30 of the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    8 picks:

    QB Mac Jones (2021 1st round, 15th overall)
    DL Christian Barmore (2021 2nd round, 38th overall)
    LB Anfernee Jennings (2020 3rd round, 87th overall)
    RB Damien Harris (2019 3rd round, 87th overall)
    CB Cyrus Jones (2016 2nd round, 60th overall)
    LB Xzavier Dickson (2015 7th round, 253rd overall)
    LB Dont’a Hightower (2012 1st round, 25th overall)
    DL Brandon Deaderick (2010 7th round, 247th overall)

    Alabama, unsurprisingly, has produced the most Patriots draft picks since 2010. Belichick’s relationship with Nick Saban continues to make the Tuscaloosa to Foxborough pipeline a viable one. For the most part, it’s also been a valuable one for New England.

    Dont’a Hightower highlights this group as a cornerstone player for three Super Bowl championship teams. But things have gone just as well with Crimson Tide picks in recent years. Damien Harris has proven to be one of the NFL’s best young running backs, while Mac Jones and Christian Barmore showed plenty of ability and promise in their rookie seasons.

    The hit rate on players taken in the top 100 is exceptionally high from this group. Cyrus Jones is the lone definitive bust, although Anfernee Jennings will need a major bounce back in Year 3 in order to avoid joining him.

    TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA – OCTOBER 23: John Metchie III #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Jameson Williams #1 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrate after Metchie scores in the second half at Bryant Denny Stadium on October 23, 2021 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Photo by Marvin Gentry/Getty Images)

    There will be plenty of realistic options on the board if the Patriots want to take at least one Alabama player for the fourth year in a row. By now, many Patriots fans are probably familiar with the trio of receivers – deep threat Jameson Williams, the first-round option, versatile John Metchie, the Day 2 option, and slot receiver Slade Bolden, the Day 3 option. All three have met with the Patriots.

    Running back is also an under-the-radar need for the Patriots, with James White and Brandon Bolden pending free agents and Harris entering a contract year. If the team is looking to add a back who can contribute on all three downs, projected third-round pick Brian Robinson Jr. could be a fit. Robinson had 1,639 all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns for the Tide last year in a role similar to the one Harris had while he was in Tuscaloosa.

    Of course, you can’t talk about Alabama without talking about defense. Linebacker Christian Harris is the exact kind of athletic, rangy player the Patriots need at the second level. In the secondary, Josh Jobe has experience as a press-man corner, which he would likely be asked to play if taken by New England. Both Harris and Jobe are expected to be second-round picks.

    Alabama also has a pair of defensive tackles in the draft that could be attractive to the Patriots. Both fit the same mold of athletic interior defensive linemen as Barmore – Phidarian Mathis is a projected second rounder LaBryan Ray is expected to go late on Day 3.

  • Michigan

    Michigan’s Chase Winovich, center, celebrates his sack against Penn State with teammates Josh Uche, left, and Michael Dwumfour during the first half Saturday, November 3, 2018 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

    6 picks:

    LB Cameron McGrone (2021 5th round, 177th overall)
    LB Josh Uche (2020 2nd round, 60th overall)
    OL Michael Onwenu (2020 6th round, 182nd overall)
    DE Chase Winovich (2019 3rd round, 77th overall)
    WR Jeremy Gallon (2014 7th round, 244th overall)
    P Zoltan Mesko (2010 6th round, 150th overall)

    The most notable Belichick draft pick from Michigan doesn’t make this list with the 2010 cutoff, which certainly changes the landscape. With recent additions, the untapped potential outweighs the pro production of this group.

    Chase Winovich and Josh Uche are both still somewhat unknowns despite multiple years in the league. Buried behind a deep edge group for most of their respective NFL careers, they haven’t been on the field as much as a player drafted in their spots usually would be to this point. Yet each has shown promise when given an opportunity, and should have a chance to win more snaps this year with a shakeup likely coming at the second level.

    Cameron McGrone is another second-level player who is mostly hype at this point. After missing his entire rookie season with a knee injury, he projects to be a contributor in 2022.

    Michael Onwenu had a great rookie season in 2020, but then took a step back last year as he bounced back and forth between tackle and guard. He fell out of the starting lineup late in the year, but should be back next season. The real question is, what position will he play?

    Zoltan Mesko was the Patriots’ starting punter for three seasons, from 2010-2012. He set the rookie net yards per punt average record his first season (38.4 yards).

    Dec 4, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker David Ojabo (55) against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Conference championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Given the Patriots have specifically favored edge rushers from Michigan, David Ojabo is a name to know. He’d need to fall a bit from his current projection to be on the board for the Patriots at 21, but he’s an outstanding pass rusher who fits their scheme.

    Another potential first round pick is safety Dax Hill. The Patriots could be in the market for a long-term replacement for 34-year-old Devin McCourty, and likely would be willing to spend a premium pick to invest in a position as crucial as deep safety. Hill has both the athleticism and tackling ability to play that role in New England.

    Looking to Day 3, a pair of lineman stand out as logical fits for the Patriots. On the offensive side of the ball, tackle Andrew Stueber offers the positional versatility the Patriots usually look for in linemen late in the draft. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Christopher Hinton Jr. can contribute as an interior run stopper, and his dad is a five-time All-Pro offensive tackle who is in the Colts’ Ring of Honor.

  • Florida

    GAINESVILLE, FL – SEPTEMBER 21: Defensive lineman Dominique Easley #2 of the Florida Gators rushes upfield against Zach Fulton #72 of the Tennessee Volunteers September 21, 2013 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

    6 picks:

    CB Duke Dawson (2018 2nd round, 56th overall)
    DL Dominique Easley (2014 1st round, 29th overall)
    OL Jon Halapio (2014 6th round, 179th overall)
    LB Jermaine Cunningham (2010 2nd round, 53rd overall)
    LB Brandon Spikes (2010 2nd round, 62nd overall)
    TE Aaron Hernandez (2010 4th round, 113th overall)

    The Patriots went heavy on Gators ahead of Urban Meyer’s final season in Gainesville, with half of the six picks coming in that window. When they’ve ventured back since, it hasn’t been with the best results.

    Dominique Easley was a known risk in the 2014 draft, coming off of two torn ACLs during his college career. Yet given his tremendous talent when on the field, the Patriots took advantage of his slide and selected him 29th overall. He played 22 games with three starts over two seasons in New England before getting cut midway through his rookie contract.

    It wasn’t until four years later the Patriots revisited the Swamp, and that time things didn’t go much better. A hamstring injury cost Duke Dawson his entire rookie year, and he was traded for a sixth round pick during training camp the following summer. He never appeared in a game for the Patriots.

    Florida Gators cornerback Kaiir Elam (5) in coverage against Florida Atlantic Owls wide receiver Je’Quan Burton (82) during a game against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville Fla. Sept. 4, 2021.

    This year is somewhat of a limited draft class by Florida standards, reflecting what was a disappointing year from the program in 2021. They finished under .500 for the first time since 2017, and head coach Dan Mullen was let go in November.

    While this wouldn’t be an ideal year for the Patriots to start taking Gators again, if they do the pick could once again come in the secondary. Cornerback Kaiir Elam was one of the standouts of the Combine, and physically and technically looks like a Patriots boundary corner. He’s expected to be a late first or early second round pick.

    In the later rounds, running back Dameon Pierce is a well-rounded player who can compete on all three downs. He’s projected to go early on Day 3.

  • Arkansas

    FAYETTEVILLE, AR – NOVEMBER 21: Dak Prescott #15 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs has is arm hit while trying to throw a pass by Deatrich Wise Jr. #48 of the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Bulldogs defeated the Razorbacks 51-50. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

    6 picks:

    G Hjalte Froholdt (2019 4th round, 118th overall)
    DE Deatrich Wise (2017 4th round, 131st overall)
    DE Trey Flowers (2015 4th round, 101st overall)
    TE A.J. Derby (2015 6th round, 202nd overall)
    DE Jake Bequette (2012 3rd round, 90th overall)
    QB Ryan Mallett (2011 3rd round, 74th overall)

    Belichick’s relationship with former Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema probably helped get Arkansas as high as it is on this list, but three of this six picks are not from his tenure in Fayetteville. Both before and after his stint, the Patriots have taken players from the school.

    Fourth-round defensive linemen have been the key for the Patriots when it comes to Arkansas. Trey Flowers played a starring role on two Super Bowl-winning defenses, while Deatrich Wise has shown great growth and earned a second contract with the team in 2020.

    Those two succeeded after the Patriots’ first shot at an Arkansas defensive end didn’t pan out. Jake Bequette struggled to stay on the field in his time in Foxborough, at one point tried moving to tight end to find more playing time. He was released before his rookie contract expired.

    The only other top-100 pick from this group is Ryan Mallett, who was never expected to be much more than a backup in New England. In the end, they were able to flip him for a sixth-round pick four-years later.

    Oct 23, 2021; Little Rock, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Treylon Burks (16) rushes for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions at War Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

    Arkansas’ top player in the draft this year is a logical Patriots target in wide receiver Treylon Burks. At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Burks could be the stereotypical big ‘X’ receiver the team is looking for. However, he’s not as much of a fit schematically as some other top receivers in the class, and does most of his damage with the ball in his hands and on designed touches.

    How about fourth-round defensive linemen, since that seems to be the Patriots lean when it comes to Arkansas? John Ridgeway is projected to go in that range. More of a tackle than an end at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, he would help bolster the Patriots’ interior run defense.

    Only one other Arkansas player is projected to be drafted this spring, offensive tackle Myron Cunningham. Expected to go late on Day 3, Cunningham has the size for the position at 6-foot-5, 320 pounds but needs to be more consistent. He did put together a strong performance against Georgia this past fall.

  • Georgia

    NASHVILLE, TN – OCTOBER 07: Isaiah Wynn #77 of the Georgia Bulldogs congratulates teammate Sony Michel #1 on scoring a touchdown against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium on October 7, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

    4 picks:

    LT Isaiah Wynn (2018 1st round, 23rd overall)
    RB Sony Michel (2018 1st round, 31st overall)
    WR Malcolm Mitchell (2016 4th round, 112th overall)
    DT Kade Weston (2010 7th round, 248th overall)

    It feels like the Patriots have been inundated with Georgia players in recent years. The number of picks isn’t as many as some other schools, but they’ve mostly been high in the draft and on impact players.

    Malcolm Mitchell could have been one of the Patriots’ all-time draft steals if things had worked out. However there was a reason a player of his talent level was available in the fourth round, and a knee injury limited him to less than one season.

    The 2018 duo of Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel proved to be two of the more polarizing picks from the team in recent history. Wynn has given the Patriots’ offense a reliable left tackle when he’s on the field, but has struggled to stay healthy in his time in New England. Now, entering a contract year, there’s questions about whether he’s a viable long-term option at the position.

    Michel played a key role in the 2018 Super Bowl run, but the return on investment of taking a running back in the first round remains debatable. That was highlighted by the return of two Day 3 picks when he was traded last summer.

    MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 31: Jordan Davis #99 of the Georgia Bulldogs prepares for the snap in the second quarter of the game against the Michigan Wolverines in the Capital One Orange Bowl for the College Football Playoff semifinal game at Hard Rock Stadium on December 31, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    While all of the Patriots’ impact picks from Georgia have been on the offensive side of the ball, this side could have them looking defense. There’s a trio of Bulldog defensive linemen expected to go right around the Patriots’ 21st pick in Jordan DavisTravon Walker, and Devonte Wyatt. Linebacker Nakobe Dean is also expected to be a first-round pick.

    Speaking of linebackers, projected Day 2 pick Quay Walker may be one of the best fits for the Patriots in this entire draft when factoring in position, skill set, athleticism, and draft projection. A rangy linebacker who still has the size to be a factor against the run, he would be exactly what the team needs in the middle of the defense. Projected fourth-round pick linebacker Channing Tindall could fit that description as well.

    In the secondary, safety Lewis Cine – who played part of his high school career at Everett High – fits the Patriots’ prototype of a box safety. There’s also developmental cornerback prospect Derion Kendrick, who is expected to be an early Day 3 pick. Kendrick is a converted wide receiver and transferred to Georgia from Clemson. Both position and system changes are things the Patriots have valued in the draft in the past.

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA – JANUARY 01: George Pickens #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs makes a catch for a first quarter touchdown against Bryan Cook #6 of of the Cincinnati Bearcats during Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 01, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham /Getty Images)

    The top offensive player on the board from Georgia this year is wide receiver George Pickens. Currently a projected second-round pick, Pickens tore his ACL last year although managed to return for the playoffs. A strong Combine will help his stock, and at 6-foot-3 with a 4.47 second 40 on the books, he could be the kind of big outside receiver the Patriots are looking for – assuming he stays healthy. Malcolm Mitchell could end up being a popular player comp if he ends up in New England.

    As mentioned above, the Patriots could be looking to add long-term running back depth in this draft. If so, James Cook could be an option in the third round. Cook is one of the best all-around backs in this class.

    Finally, tackle Jamaree Salyer offers guard/tackle versatility, and showed he can compete with NFL-caliber talent by playing one of his best games of the year in the CFP Semifinal against a Michigan team that features two first-round edge rushers. He’s projected to go late on Day 2 or early on Day 3.

  • Rutgers

    PISCATAWAY, NJ – OCTOBER 16: Dion Lewis #28 of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers carries the ball past Devin Mccourty #21 of the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights on October 16, 2009 at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

    4 picks:

    DB Logan Ryan (2013 3rd round, 83rd overall)
    DB Duron Harmon (2013 3rd round, 91st overall)
    LB Steve Beauharnais (2013 7th round, 235th overall)
    DB Devin McCourty (2010 1st round, 27th overall)

    For all the talk about Belichick loving Rutgers, he hasn’t drafted a player from the Scarlet Knights in almost a decade. Plus, three of these picks were all in one draft. There certainly was plenty of reason to like the 2012 Rutgers squad though – they finished 9-4 and were co-Big East champions.

    Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon went on to continued success in New England. Ryan played a key role on two Super Bowl-winning defenses, Harmon was a a part of three.

    Then of course, there’s Devin McCourty. McCourty was one of the defensive staples of the Patriots’ mid-2010’s dynasty. A multi-time All-Pro and team captain, he’s been the complete package in New England.

    Nov 27, 2021; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights wide receiver Bo Melton (18) gains yards after the catch against the Maryland Terrapins during the first half at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Although Belichick has gone away from Rutgers players in recent years, with Greg Schiano returning to the helm in Newark (his first stint was from 2001-2011), that could change. Schiano was rehired in 2020, so he’s had time to re-establish himself with the program.

    The lone projected draft pick out of Rutgers this year would be a great fit for the Patriots. Wide receiver Bo Melton was one of the most impressive players on the field at both the Senior Bowl and Combine. As a receiver, he operates primarily from the slot and is a route technician that can pull away from defenders after the catch. He also adds value as a kick returner. Melton is currently projected to be a Day 3 pick.

  • Marshall

    PITTSBURGH, PA – SEPTEMBER 01: Aaron Dobson #3 of the Marshall Thundering Herd catches a pass against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the game on September 1, 2012 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

    4 picks:

    K Justin Rohrwasser (2020 5th round, 159th overall)
    CB Darryl Roberts (2015 7th round, 247th overall)
    WR Aaron Dobson (2013 2nd round, 59th overall)
    TE Lee Smith (2011 5th round, 159th overall)

    Perhaps the most surprising schools on this list is Marshall. There have been successful players – specifically pass catchers – to come out of Huntington and play for the Patriots in guys like Randy Moss, Troy Brown, and Jermaine Wiggins, but none of them fit the window we’re using here. Instead it’s a group of players that, at best, will send Patriots fans over to Google.

    Aaron Dobson is one of the first names that comes up when discussing the Patriots’ inability to draft at the wide receiver position over the last decade. Taken ahead of  a group of receivers including Keenan Allen (76th overall), Marquise Goodwin (78th overall), and Kenny Stills (144th overall), Dobson played just 24 games in three seasons while recording a total of 53 catches for 698 yards and four touchdowns. He was released heading into the final year of his rookie deal.

    Justin Rohrwasser was another miss. Looking to replace Stephen Gostkowski, the Patriots took Rohrwasser in the fifth round in 2020. His big leg and experience kicking in inclement weather made him seem like a fit, but after an erratic training camp and an injury he was released with the team bringing back Nick Folk. He was signed to the practice squad, but then released again in the offseason.

    Meanwhile, Smith and Roberts went on to have decent NFL careers. Smith was still in the league in 2021, and has carved out a role as a blocking tight end. Roberts spent four years with the Jets, including two as a starter, and has since played for the Lions and Commanders.

    Dec 25, 2020; Montgomery, AL, USA; Buffalo Bulls wide receiver Trevor Wilson (18) goes up for the ball and while defended by Marshall Thundering Herd defensive back Steven Gilmore (3) during the second half at Cramton Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

    There are no Marshall players in the draft this year. However, a name to remember for next year is cornerback Steven Gilmore – the brother of former Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

    The younger Gilmore was projected as a Day 3 pick had he declared for the draft this year, but elected to return to school for the 2022 season. Gilmore plays the game like his brother, and at 6-foot-2 has the size to compete in the NFL.

  • Just missed the cut…

    Expecting to see a school that’s not listed here? Here’s a few that just missed the cut…

  • Oklahoma

    Nov 21, 2020; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Rhamondre Stevenson (29) stiff arms Oklahoma State Cowboys cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse (24) during the first half at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 21, 2020; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Rhamondre Stevenson (29) stiff arms Oklahoma State Cowboys cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse (24) during the first half at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots’ two picks from Oklahoma in last year’s draft – Ronnie Perkins and Rhamondre Stevenson – were just the second and third Sooners drafted by Belichick in his entire tenure in New England. They joined 2015 third-round pick Geneo Grissom.

    This year’s Sooners class is especially strong along the defensive line. Nik Bonitto, and Perrion Winfrey could be fits for the Patriots on Day 2, as well as Isaiah Thomas on Day 3.

  • North Carolina State

    TALLAHASSEE, FL – NOVEMEBER 14: Jacoby Brissett #12 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack looks to make a pass against the Florida State Seminoles during the game at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Tallahassee, Florida. The Florida State Seminoles beat the North Carolina Wolfpack 34-17. (Photo by Jeff Gammons/Getty Images)

    North Carolina State was one player short of making this list. The Patriots double-dipped on the school in the 2016 draft, using third round picks on both guard Joe Thuney and quarterback Jacoby Brissett (Brissett actually fits two schools on this list, he transfered to NC State from Florida). They also drafted center Ted Larsen in the sixth round in 2010. If UDFA’s were included, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers would bring the total to four.

    There are two players from the Wolfpack expected to be drafted this year. One of them, offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu, is in the running to be the first overall pick. Running back Zonovan Knight is projected to go late on Day 3. Knight is an explosive runner who can contribute in the passing game and as a kick returner. However, he had a significant workload in college and has had issues with ball security.

  • Purdue

    WEST LAFAYETTE, IN – OCTOBER 07: Ja’Whaun Bentley #4 of the Purdue Boilermakers intercepts a pass intended for Mark Williams #8 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers and returns it for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter at Ross-Ade Stadium on October 7, 2017 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

    Like Marshall, the Patriots have had a number of successful Purdue alumni on their team, but few of those players were drafted in New England. Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (2018 5th round) and left tackle Matt Light (2001 2nd round) went on to have success in New England, while defensive end David Nugent (2000 6th round) – who was selected two picks after Tom Brady – played 24 games over two seasons with the team.

    Edge rusher George Karlaftis will likely be off the board before the Patriots pick at 21. The only other Boilermaker expected to hear his name called this spring is wide receiver David Bell. A projected late second or early third round pick, Bell is a bit of a tweener at 6-foot-1, 212 pounds. His 4.65 40, the second-slowest of all wide receivers in this class, could end up pushing his stock down further.

  • Navy

    FOXBOROUGH, MA – JULY 28, 2021: Joe Cardona #49 of the New England Patriots walks onto the field during training camp at Gillette Stadium on July 28, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

    Despite Bill Belichick’s affinity for the Naval Academy, he’s only drafted one Midshipmen during his time with the Patriots. That’s long snapper Joe Cardona, who was selected in the fifth round in 2015.

    Navy’s lone prospect in this year’s draft is an intriguing one. Linebacker Diego Fagot is projected to be a priority UDFA, and New England would be a logical landing spot. He can cover the full length of the field at 6-foot-2, 237 pounds and could also contribute on special teams. He was a team captain at Navy, a first-team all-conference linebacker in 2021, and named MVP of the Shrine Bowl last month.

  • Coming soon?

    Jan 2, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline as they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    Which schools might the Patriots start targeting in the future? Based on what we know about the schools they’ve favored recently, it can be as much about the coach of the program as it is the program itself.

    As mentioned above, Bielema’s tenure at Arkansas led to the Patriots selected three players from the program in a five year window. In 2021, Bielema took the head job at Illinois, which could have the Patriots looking in that direction. Safety Kirby Joseph, a projected third-round pick, would be the most logical Patriots fit this year.

    Heading west, one of the newest branches in the Belichick coaching tree began this past fall in Arizona where former Patriots quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch is now the head coach. That’s a situation to monitor for the future – the Wildcats’ only prospect in the draft this year, wide receiver Stanley Berryhill III, is expected to go undrafted.

    Finally, Missouri could be a program on the precipice of the Patriots’ radar. Head coach Eliah Drinkwitz is in the Bielema coaching tree, and made a bowl game in his second season in 2021. New England drafted their first Missouri Tiger since 2000 last season, taking safety Joshuah Bledsoe in the sixth round. In this year’s draft, running back Tyler Badie could be a long-term replacement for James White – he’s expected to go on Day 3. Cornerback Akayleb Evans is an expected Day 3 pick as well at a position of need for the Patriots.