3 Big Takeaways From The Patriots’ Surprising 2022 NFL Draft

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The Patriots threw the old draft script out the window, embracing a need for speed and athleticism. How long does it take to pay off?

Patriots NFL Draft

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, and Patriots President Jonathan Kraft, right, pose with Patriots NFL football first-round draft pick, offensive linesman Cole Strange, at Gillette Stadium, Friday, April 29, 2022, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

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From the first pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Patriots put everyone — fans, draft pundits, and local media — on the back foot.

By the time it was over—several controversial/headbreaking choices, including double-dipping when running back, later—people in the region were wondering, “What was that?”

What it really was was that the patriots realized two things: they’re in danger of falling behind the rest of their division, and the rigid, values-based system they’ve used so often just couldn’t pull it off. .

So they seemed to be throwing the traditional playbook out the window in an effort to make a roster more akin to the rest of the modern NFL. Or the way they did it will work? Well, that will depend.

Here are a few takeaways from the 2022 NFL Draft.

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It’s no secret that NFL teams don’t always see things the same way fans and media following them do, especially when it comes to the draft. While draft pundits watch a lot of football and can judge talent, they don’t sit in the rooms with the people who ultimately make the choices.

That has never been more evident than this season as far as the Patriots are concerned.

But instead of the New England design being somewhat confusing, it could actually be much more direct than people realize.

After years of preaching value and prioritizing certain positions over others, Bill Belichick has somewhat disregarded that approach this year. And it comes down to one factor: get the guys we want.

Who cares where the pundits thought Cole Strange should have gone in the draft or if they thought Tyquan Thornton could have gone in the fifth round?

Why should we worry if people think we should have gotten a linebacker or some other receiver in the fourth round instead of Jack Jones or Pierre Strong Jr.?

And who cares if people are scratching their heads about selecting a quarterback when we already have a starter?

They wanted those players, and they wouldn’t let anyone else jump for them after they traded in the first round.

The Patriots knew they needed speed and unashamedly sought it out from players like Thornton and Strong—the fastest NFL Combine performers at receiver and run back, respectively—whether it was range or if they had other players on the roster.

Would their plan to keep up with the rest of the division and the conference fail? Maybe. But if so, Belichick and New England will go down swinging and do it their own way.

This is about the future.

The Patriots were fortunate that three of their top four picks in 2021 — Mac Jones, Christian Barmore and Rhamondre Stevenson — immediately contributed as rookies.

This year, the direct contributions feel a little harder to see (except Strange), though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Thornton can sit behind the likes of Nelson Agholor, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers and learn from Troy Brown, doing the occasional flight path or ramp.

The Jones brothers will fight for special team roles, while Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones (SO many Joneses), Myles Bryant (probably), Terrance Mitchell and Jalen Mills take on the cornerback duties.

Strong and Kevin Harris won’t see the field (in theory) much behind Damien Harris, Stevenson and James White (if healthy).

But that could all change next year. Plenty of players could come out of the books in free agency. The wide reception area could be completely different; the patriots are not financially obligated to let a single one of them pass by next year. Damien Harris will be a free agent and his skills are unfortunately quite expendable. The corner room is largely at replacement level.

Even the offensive line picks may have a chance to get into the mix with the offensive tackles both of which may be gone after next season.

There’s always the possibility that someone (perhaps the scruffy, prolific Marcus Jones) will surprise us and play a bigger role than expected. But even if that doesn’t happen in year 1, don’t throw them out the window just yet. This team could look very different in a year and these rookies could hold the key for the future.

Protecting Mac Jones is paramount.

As much as everyone wanted New England to field wide receivers this year, Belichick seemed focused on another goal: protecting their young quarterback.

Strange is clearly the main attraction here, but the team also picked up some of the good old late-round picks – Chasen Hines and Andrew Stueber – to serve as projects for this new offensive line coaching staff to work with.

As frustrating as the odd first-round pick was, the calculation seems simple in retrospect: How can the Patriots get as close as possible to the quality of last year’s offensive lines with Shaq Mason and Ted Karras gone? Putting Michael Onwenu, who even outscored Mason last year, on the right guard seems like an easy choice. But Strange might be a better bet to play directly at Karras’ level than another sixth round pick (at least in the beginning).

As for the recipients, they already have a lot of them, and trading for Parker allows them to put their existing pieces, like Agholor, to better use than last year. Aside from adding Thornton and a few unwritten guys, New England seems poised to squeeze what they can from their existing group.

But none of that can happen if Mac Jones can’t survive, both this year and the following seasons. You can never have enough offensive line depth, and no one understands that (generally) better than the patriots.

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