During the NFL Draft, the New England Patriots built up assets to help construct the future of their franchise.
After coming off of a stellar 2018 season, the New England Patriots ended their season with a Super Bowl championship. The latest Lombardi trophy to grace Foxborough, Massachusetts was the sixth for the franchise under coach Bill Belichick. During the offseason, the Patriots had several significant departures from the roster. However, they were also able to sign a handful of free agents before the 2019 NFL Draft.
With the announcement of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, the Patriots needed to fill the tight end position. Pass rushers, wide receivers, defensive players and a quarterback were all positions of need hanging over the organization. Despite these needs, coach Bill Belichick always finds a way to steal the best players in the draft while subsequently leaving fans questioning his decisions. This draft, however, was one of the best drafts New England has had to date.
Round 1, Selection 32
N’Keal Harry, Wide Receiver, Arizona State
Typically, the wide receivers on the New England roster have been short, shifty players that have the ability to extend plays during games. This time, however, N’Keal Harry may be the exception to the rule. Standing at 6’2″ and 228 pounds, the receiver has the ability to be an outside target for Tom Brady. During his college career, he was the recipient of 213 receptions for 1,811 yards. His 22 receiving touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns caught the eye of the Patriots’ scouting team. While he does not emulate the playing style of slot receiver, Julian Edelman, he will be a great asset on offense. Harry will be mixed into the Patriots playing style as an outside receiver, similar to his teammate, Josh Gordon. However, only time will tell how he can be worked into the playbook. As long as he can remain focused, the trust with Tom Brady will follow closely behind.
Round 2, Selection 13
Joejuan Williams, Corner Back, Vanderbilt
When the Patriots have an opportunity to select in the draft, Bill Belichick tends to favor drafting defensive players. The selection of Joejuan Williams is a great one for the team as the defense schemes tend to change based on the opponents at hand. In college, Williams was responsible for four interceptions during his three years with Vanderbilt. Alongside those interceptions, he also recorded 119 tackles. That was a key factor for the Patriots wanting to draft another corner for depth. Regardless, Belichick saw something else in Williams that he does not have in his current corners. Joejuan Williams stands taller than the other corners on the roster. This gives him an opportunity to defend against larger tight ends and taller wide receivers.
Round 3, Selection 13
Chase Winovich, Defensive End, Michigan
This selection of defensive end was top notch by the Patriots scouting team. With the free agency departures of Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn, there was an immediate vacancy to fill. Hailing from the University of Michigan, there was an immediate connection to quarterback Tom Brady. Chase Winovich has the playing style that excites Patriots fans. His ability to utilize quickness off the edge is akin to what Flowers brought to the team. While he was in college, Winowich was known for his ability to tackle for a loss. He set a career high record of 17 sacks during his junior year. Winovich was named to the All-American Big Ten defensive team. With this selection, Chase Winovich will play defense alongside Michael Bennett. He will make a great addition to the squad and can provide the talent this team portrays each year.
Round 3, Selection 23
Damien Harris, Running Back, Alabama
Being able to carry the football with defensive players breathing down your back is a role that does not fit everyone. However, players from the University of Alabama are known for their ability to adapt to all situations. New England took a leap by adding yet another running back to their roster. Damien Harris emulates the playing style of many current Patriots running backs. During his time in college, his four years were very productive. He carried the ball for 3,070 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. On the other hand, he also received 52 receptions that turned 407 yards into two touchdowns. While he produced these significant numbers in college, he will need to compete against Sony Michel and James White for a starting role. Look for the Patriots to dart him in and out of schemes over the course of the upcoming season.
Round 3, Selection 37
Yodny Cajuste, Tackle, West Virginia
Adding additional coverage to the offensive line, the Patriots selected Yodny Cajuste as a tackle. There was a need for rotation in the lineup with someone who was versatile at both tackle and guard. One of his key strengths was his quickness and strength versus defenders. With Isaiah Wynn coming back this season, we will see where Cajuste fits into the lineup. Additionally, Marcus Cannon and Cole Croston will also fit into the mold with newly acquired guard Hjalte Froholdt. The Patriots have tended to lean on a heavier running game as of late. Perhaps moving Yodny Cajuste to an inside position will bring the leverage that the team needs. Only time will tell as we enter the 2019 season.
Round 4, Selection 16
Hjalte Froholdt, Guard, Arkansas
Taking a guard in the fourth round of the NFL Draft showed fans that Bill Belichick is serious about having the most protection for his quarterback. Originally from Denmark, Hjalte Froholdt spent a couple of years playing in America before he was recruited by the University of Arkansas. He started out as a defensive lineman but switched to play offensive lineman shortly thereafter. One of his most memorable seasons was in 2017 where he did not let his quarterback get sacked. Coach Belichick is always looking to improve the offensive line and find someone who has the heart for the game. Froholdt will need to balance staying on his blocks with opening the lanes for running backs in order to truly be successful with the Patriots.
Round 4, Selection 31
Jarrett Stidham, Quarterback, Auburn
Perhaps one of the most sought after needs with the Patriots was at the quarterback position. Although many people know that Tom Brady plans to play until age 45, there is the reality of the future. Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling may be ahead of future quarterback Jarrett Stidham, but he might be the quarterback of the future. In college, Stidham started out at Baylor University. He played there for the beginning of the season until he was sidelined due to injury. A transfer to Auburn University after a scandal swept the campus put Stidham in place to showcase his talents. His stat line at Auburn had him completing 470 passes, 5,952 yards, and 36 touchdowns. His ability to step into throws and the incredible accuracy he has will make him coachable. Perhaps this was one of the biggest steals of the draft for New England.
Round 5, Selection 21
Byron Cowart, Defensive Tackle, Maryland
No matter what team you support, the need for stout defensive players is imperative. Having defensive players that can tackle is even more important when your team is trying to force a three-and-out. Perhaps the reasons that Byron Cowart was selected by the Patriots was for his ability to do all the above. A former five-star prospect, Cowart possessed the ability to play on the line at both the inside and outside positions. While he played in college, he was most recognized for his ability to block. Coupled with his mental awareness to shed offensive lines and tackle in space, Coach Belichick liked this prospect. Byron Cowart will be playing alongside Adam Butler and Lawrence Guy. As long as he can build his stamina, look for the defensive tackle to make a statement this season.
Round 5, Selection 25
Jake Bailey, Punter, Stanford
It may have come as a shock to some that the Patriots drafted another punter. Especially after re-signing the special teams’ hero of Super Bowl 53, Ryan Allen. However, New England does not draft players based on their position’s alone. They look to see who can fit the needs of the team on any particular game week. This is why Jake Bailey was drafted in the fifth round. During his time in college, Bailey averaged just over 50 yards per punt. He also kicked a career-high 65-yard punt coupled with five punts that each went over 50 yards. This stamina and charisma make him an asset to the Patriots and the special teams’ roster. By training alongside veteran punter, Ryan Allen, Jake Bailey has a unique opportunity. Coach Belichick is all about versatility and ensuring that he has insurance in case of injury.
Round 7, Selection 38
Ken Webster, Corner Back, Ole Miss
Finally, with the last selection in the NFL Draft, the Patriots selected another cornerback. Ken Webster is a quick and shifty corner who matches up well on the outside against other offenses. He follows the ball well and understands game planning as a whole. His highlights show the ability of Webster to contain running backs and receivers from scoring often. He is a smaller cornerback, however, and may not match up well with some of the other taller receivers or tight ends. New England did draft a taller corner in the second round with Joejuan Williams. That selection may be the insurance that the Patriots need when their veteran corners need a rest. Ken Webster will need to show the team that he is ready and available to do his job in any given situation.
Overall, the New England Patriots did well in the 2019 Draft. They are building a team for the future while addressing the immediate needs of the franchise. Each player drafted brings a special addition to the roster. As the season looms closer, the competitiveness and drive will show who is ready to assist the team in a seventh Lombardi Trophy run.