Grading the Patriots Offense Post-Draft

Grading the Patriots Offense Post-Draft

by April 30, 2020 0 comments

The New England Patriots have endured an offseason of change.

Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Stephen Gostkowski, and Duron Harmon are just some of the Patriots’ key departures since the season’s end.

Last weekend, Patriots fans saw a new group of players join the team in the form of the 2020 Draft Class. Today, we’ll take a look at the current state of the New England Patriots roster on the offensive side, and assess it by position.

Quarterbacks: Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer

The Patriots may have shocked the entire football universe when they elected to stand pat at the quarterback position throughout the draft. However, it’s not overly shocking that the team is planning to hand the keys over to the 23-year-old.

All in all, fans expected there to be at least a sense of competition for him.

Playing him after a redshirted rookie season provides the team with the quarterback many fans wanted in the draft; he’s already spent a season in the Patriots system under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Hoyer offers experience and almost acts as a coach-like figure for Stidham, but it’s unlikely that the 11-year veteran sees an extended share of playing time in 2020. It is worth noting that the club is in the process of integrating two new undrafted free agent signings onto the roster, J’Mar Smith and Brian Lewerke.

Though it is not likely that either player makes the roster at this time, anything can happen during training camp when it comes to Bill Belichick.

All in all, Stidham appears as a high risk, high reward option to start, but there doesn’t appear to be a backup plan in case he fails to pan out.

Grade: C

Running Backs: Brandon Bolden, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White

On the offensive side of the ball, running back is the position that has seen the fewest amount of change. Every player on this list was with the team in 2019 and should expect to have similar roles.

Michel serves as the team’s featured tailback and main power rusher. He shined in the team’s Super Bowl 53-winning 2018 campaign but had a sluggish 2019. He’ll look to bounce back in 2020 with increased volume under an expectedly new run-first offensive system.

White is primarily a pass-catcher out of the backfield and is one of the most effective in all of football. 2020 serves as a contract year for the sixth-year Patriot, and he still figures to be a driving point in the team’s offense.

Burkhead is a do-it-all type of guy who does everything from passing catches, getting goal-line carries, and even block. He too is in a contract year and, due to the team’s surplus of running backs, has been rumored to be a cut candidate.

Harris was redshirted in 2019 after being selected in the third round, but he likely sees some real action in 2020. Bolden sees limited time on offense but is one of the team’s more effective special teamers.

It is worth noting that J.J. Taylor, a 5-foot-5 running back out of Arizona, was added as an undrafted free agent. Like Lewerke and Smith, it’s not likely he makes the roster, but there’s always a chance.

In total, this a balanced backfield that offers speed and diversity, and should enjoy more success than they did in 2020, as long as the offensive line improves.

Current Grade: B+

Wide Receivers: Quincy Adeboyejo, Damiere Byrd, Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Marqise Lee, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Devin Ross, Mohamed Sanu Sr. 

The 2019 Patriots rostered a wide receiver group that was the source of agony for many New England fans. They ranked top-five in the league in dropped passes and in the bottom-five in explosive play rates (plays of 25 yards or more).

So, it was quite upsetting for many fans when the team did not add to that group through the draft.

Marqise Lee and Damiere Byrd may not have been the flashiest of signings, either, but they offer serviceable depth and fit the Patriot build of receivers of past (Brandon LaFell comes to mind).

Meyers and Olszewski enter their second year in the Patriot system, and the latter could join Slater as an effective special teamer.

However, this is still a talented group.

Edelman is the de facto face of the franchise after Tom Brady left the organization this season, and will look to continue his impressive and productive career. Harry was a first-round pick for a reason in 2019 and will surely improve, and Sanu battled injuries during his time in New England last season which put a damper on his 2019. If some combination of the three bounces back in even the slightest of ways, that’s a good enough group for Stidham to throw to in his first season as a starter.

As for the undrafted scene, the team signed Jeff Thomas, Sean Riley, Isaiah Zuber, and Will Hastings––Stidham’s security blanket at Auburn.

Overall, this is a group that catches a bad rap due to tough luck and extenuating circumstances in 2019. While it may not be the best, they should get the job done for Stidham this season.

Current Grade: C+

Tight Ends: Devin Asiasi, Ryan Izzo, Dalton Keene, Matt LaCosse. 

The position was a weak one for the team last season, as Pro Football Focus ranked them 29th in the league at the tight end position in 2019.

So, Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio addressed the position in the draft, trading up twice to draft two tight ends: Devin Asiasi of UCLA, and Dalton Keene of Virginia Tech.

Asiasi provides great speed and explosiveness in the open field, something New England has lacked since Rob Gronkowski retired following the 2018 season. His massive build offers an ability that makes him hard to bring down, and will also help him serve as a security blanket for Jarrett Stidham.

He’s also an improving blocker who definitely has the size to flourish in the trenches.

Keene was among a select group when it came to his ability as a blocker, he was one of the best in doing so at the tight end position in the entire 2020 class. He has a much smaller build than Asiasi’s but plays with the style and flair that an over-sized tight end would as a blocker. Keene also offers an aspect of versatility due to his slim build, as Virginia Tech was able to use him as a receiver out wide and in the slot, as a tight end, fullback, and even a tailback.

That leaves LaCosse and Izzo, the tight ends left from last year. Both are looking for major bounce-back years, but after the UDFA signings of Jake Burt of Boston College and Rashod Berry of Ohio State, at least one of Izzo and LaCosse may be cut before the season.

This is a young tight end group with promise, but it lacks experience. Time will tell how good this group is.

Current Grade: C+

Offensive Lineman: David Andrews, Yodny Cajuste, Marcus Cannon, Korey Cunningham, Jared Eluemunor, Hjalte Froholdt, Justin Herron, Shaq Mason, Michael Onwenu, Joe Thuney, Najee Toran, Dustin Woodard, Isaiah Wynn

This group effectively served as a freight train straight to a Super Bowl title in 2018 but dropped off in 2019 after the departure of Trent Brown and injuries to David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn. However, they still ranked amongst the NFL’s best in pressure rate percentage.

2020, though, provides a good starting front line for the Patriots, with tackles Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon, guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason, and center David Andrews, who is back from a career-threatening battle with blood clots. While Thuney has yet to sign his franchise tag and has had his name appear in trade rumors, no move seems likely at this time.

The team also has a supple amount of depth, with rookies Justin Herron, Michael Onwenu, and Dustin Woodard providing good promise off the bench and everybody else on this list offering their skills and experience. If any of these guys go down, the Patriots have been in worse positions (I’m looking at you, Marshall Newhouse).

This group may not reach 2018 level (especially with the retirement of longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia this offseason), but will certainly improve from 2019.

Current Grade: A-

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