Related Tags: NFL Draft
The New England Patriots had a relatively mediocre regular season by their standards, going 11-5. The franchise has been so dominant that the 11 wins was their worst since going 10-6 in 2009. After winning the Super Bowl over the LA Rams for their third title in the last five seasons, there appears to be few holes to fill. They were fourth in scoring and seventh in fewest points allowed last season. Let’s examine the Patriots top six picks in the NFL Draft.
Round 1 (32nd) N'Keal Harry (WR) Arizona State
Harry was an immediate impact player, leading all freshman in receptions with 58. As a sophomore, he lead the Pac-12 with an average of 87 yards per game, catching 82 passes for eight touchdowns. He as first-team All-Pac 12 in his junior year, hauling in 73 passes for 1,088 yard and nine touchdowns.
New England filled their primary need with Harry, who has great size t 6’ 2” and nearly 230 pounds. He’s a physical receiver who is excellent at playing the ball in traffic. The second wide receiver taken in the draft, Harry should make an immediate impact in the passing game, particularly in the red zone.
Round 2 (45th) Joejuan Williams (CB) Vanderbilt
As a freshman, Williams had 19 tackles, 1.5 for loss of yardage and four tackles in Vanderbilt’s bowl game. Increasing his production as a sophomore, Williams tallied 39 tackles and ten passes defensed. As a junior, Williams was named second-team All-SEC after intercepting four passes, knocking down 14 and recording 61 tackles.
New England moved up 11 spots in the draft to select Williams, who has incredible size for his position at more then 6’ 3” and 211 pounds. His physical attributes will allow him to line up against some of the top tight ends in the league. New England currently has a lot of depth at corner, so the selection of Williams is more for a long-term solution at the position.
Round 3 (77th) Chase Winovich (LB) Michigan
Winovich was a redshirt in 2014 and played only sparingly in six games in 2015. However, he made an impact during his sophomore season, recording five sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss of yardage. As a junior in 2017, Winovich dominated, registering 77 tackles and eight sacks. He was named first team All-Big Ten as a senior after making 17 stops for a loss, five sacks and 69 overall tackles.
Winovich has decent speed and high intensity which should bode well for special teams play. Playing well on the edge, Winovich displayed the ability to create havoc in the backfield and could help the hole created when Try Flowers left the Patriots via free agency. Winovich is a solid player who adds depth to the position.
Round 3 (87th) Damien Harris (RB) Alabama
Harris made some contributions as a freshman, gaining 344 yards overall combined rushing, receiving and returns. As a sophomore, Harris gained 1037 yards on the ground, averaging over seven yards per carry. In 2017, Harris averaged 7.4 yards per carry, racking up over 1000 yards and 11 touchdowns. Earning All-SEC honors as a senior, Harris carried the ball 150 times for 876 yards and nine touchdowns.
While not a glaring need for the Patriots, Harris was one of the top overall players left on the board at the time of this pick. He displays toughness at 216 pounds, is a natural leader and could add not only depth to the running back position, but a force on special teams. The addition of Harris gives the Patriots five solid running backs on the roster.
Round 3 (101st) Yodny Cajuste (OT) West Virginia
Cajuste started at left tackle for the first six games as a sophomore before a knee injury cost him the rest of the regular season. The following season in 2016, the injury bug hit again as another knee injury cost him the season after just one game. He was second-team All-Big 12 as a junior, starting 13 games. Cajuste concluded his career at West Virginia as one of the top offensive linemen in the Big 12 during his senior year, starting 11 games at left tackle.
One of the Patriots top needs was a left tackle, so the 6’ 4”, 310-pound Cajuste should be a great choice in the long run. The biggest question is Cajuste’s durability, having have two knee injuries and surgery on his quad prior to the draft. However, the Patriots have an excellent track record of developing offensive linemen, so the upside outweighs the downside with this selection.
Round 4 (118th) Hjalte Froholdt (C/G) Arkansas
Froholdt was a defensive linemen in 2015, making three tackles in ten games. As a sophomore in 2016, he started 13 games at left guard. He returned as starter at the position in 2017, dominating play, not allowing a sack. He displayed versatility as a senior, staring three of his 12 games played at center.
The fact that Froholdt can play both guard and center was attractive for the Patriots, as he can bring depth to both positions. He projects to be a future top back up at center and could move in to left guard next season, as Joe Thuney’s status for 2020 is up in the air. At the very least, Froholdt adds to the competition at a position in need.