Curran: The Patriots' draft decisions are taking a pummeling

/ by Tom E. Curran
Presented By John's Sewer
Cole Strange

The Patriots are getting absolutely killed for their 2022 draft.

They reached on players they could have had later like first-round pick Cole Strange.

They passed up good players at positions of need like corners Trent McDuffie and Kaiir Elam or linebackers Quay Walker and Devin Lloyd.

When they addressed those positions of need, they took players like second-round receiver Tyquan Thornton, who goes amazingly fast in one direction and doesn’t turn. Like a human funny car.

They took two pocket-sized corners – Marcus and Jack Jones – who look like fun and competitive players but are wispy little guys whose combined weight (350 pounds) is the same as Trent Brown on a good day. Thornton -- at 6-2, 183 -- is even more willowy.

If you told us Thursday at 7 p.m. that the Patriots were going to draft an offensive lineman, a wideout and two corners with their first four picks, most people following the team would have thought they did good business.

But the weekend devolved into a chorus of, “Why him? Why now?” “Not that one!” “Who’s he?” and “How’s he help?”

The Patriots needed to get faster on defense. But two tiny perimeter guys? They needed to get an elusive wideout. But one who broke 11 tackles on 143 college catches and averaged 3.9 YAC?


They needed a guard. But in the first, when he would have been around later to fill a position that was ably manned by a player the team got rid of?

Curran: Cole Strange could be Mankins 2.0, but he can't force the opponent to punt

Less than a month after owner Robert Kraft reiterated how badly the Patriots needed more hits, Belichick served him up a box of exploding cigars.

Draft analysts accustomed to genuflecting at the Altar of Belichick before offering the most tepid second-guesses pulled few punches on the selections of Strange and Thornton in particular.

The age of second-guessing the Patriots and Bill Belichick at your own peril has been buried under an avalanche of bad drafts that stretches back to 2013.

You can cherry-pick hits like Trey Flowers, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason. You can lament the bad luck of guys like Malcolm Mitchell, Antonio Garcia and Derek Rivers. You can point to 2021’s two-round yield of Mac Jones and Christian Barmore. You can bring up the undrafted guys they scooped like Malcolm Butler, J.C. Jackson, David Andrews and Jakobi Meyers.

But by and large, when the Patriots are on the tee and the entire NFL is waiting for them to select a player, they shank it.

How much will players like Thornton and the Joneses contribute? Will Strange be able to start right out of the chutes?

How long will the Patriots have to wait to have the last laugh on their 2022 draft? Recent history indicates it’s going to be a while because of the Patriots’ coddling "he’s not ready yet" approach to draftees.

I broke down the participation of all 28 players the Patriots have taken since 2019. Eight of the 28 didn’t play at all, including five of the eight selected last season.

Patriots Talk: Patriots keep swinging on day 2 of the NFL Draft and may have hit a home run | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

The Patriots clearly want that to change with guys like linebacker Cam McGrone, who was injured when he was selected in the fifth round last year. But how can anyone be sure the Patriots are going to suddenly throw McGrone into the pool?

Josh Uche -- a second-round pick in 2020 -- has appeared in just 63 percent of the 33 games he’s been in the league and played just 30 percent of the snaps. And he’s actually good.  

Chase Winovich, another Michigan product, was the fourth-most utilized player selected in the past three years, playing in 91 percent of the 49 games he’s been in the league. And he played just 33.6 percent of the snaps in those games.


Only two of the 28 drafted players have played more than 75 percent of the snaps – Mac Jones and Michael Onwenu.

Just 12 of the 28 have participated in more than half the games played since they were drafted. Five of them have been on the field for more than half the snaps in the games they played.

Here’s the whole list in descending order from percentage of games played and percentage of snaps played in those games.

Played in more than half of Patriots' games

  • Mac Jones (Round 1, 2021): 100 percent of games, 96 percent of snaps
  • Christian Barmore (2, 21): 100 percent of games, 55 percent of snaps
  • Jake Bailey (5, 19): 100 percent of games
  • Michael Onwenu (6, 20): 96 percent of games, 77 percent
  • Chase Winovich (3, 19): 91 percent of games, 33.6 percent of snaps
  • Kyle Dugger (2, 20): 87 percent of games, 62.5 percent of snaps
  • Justin Herron (6, 20): 85 percent of games, 43 percent
  • Joejuan Williams (2, 19): 73 percent of games, 22.6 percent of snaps
  • Rhamondre Stevenson (4, 21): 70 percent of games, 34 percent of snaps
  • N’Keal Harry (1, 19): 67 percent of games, 53 percent of snaps
  • Josh Uche (2, 20): 63 percent of games, 30.5 percent of snaps
  • Damien Harris (3, 19): 55 percent of games, 27.3 percent of snaps

Played in less than half of Patriots' games

  • Anfernee Jennings (3, 20): 42 percent of games, 33 percent of snaps
  • Byron Cowart (5, 19): 38 percent of games, 31 percent of snaps
  • Devin Asiasi (3, 20): 30 percent of games, 28 percent of snaps
  • Dalton Keene (3, 20): 18 percent of games, 40 percent of snaps in those games
  • Hjalte Froholdt (4, 19): 16 percent of games, 11 percent of snaps
  • Yodny Cajuste (3, 19): 14 percent of games, 17 percent of snaps
  • Jarrett Stidham (4, 19): 14 percent of games, 11 percent of snaps
  • Ronnie Perkins (3, 21): 0
  • Cam McGrone (5, 21): 0
  • Joshuah Bledsoe (6, 21): 0
  • Will Sherman (6, 21): 0
  • Tre Nixon (7, 21): 0
  • Justin Rohrwasser (5, 20): 0
  • Dustin Woodard (7, 20): 0
  • Ken Webster (7, 19): 0

Ignoring a position like tight end and then drafting players they ultimately didn’t have faith in – like Keene and Asiasi – forced the Patriots to spend tens of millions on Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.

Drafting a corner like Joejuan Williams in the second round -- who had one trait that made him appealing (size) -- was a miss. He’s played 22.6 percent of the defensive snaps. He’s mainly a special-teamer. And the Patriots have had to sign corners like Jalen Mills and Malcolm Butler to make up for that. And now they’re drafting new ones.

N’Keal Harry can’t play here. The Patriots have to sign and draft wideouts to make up for that miss. Meanwhile, the waterbugging slot receiver who made the offense go from 2000 through 2020 with Troy Brown, Wes Welker and then Julian Edelman? The Patriots still haven’t brought in anyone with similar run-after-catch, short-area elusiveness.

Actually, they did. Braxton Berrios. A sixth-round pick in 2018 who never played here, went to the Jets and has actually outperformed N’Keal.

The Patriots are taking a walk on a slippery rock with these selections. They bucked convention. Now the draftees will have to buck recent history if they’re going to have an impact.