Patriots

Recent Belichick drafts help explain lack of depth and talent

Patriots

The New England Patriots' rocky 2020 season has put a spotlight on Bill Belichick's recent draft history.

The Patriots head coach made headlines last week when he seemingly blamed the team's lack of depth on salary cap limitations during the offseason. He then doubled down by saying they "sold out and won three Super Bowls."

As true as that may be, Belichick's less-than-stellar drafts these past few years have done little to help their current situation. There have been a few hits but mostly misses, especially over the last three years.

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To take a closer look at why Belichick's drafting is widely criticized, we'll go pick by pick from 2018 to 2020 and evaluate each player's level of impact on the Patriots to this point. We'll also mention notable players who were selected after each Pats pick.

2018 NFL Draft

1. Isaiah Wynn, OL (Round 1, 23rd overall)

Wynn has been rock-solid for the Patriots when he's been able to take the field. Unfortunately, that hasn't been all that often. The former Georgia Bulldog missed the entire 2018 season with a torn Achilles and then missed time in 2019 with a toe injury. The pick wasn't a miss by Belichick, but so far the 23-year-old hasn't been able to return first-round value.

Verdict: Some impact

Notable players drafted after Wynn: WR Calvin Ridley, WR D.J. Moore, TE Hayden Hurst, QB Lamar Jackson

 

2. Sony Michel, RB (Round 1, 31st overall)

Michel has shown us flashes of why he was taken with a first-round pick, especially during the 2018 postseason, but overall he's been a disappointment. Another Georgia product, Michel was far more efficient in his rookie season (931 rushing yards, six touchdowns in 13 games) than in his sophomore campaign (912 rushing yards, seven touchdowns in 16 games). He has only played in three games so far in 2020 due to a quad injury.

Verdict: Some impact

Notable players drafted after Michel: RB Nick Chubb, LB Darius Leonard, WR Courtland Sutton

3. Duke Dawson, CB (Round 2, 56th overall)

Dawson was placed on injured reserve to begin the 2018 season and never ended up playing a game for the Patriots. He was traded to the Denver Broncos before the 2019 season.

Verdict: No impact

Notable players drafted after Dawson: WR D.J. Chark, WR Michael Gallup, TE Mark Andrews

4. Ja'Whaun Bentley, LB (Round 5, 143rd overall)

Bentley played sparingly his first two seasons in New England but has taken on a larger role in 2020 following Dont'a Hightower's opt-out. While he hasn't done anything spectacular, his presence this year has helped to stabilize the Patriots' linebacker group.

Verdict: Some impact

Notable players drafted after Bentley: RB Jordan Wilkins, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling

5. Christian Sam, LB (Round 6, 178th overall)

Sam was placed on injured reserve prior to the 2018 season and was cut the following year.

Verdict: No impact

Notable players drafted after Sam: DE Jacob Martin, WR Russell Gage, RB Boston Scott

6. Braxton Berrios, WR (Round 6, 210th overall)

Berrios was placed on IR before the '18 season and was waived in '19. He never played a regular-season game for New England.

Verdict: No impact

Notable players drafted after Berrios: G Bradley Bozeman

7. Danny Etling, QB (Round 7, 219th overall)

The highlight of Etling's Patriots career was an 86-yard touchdown run in the preseason, which is the longest QB run in Pats preseason history. Etling never appeared in a regular-season game for New England.

Verdict: No impact

Notable players drafted after Etling: None

8. Keion Crossen, CB (Round 7, 243rd overall)

Crossen played in 11 games for the Patriots in 2018. He was traded to the Houston Texans for a 2021 sixth-round pick in 2019.

Verdict: Minimal impact

Notable players drafted after Crossen: None

9. Ryan Izzo, TE (Round 7, 250th overall)

Izzo hasn't done anything to help the Patriots' woes at the tight end position with Rob Gronkowski gone, but he's at least provided some depth. That's more than a lot of these players can say, and it warrants a seventh-round selection.

Verdict: Some impact

Notable players drafted after Izzo: RB Justin Jackson

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2019 NFL Draft

1. N'Keal Harry, WR (Round 1, 32nd overall)

It's been a rocky start to Harry's Patriots career. The Arizona State product began his rookie season on injured reserve and simply couldn't get on the same page with Tom Brady when he returned. This year hasn't been much better for Harry as he's been unable to emerge as a consistent option. There's no doubt Harry's route-running needs a lot of work, and until he improves he'll undoubtedly continue to be compared to the plethora of stud wide receivers from this draft class.

Verdict: Minimal impact

Notable players drafted after Harry: WR Deebo Samuel, QB Drew Lock

2. Joejuan Williams, CB (Round 2, 45th overall)

Williams has yet to make his mark with the Patriots after being selected as the sixth overall cornerback in the 2019 draft. In 16 total games he has two passes defensed and nine combined tackles (seven solo).

Verdict: Minimal impact

Notable players drafted after Williams: WR A.J. Brown, RB Miles Sanders, WR Mecole Hardman, WR D.K. Metcalf, WR Diontae Johnson, RB Darrell Henderson, WR Terry McLaurin

3. Chase Winovich, DE (Round 3, 77th overall)

Winovich's snaps have been limited lately, but that doesn't appear to be anything to be concerned about. After a rookie season in which he tallied 5.5 sacks and 26 combined tackles (17 solo), Winovich has emerged as a key defensive player for New England with 2.5 sacks through seven games in 2020.

Verdict: Strong impact

Notable players drafted after Winovich: None

4. Damien Harris, RB (Round 3, 87th overall)

We really didn't get to see much from Harris during his rookie season but he's shown some encouraging signs so far in 2020. Last week vs. the Buffalo Bills, he carried the ball 16 times for 102 yards and his first career TD. There's reason to be optimistic about the Alabama product's future in the Patriots backfield.

Verdict: Some impact

Notable players drafted after Harris: None

5. Yodny Cajuste, OL (Round 3, 101st overall)

Cajuste hasn't yet been able to contribute due to injuries.

Verdict: No impact

Notable players drafted after Cajuste: RB Alexander Mattison, DE Maxx Crosby

6. Hjalte Froholdt, OL (Round 4, 118th overall)

Froholdt missed all of 2019 with a shoulder injury and hasn't been much of a factor this year.

Verdict: Minimal impact

Notable players drafted after Froholdt: RB Benny Snell, RB Tony Pollard

7. Jarrett Stidham, QB (Round 4, 133rd overall)

Stidham quickly went from being a potential successor to Tom Brady to being an underwhelming backup quarterback. In five total appearances, Stidham has thrown one touchdown and four interceptions with a 48.1 completion percentage.

 

Verdict: No impact

 

Notable players drafted after Stidham: WR Hunter Renfrow

8. Byron Cowart, DT (Round 5, 159th overall)

Cowart played in five games as a rookie. So far in 2020, he has 15 combined tackles (seven solo) in six games.

Verdict: Minimal impact

Notable players drafted after Cowart: None

9. Jake Bailey, P (Round 5, 163rd overall)

It seems silly to write "strong impact" for a punter. But if any punter is deserving of a fifth-round selection, it's Bailey. The Stanford product has been an outstanding replacement for ex-Pats punter Ryan Allen. He earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors twice during the 2019 season.

Verdict: Strong impact

Notable players drafted after Bailey: WR Darius Slayton, LB Cole Holcomb, QB Gardner Minshew, WR Travis Fulgham, WR Scotty Miller, RB Myles Gaskin

10. Ken Webster, CB (Round 7, 252nd overall)

Webster was cut by the Patriots prior to the 2019 season.

Verdict: No impact

Notable players drafted after Webster: None

2020 NFL Draft

1. Kyle Dugger, S (Round 2, 37th overall)

To be clear, the jury is still out on this year's draft class. Therefore, every "verdict" listed below should be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, Dugger has been solid when he's been on the field for the Patriots this season. An ankle injury has kept him sidelined for the last two weeks but he's certainly shown flashes when healthy.

Verdict: Some impact

Notable players drafted after Dugger: RB Jonathan Taylor, WR Laviska Shenault Jr., WR Chase Claypool, Antoine Winfield Jr., RB J.K. Dobbins

2. Josh Uche, LB (Round 2, 60th overall)

Another high-potential player who has been limited by injuries. Uche made his Patriots debut last week and looked the part, but we'll need to see a lot more from the Michigan man.

Verdict: Minimal impact

Notable players drafted after Uche: S Jeremy Chinn, RB Antonio Gibson, RB Zack Moss

3. Devin Asiasi, TE (Round 3, 91st overall)

Asiasi was placed on injured reserve Tuesday after playing in five games and not tallying a single reception.

Verdict: Minimal impact

Notable players drafted after Asiasi: WR Devin Duvernay

4. Dalton Keene, TE (Round 3, 101st overall)

Keene has played in only one game so far. We'll likely see much more of him going forward with Asiasi on IR.

Verdict: No impact

Notable players drafted after Keene: RB Joshua Kelley, TE Harrison Bryant

5. Justin Rohrwasser, K (Round 5, 159th overall)

Rohrwasser was beat out for the starting Patriots kicker job by veteran Nick Folk. This pick was widely criticized when it was made, and it hasn't aged well at all. Rohrwasser wasn't even one of the top kickers on the board, which makes the selection even more perplexing.

Verdict: No impact

Notable players drafted after Rohrwasser: WR Tyler Johnson, QB Jake Fromm

6. Michael Onwenu, OL (Round 6, 182nd overall)

Onwenu has been a revelation for the Patriots in 2020 and a huge bright spot from this year's draft class. He's proven to be extremely versatile and is the highest-rated rookie of the season to this point, according to Pro Football Focus. This looks like a slam-dunk pick by Belichick so far.

Verdict: Strong impact

Notable players drafted after Onwenu: None

7. Justin Herron, OL (Round 6, 195th overall)

When the offensive line was in flux earlier this season, Herron stepped up when called upon. He recently was placed on injured reserve.

Verdict: Some impact

Notable players drafted after Herron: None

8. Cassh Maluia, LB (Round 6, 204th overall)

Maluia has been a contributor on special teams through six games in 2020.

Verdict: Minimal impact

Notable players drafted after Maluia: None

9. Dustin Woodard, OL (Round 7, 230th overall)

Woodard hasn't appeared in a game for the Patriots.

Verdict: No impact

Notable players drafted after Woodard: None