If you followed our Phil Perry's "Prototypical Patriots" series leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft, you would have been very surprised by New England's activity over the weekend.
Many of the Patriots' 10 selections in this year's draft didn't fit the mold of what Bill Belichick and his staff traditionally look for in their draft prospects. Second-round wide receiver Tyquan Thornton, for example, has the fastest 40-yard dash time of any wideout taken during the Belichick era but the slowest three-cone and shuttle times.
The team also drafted an interior lineman (Chattanooga's Cole Strange) in the first round for the first time since Logan Mankins in 2005.
Perry: Final grade for a Patriots draft loaded with outliers
Belichick has a history of bucking convention in the NFL Draft. But one NFL assistant apparently views New England's odd drafting as a sign that new director of player personnel Matt Groh may have been calling the shots.
"The Jones boys" are cornerbacks Marcus Jones and Jack Jones, whom the Patriots drafted in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, and both weigh under 180 pounds. The team also drafted a pair of running backs and a quarterback despite appearing to be set at both positions, so there was plenty to second-guess after the weekend.
Should that second-guessing be directed more at Groh than Belichick? While the Patriots reportedly took a more "collaborative" approach to the draft process in 2021, the belief was that Belichick still had final say on all picks as the team's de facto general manager.
It's hard to imagine Belichick relinquishing that power now. Sure, Groh has deep roots with the organization: He's been with the Patriots since 2011, and his father, Al Groh, is a former NFL head coach and New England assistant who is close with Belichick. Matt Groh also has the official title of "director of player personnel" and was the one explaining New England's draft picks after the weekend.
Groh still doesn't have anywhere near Belichick's institutional knowledge, though, and even if he plays a key role in the decision process, it's hard to see him making a pick without Belichick's stamp of approval.