The New England Patriots had some serious holes to fill in the 2019 NFL Draft despite coming off a Super Bowl victory.
Many believed that the Patriots would need to add some talent at receiver and tight end in the wake of Chris Hogan's departure and Rob Gronkowski's retirement. Adding a successor for Tom Brady was a need as well given that Brian Hoyer wasn't a long-term option for the team. Adding youth and upside to a great defense was also on the Patriots' list, per usual.
The Patriots did, largely, go after the positions that many expected they would, with one exception. They didn't pursue any tight ends during a strong draft class at the position.
As a result, they struggled at the position during the 2019 season and had to use two picks on tight ends in '20. That was a significantly weaker draft class at TE, so that looks like a misstep for the Patriots.
Elsewhere, the team was able to find a lot of mid and late-round contributors, but so far, their top two picks haven't exactly done a great job of stepping into the big roles that many expected them to.
Here's a look back at how the Patriots fared in the '19 draft and some retrospective grades for their 10-pick haul.
Patriots 2019 NFL Draft re-grades
Round 1, Pick 32: WR N'Keal Harry
Harry drew a lot of attention because he was the first receiver that the Patriots drafted in the first round during the Bill Belichick era. One in 20 years. That's significant. He was also, surprisingly, the second WR off the board in a loaded draft class at the position.
Unfortunately, it looks like Harry is continuing to prove that one of the biggest problem areas for Belichick's scouting eye is the receiver spot.
So far during his career, Harry hasn't been very good. As a rookie, he showed some flashes of being a solid playmaker with the ball in his hands, but he couldn't separate with speed or route running. That has made it difficult for his quarterbacks to get the ball to him.
Even in a barren receiver room last year, Harry caught just 33 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns. He should've had a chance to step up as a legitimate weapon, but instead, it was Jakobi Meyers, an undrafted free agent from Harry's draft class, that became the top receiving threat for the Patriots.
Maybe Harry will break out, but for now, he's looking like a big whiff by New England. And considering that he was taken second overall among receivers in this draft class ahead of the likes of DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, and other more productive wide-outs, this is pretty close to a failing grade for the Patriots. We won't quite go that far, but if Harry can't improve in '21, this will surely be an F.
Round 2, Pick 45: CB Joejuan Williams
The Patriots drafted the 6-foot-3 Williams in hopes that he could turn into a big, long-armed cornerback and key part of the team's secondary. So far, that hasn't happened.
Williams has largely been a backup for the Patriots and has cycled between the cornerback and safety position. In total, he has played 251 defensive snaps over the course of two seasons but has carved out a solid role as a special teams player.
Williams showed upside playing 16 percent of the defensive snaps in 2020 and logged 18 tackles and two pass breakups for the Patriots. That's not the production you expect out of your second-round pick, especially without an interception, but Williams, 23, still has plenty of time to prove himself.
To date, Williams' impact has been below-average, but he may have a chance to step into a bigger role during the 2021 season. If he can't though, then this grade will drop.
Round 3, Pick 77: EDGE Chase Winovich
As a part-time player during his rookie season, it looked like Winovich could be a potential double-digit sack artist for the Patriots. He had 5.5 sacks despite playing in fewer than 30 percent of the defensive snaps. He also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and looked like a do-it-all contributor.
In his second season, Winovich stagnated a bit. He played in 58 percent of the team's snaps, including nine starts, but he still had 5.5 sacks. That was good for the team lead, but it was a bit disappointing that he didn't make a bigger leap.
Nonetheless, Winovich is still a solid pass rusher and has been well worth a third-round pick. Even if he's never a full-time starter and plays more in obvious pass-rushing situations, the Patriots did very well landing him in the third round.
Round 3, Pick 87: RB Damien Harris
The Patriots took the same approach with Harris that they do with most of their running backs. They gave him a virtual redshirt year as a rookie where he barely played. He had just four carries for 12 yards. Then, in 2020, he was trusted more and eventually became the team's primary runner.
Though Harris dealt with some injuries -- he missed six games on the season -- he ran well when healthy, generating 691 yards and two scores with a 5.0 yards per carry average, tied for the seventh-best among RBs last year. If the Patriots' passing offense can improve, that should help Harris to get better moving forward as well.
It's hard to grade Harris in full with this limited sample size, but he looks like a solid player at the next level. At 5-foot-11, 213 pounds, his injury issues hopefully shouldn't persist.
|Rank (among RBs)||Running Back||Carries||Yards||Yards per carry|
|1||J.K. Dobbins, Ravens||134||805||6.0|
|2||Nick Chubb, Browns||190||1,067||5.6|
|3||Aaron Jones, Packers||201||1,104||5.5|
|4||Derrick Henry, Titans||378||2,027||5.4|
|5||Miles Sanders, Eagles||164||867||5.3|
|6||Ronald Jones, Bucs||192||978||5.1|
|7||Damian Harris, Patriots||137||691||5.0|
|8||Jonathan Taylor, Colts||232||1,169||5.0|
|9||Gus Edwards, Ravens||144||723||5.0|
|10||Raheem Mostert, 49ers||104||521||5.0|
|11||Dalvin Cook, Vikings||312||1,557||5.0|
|12||Alvin Kamara, Saints||187||932||5.0|
Round 3, Pick 101: OT Yodny Cajuste
Speaking of injury issues, Cajuste has had his fair share. So far, he hasn't played a down for the Patriots because of a quad injury that sidelined him as a rookie and a knee injury that kept him from playing during the '20 campaign.
Cajuste has good size at 6-foot-5, 312 pounds, but his inability to stay on the field has been a massive disappointment. He'll fight for a role as a swing tackle with the team this year, but considering his complete lack of production to date, this has to be a failing grade.
Round 4, Pick 118: OL Hjalte Froholdt
Here's another mid-round offensive lineman that didn't quite work out. Froholdt missed his rookie season with a shoulder injury before he played eight games as a backup for the Patriots in 2020. However, the team didn't like what they saw from him and decided to waive him and try to stash him on the practice squad during the season.
That didn't work. The Houston Texans came in and claimed him, so the Patriots weren't able to keep him around.
Froholdt still has upside at just 24 years old, and he was a defensive lineman for part of his college career. So, he was seen as a project. Still, the Patriots basically let him walk for nothing after he was a Round 4 pick, and he couldn't carve out a consistent role up front. Thus, this is another low grade.
Round 4, Pick 133: QB Jarrett Stidham
It's really hard to properly grade Stidham at this point in his career. He has upside, but he has only thrown 48 regular-season passes for 270 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions. That's an interception rate of 8.3 percent.
Stidham has arm talent, but it has to be concerning that he wasn't able to earn more playing time last year amid Cam Newton's late-season issues. Bill Belichick was adamant that Newton gave the Patriots the best chance to win, so what exactly does that say about Stidham at this point in his career?
Of course, Stidham is just 24 and has time left to improve. If he can win the starting job in 2021 and look good doing so, then he could end up being a steal. For now though, he'll draw a middling grade. We simply don't know whether or not he's a capable NFL quarterback yet. The sample size is too small.
Round 5, Pick 159: DL Byron Cowart
Cowart took a year to get acclimated to the NFL and appeared in just five games as a rookie. However, in his second year, Cowart was much better and earned a starting role with the Patriots.
In his second season, Cowart started 14 games and made 27 tackles, three tackles for loss, and had a sack. He looks like a quality interior player that can be an effective part of a rotation. The Patriots did well to land him in the fifth round of the draft.
Round 5, Pick 163: P Jake Bailey
Belichick loves drafting specialists, especially in the fifth round. Most of the time, the picks are rather ho-hum, but Bailey ended up being a smashing success.
In his career to date, Bailey has averaged 46.4 yards per punt and has a touchback percentage on kickoffs of 58.4 percent. In 2020, his average of 48.7 yards was among the best in the league, and it was enough for him to be named a First-Team All-Pro.
Bailey should be one of the better punters in the league for years to come, so even though the positional value of punters isn't that high, Bailey ended up being a bit of a steal here.
Round 7, Pick 252: CB Ken Webster
Because of the Patriots' relative strength at cornerback ahead of the 2019 season and the earlier selection of Williams, Webster wasn't able to make the team. He was scooped up off waivers by Brian Flores' Miami Dolphins and he played in eight games for them making five starts. He had 19 tackles and one pass defense in that role.
After failing to make the Dolphins the next year, he ended up with the San Francisco 49ers and played in nine games with them as a depth player. Webster has played in 17 career games, and that's pretty good for a seventh-rounder. He'll get a solid grade but will get downgraded slightly because he hasn't played for the Patriots.