Way-too-early grades for every Patriots pick in the 2019 NFL Draft
FOXBORO – When the chance to make a premature judgment with limited information presents itself, you do it. Every. Single. Time. So let’s put our heads down and wade blindly forward into grading the 2019 Patriots draft picks.
In handing these grades down, we’ve unscientifically decided that 50 percent of the grade is “How well does the player play football?” And that’s relative to where he went not in the overall draft class. We’re putting 20 percent each on “General Character.” Does he come recommended by his coaches? Alleged work ethic? Captain? Does he seem able to construct and understand simple sentences? Another 20 percent goes to “Need.”
The final 10 percent is based on “Who’d they miss out on?!?!” Why so low? Because while it’s easy for us to flail like an inflatable tube man when all our research told us who the Patriots should ABSOLUTELY be selecting, we have to defer to the team that’s won six Super Bowls in 19 seasons at some point, don’t we?
Who’s kidding who? Let’s get after it.
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State (32nd overall)
Spend about 90 seconds watching N’Keal Harry play like a bully at wide receiver. I keep hearing the Dez Bryant comp but to me he seems a helluva lot more like Anquan Boldin. Bear-trap hands, big, willing to use his body, incredible concentration and body control. So he’s a half-step slow. Boldin ran a 4.73. He produced at Arizona State, Herm Edwards turned backflips about him and the Patriots not only don’t have a big, physical wideout on the active roster, they haven’t had one in years. Could they have gone for one of the tight ends on the board or a defensive lineman? Nahhh. Great pick.
Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt (45th overall)
I’ll give the Patriots a 45 out of 50 on the first measure. He had four picks, 14 PBUs and 61 tackles and was one of the best corners in the SEC so the fact he’s not a long, lean, quick-twitch corner with a 4.5 40 (he ran 4.68 at the Combine) matters less than his production. He was an engaging kid and there are no off-field issues at all. Give that a 20. Need? Well, I understand the fact he’s a cornerbacking unicorn and that his build gives the Patriots a coverage weapon they didn’t have. But big corner wasn’t as glaring as any tight end. So give ‘em 15 for that. We’re at 80. Who else was there? A crapton of tight ends. Six tight ends would go between where the Patriots took Williams and the end of the third round. It’s a position too long ignored and it continued to be. Give the Patriots a 3 on that for a total of 83.
Chase Winovich, Edge, Michigan (77th overall)
First team in the Big Ten with a brilliant first step and hand usage that was said to be the best among all the defensive linemen in the draft? And the Patriots got him in the third round? That’s a 50 out of 50. What’s he like? Doesn’t appear to care about much other than playing football as hard as he possibly can. Need? Again, 20 out of 20. Trey Flowers doesn’t live here anymore. Derek Rivers hasn’t been able to get on the field and make an impact. Winovich comes in as – at the very least – a pass rush specialist. We’ll see if he can hold up against the run and add pass-coverage to his arsenal and then – and only then – can we start mentioning him in the same sentence as Rob Ninkovich. There was no position – including tight end – that really had markedly greater need.
Damien Harris, RB, Alabama (87th overall)
Ran for more than 1,000 in two of the past three years and averaged 6.4 yards per carry in the SEC. Does he get downgraded because he’s played for the 33rd NFL franchise at Alabama? I don’t think so. This is a late third-round pick who runs North-South and blasts through contact. A lack of elite burst is the knock on him but the Patriots have a player with elite burst at the position that they took in the first round last year, Sony Michel. Give him 50 on talent relative to selection spot. Give him 20 on character and intangibles. Running back was a somewhat overlooked need but it was there. In his final two seasons at Georgia, Michel carried the ball more than 20 times once. Twenty times in his final 25 games he carried 15 times or fewer. In 10 of 16 games Michel carried more than 15 times in his rookie NFL season. He ran 20 or more times in six games. Give the Patriots 20 for addressing the need and not low-balling the spot since it’s clear they are going to rely more and more on their power game. Who else? Tight end. This is the point at which the final tight ends reputed to be the most talented were coming off the board. Give the Patriots a 3 there and it’s a 93 overall.
Yodny Cajuste, T, West Virginia (101st overall)
Another player that actually projects as a possible Day One starter if necessary and he comes in after 100? Great in pass protection, smooth mover and he’s 6-foot-5, 315 pounds. Another kid with no warts in terms of coachability and character so he’s at 70 out of the chutes. Need? Absolutely. Isaiah Wynn is coming off an Achilles injury and he’s not a model left tackle in terms of size while Cajuste is. Probably will be an upgrade at some point over Trent Brown and if Marcus Cannon retires in the near future, Cajuste can play on the right as well. Who else was there more important than a top-tier tackle who can plug-and-play? Nobody. 100.
Hjalte Froholdt, G, Arkansas (118th overall)
Give Froholdt a 35. Nothing to get giddy about in pass protection and a player that was mocked mostly in the sixth round with a few fifth-round predictions. Give him all 20 for character and coachability. His former Arkansas coach was doing cartwheels that the team selected him. Need? I’d say tight end, safety, and defensive line trump finding a backup for Joe Thuney and/or David Andrews so that’s a 12 of 20. Who else should they have taken? Howsa ‘bout a safety? Chauncey Gardner-Johnson of Florida who went 105 and Amani Hooker from Iowa taken 116th. Sorry, Hjalte. Somebody had to get a C.
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn (133rd overall)
Holy crap, does the kid throw a nice ball. Tight spirals, which play very well in the elements. Terrific delivery. Accurate. He’s just a tad on the skittish side, or at least he was last year behind a terrifyingly porous offensive line. Can move around plenty. So we give the gentleman a 45. Coachability and character. Flawless. He’s at 65. Need? It was significant and the Patriots got a kid who can learn from Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels for at least two seasons and then we’ll see what they have. But this pick is terrific in that he’s going to walk in and possibly throw the best ball out of all four quarterbacks on the roster.
Byron Cowart, DT, Maryland (159th overall)
Hi, are you the 300-pounder with the 30-inch vert? Nicetuhmeetcha! He’s 6-3 with almost 34-inch arms to lock out and keep offensive linemen off of him. In 2015, when he was a high school senior in Florida, he was regarded by some as the No. 1 defensive line prospect in the country. The country. He fizzled out under a coaching change at Auburn, spent a year at a community college and resurfaced at Maryland where he was honorable mention All-Conference in the Big Ten. For the fifth round? That’s really good. But the lack of performance puts him at 35. Now, for the character/coachability/off-field? Let’s go with a 10. Not because he’s a bad kid. I know nothing of that. But he admitted he had a hard time with the Auburn coaching staff and being the No. 1 prospect in the country so that’s something to bear in mind. Fit? Yes. Who else was there? I got no gripe with a DT there.
Jake Bailey, P, Stanford (163rd overall)
The Patriots were about to be facing an 85-pick layoff when they traded up from 167 to 163 to take Bailey in the fifth round. He was rated as the second-best punter in general and was the second one off the board. Can absolutely crush the ball but he’s going to have to learn the art of the plus-50 punt. Go with a 46 on ability. Also handles kickoffs which he can take off the plate of Stephen Gostkowski. No complaints on character/coachability. Need? The team just re-signed Ryan Allen and he continues to not just be a smart and selfless punter but he performs great in big games. Johnny (Weapon) Hekker, the best in the business, threw up on his facemask in the Super Bowl. Going with an 8 for need. Who else was on the board. Lotta fellas who play on the regular. 3. That’s a 77.
Ken Webster, CB, Ole Miss (252nd overall)
The guy is like a flea in terms of jumping ability. He had a 43-inch vertical and – at 203 pounds – still put up 225 pounds 18 times? Was tracking to be a really good player as a freshman but he tore his ACL in 2016 then got arrested for shoplifting prior to the 2017 season and started five games. He was a part-time starter in 2018. He’s a 30 on how well he plays and a 10 on character/coachability, etc. A team can never throw too many darts at the cornerback position so this is a 20. Who else was there? Who cares at 252. That’s a 10. 70.