Braxton Berrios

2018 NFL Draft: Only four Patriots remain from draft-in-bulk approach

2018 NFL Draft: Only four Patriots remain from draft-in-bulk approach

The Patriots had Richard Seymour, Matt Light, Damien Woody and Tom Brady in 2001. They had Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer and Matthew Slater in 2010.

Under Bill Belichick, as the Patriots went from version 0.0 to 1.0 to 2.0, there was a young core in place that served as their pulse. As they went, the team went. Championships followed. 

The outlook for version 3.0 is hazy. The young core is thin and rife with question marks after the Patriots went about maximizing Brady's last few seasons in New England by trading away picks for established veterans. Who makes up the core now? How many core pieces are there?

We're examining each of the Patriots' last four drafts to see how they got here, on the brink of a new era for the longest-running dynasty in modern NFL history, with an uncertain road ahead.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

In this edition we tackle the 2018 draft, when the Patriots had two first-round choices and got back to drafting in bulk after a meager (only four picks, none until the third round) 2017 class.

Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia (Round 1, Pick No. 23)

Good athlete. Smart. Came from an offense that wasn't a glorified seven-on-seven scheme. Wynn was an ideal Patriots offensive lineman, and he was physically gifted enough to earn a shot at the left tackle job despite being shorter and possessing shorter arms than the Patriots prototype.

He did get that shot, then tore his Achilles as a rookie. He came back to start his sophomore season on Tom Brady's blind side but got hurt again. A foot injury sapped half his season. All in all, he looks like he could be a staple up front for the Patriots. But he's played eight games in two years. 

Who they could’ve had: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland (Round 1, Pick 24)

Sony Michel, RB, Georgia (Round 1, Pick No. 31)

The Patriots double-dipped on Bulldogs in the first round, taking a running back who was projected to be a do-it-all pro. He was a dynamic, slashing runner who broke arm tackles regularly for Kirby Smart's program. But as a pro, his value in the passing game has been almost nonexistent.

He now looks like a specialist who would qualify as a Patriots "big back," taking on the role once held by LeGarrette Blount and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. There's value in that. He helped carry the team to a long playoff run and Super Bowl win in 2018. He could grow into more of a receiver or pass-protector moving forward. He's still young. But knee injuries have taken him off the field at times and perhaps stunted his growth.

Who they could’ve had: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (Round 1, Pick 32)

Duke Dawson, CB, Florida (Round 2, Pick No. 56)

This pick was one of many that spawned from the Jimmy Garoppolo trade. Made sense at the time. He was a slot-specific defensive back. Slot corners have value because slot receivers are among the most efficient in football. Didn't pan out. Clearly.

He injured his hamstring during a drill in his rookie training camp, and was placed on injured reserve to start that season. The Patriots designated him as one of their players to return off of IR, but he never played a snap that season. He was traded the following summer to the Broncos (along with a seventh-round pick) to get a sixth-rounder in return. 

Who they could’ve had: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma (Round 3, Pick 86)

Ja'Whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue (Round 5, Pick No. 143)

Bentley was viewed — as a 260-pound linebacker — by some linebacker-needy teams as not being worthy of a spot on their draft board. He was a dinosaur. Too big. Too slow. Not someone who'd thrive when speed and quickness is becoming more important for second-level defenders in coverage. The Patriots didn't care. They like their 'backers beefy.

Bentley actually ended up winning a key defensive role right off the bat. He started the season-opener and two of his first three games. An injury in Week 3 sapped the remainder of his season. Stuck behind a deep linebacker group in his second season, Bentley didn't have much of a chance to make an impact. But that might be coming for him in Year 3. After losing Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts, they need capable bodies at the linebacker level. Given what he showed as a rookie, Bentley is certainly capable. 

Who they could’ve had: Michael Dickson, P, Texas (Round 5, Pick 149)

Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State (Round 6, Pick No. 178)  

Into Day 3 of the draft, the Patriots took their hacks at some potential special-teamers and reserve types. Sam falls into that category. A linebacker with good athleticism and toughness, he landed on injured reserve before the start of his rookie season. Sticking with the team for his Year 2 training camp, he was released and not re-signed to the practice squad. The Dolphins, run by former Patriots assistant Brian Flores, scooped him up for their practice squad first. He's since bounced around a bit to the Niners p-squad and the Lions p-squad. He's set to enter camp with Matt Patricia's Lions. 

Who they could’ve had: Gus Edwards, RB, Rutgers (Undrafted)

Listen and subscribe to Phil Perry's Next Pats Podcast here: 

Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami (Round 6, Pick No. 210)

Berrios was a water bug-quick route runner with punt-return experience who was considered a leader for the Hurricanes during his tenure there. He was yet another rookie who ended up on IR for a team that was loaded with capable veteran contributors. It looked like 2019 might be his chance to work his way into a role, but he had an odd training camp. At times it looked like he was lost. At others he looked like he had an opportunity to fill the slot the Patriots wanted to address with Cole Beasley or Adam Humphries in free agency.

Then he was held out of preseason game No. 3. He was released at the end of camp. He seemed like an ideal candidate to try to sneak onto the practice squad. The Jets didn't let that happen. Despite limited preseason game reps, he was claimed off of waivers and added to their active roster. He ended up seeing offensive snaps in 11 games but caught just six passes on 10 targets for 115 yards. 

Who they could’ve had: Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State (Undrafted)

Danny Etling, QB, LSU (Round 7, Pick No. 219)

The Patriots explained after the draft that they liked Etling's performance at his pro day. He had a good arm. He was smart. He might not have been coached up all that well at LSU. His offense there might've been a little wonky. Maybe he was a diamond in the rough?

Not so.

While he was the consummate professional throughout his rookie camp, his highlight of the summer was an 86-yard touchdown run in the preseason finale. He spent that year on the practice squad and came back to Patriots camp the following summer as a receiver. He was waived before the end of camp and picked up by the Falcons. He spent most of the 2019 season on the Atlanta practice squad as a quarterback.

Who they could’ve had: Kyle Allen, QB, Houston (Undrafted)

Keion Crossen, CB, Western Carolina (Round 7, Pick No. 243)

The Patriots took a flier on an athlete from little-known Western Carolina, and by the end of the year, it looked like they'd hit. Crossen was a special-teams contributor throughout his rookie season — really all one could ask from a seventh-rounder — and he popped up in the AFC Championship Game that year with a key defensive role. For a period that day, he shadowed Chiefs burner Tyreek Hill with help over the top from safety Devin McCourty.

It looked like he could be molded into a defensive contributor with time. He didn't get that in New England, where the corner room was crowded. He was dealt to the Texans at the end of training camp in 2019 for a 2021 sixth-round pick.

Who they could’ve had: Levi Wallace, CB, Alabama (Undrafted)

Ryan Izzo, TE, Florida State (Round 7, Pick No. 250)

A Jersey kid who went to Florida State and became a key contributor in their pro style offense, Izzo made sense as a hard-nosed camp body. He'd compete with whoever was behind Rob Gronkowski. Make 'em work. He'd chip in on special teams, potentially. Still looked that way headed into 2019 after he missed his entire rookie season on IR (sensing a theme here?). We never assumed he'd be the defacto No. 1 tight end after Gronkowski retired. But he was at times. Matt LaCosse was injured. Other veteran acquisitions didn't work out.

Critical game snaps fell to Izzo for four weeks (Weeks 1, 3, 5, 6), who was serviceable as a receiver in spurts but looked overwhelmed in the running game. For 2020, he looks like a backup option to LaCosse and/or whatever tight end is drafted later this month. Izzo, A.J. Derby (2015) and Lee Smith (2011) are the three tight ends the Patriots drafted after taking Gronkowski in the second round in 2010.

Who they could’ve had: Poona Ford, DT, Texas (Undrafted)

Braxton Berrios among four Patriots claimed off waivers, three by AFC East teams

Braxton Berrios among four Patriots claimed off waivers, three by AFC East teams

The New England Patriots had some tough decisions to make during 2019 roster cuts and as a result, they parted with some talented players. Those players didn't stay on the free-agent market for very long.

The Patriots saw four of their roster cuts get claimed by other NFL teams. More specifically, three of the players were claimed by two AFC East teams, the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins.

Per ESPN's Field Yates, the Jets claimed Patriots wide receiver Braxton Berrios off waivers.

And per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Brian Flores-coached Dolphins claimed defensive end Trent Harris and cornerback Ken Webster from the team.

Of the three players claimed, Berrios was probably the most talented. A 2018 six-round pick out of Miami, Berrios spent his rookie season on IR but was expected to emerge as a contender as a backup slot receiver and punt returner for the team this year.  Instead, undrafted free agents Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski were able to challenge for those respectively and there simply wasn't room for Berrios.

The Patriots may have wanted to sneak Berrios to the practice squad, but they weren't able to do it. Now, he will have a chance to lock down a role with the Jets, who are light on talented receivers.

As for the Dolphins claims, Harris and Webster were both roster long-shots. Harris played collegiately at Miami, so he'll be returning to that area. He was a practice squad contributor for the Patriots in 2018 as a rookie. Webster was in a crowded cornerback room and despite being a seventh-round pick, he had little chance to make the roster. 

These three players weren't the only Patriots players that got claimed off waivers. Undrafted tight end/fullback Andrew Beck was claimed off waivers by the Denver Broncos according to multiple reports. He was the Patriots' highest-paid undrafted rookie this season.

CURRAN: Patriots receiver landscape for Week 1? It's complicated>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

With Olszewski, Berrios' cuts, Patriots WR group comes into clearer focus

With Olszewski, Berrios' cuts, Patriots WR group comes into clearer focus

Braxton Berrios, the little second-year wideout from the University of Miami, won’t be on the Patriots 53-man roster to start the season. Nor will Gunner Olszewski, the fan-favorite receiver and return man who made a roster bid as an undrafted free agent in camp.

The Patriots are releasing Berrios, a 2018 sixth-rounder, and Olszewski, according to multiple reports. So far, the Patriots have also released Ryan Davis and Damoun Patterson from the wide receiver crew. Olszewski's release could be good news for another undrafted free agent receiver, Jakobi Meyers.

The Patriots wide receiver crew to start the season continues to take shape with Phillip Dorsett, Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, N’Keal Harry, Cameron Meredith, Meyers and Demaryius Thomas left standing.

Berrios, 5-foot-9, 190, seemed to be in direct competition with Olszewski as a slot receiver/punt returner and – after the first preseason game – the reps and the game activity all went to Olszewski.

Berrios didn’t catch a pass in any of the final three preseason games after making three catches for 45 yards in the first game. Berrios also returned five punts for 46 yards.  Olszewski was the more productive punt returner, averaging more than 13 yards per return.

The chance exists that both can still pass through waivers and land on the Patriots practice squad.

As for the rest of the wideout group, Meredith – who was signed to a two-year deal in August – is coming back from a knee injury suffered last November and seems destined to land on injured reserve if he isn’t released.  

Harry, who hasn't done much of anything in terms of on-field activity since leaving before halftime of the first preseason game, is a curious case as well. Is his undisclosed leg injury bothersome enough to land him on IR? He's now nearly month-long absence has likely put him far behind in terms of garnering the trust of Tom Brady and the coaching staff.

 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.