Isaiah Wynn

Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Bill Belichick was there. Josh McDaniels was there. The Patriots had a large contingent down in Mobile, Ala. for this week's Senior Bowl practices (the game will air Saturday on NFL Network at 2:30 p.m.), which should come as no surprise.

Just look at how the Patriots have drafted of late. 

In 2019, they selected Jarrett Stidham, Byron Cowart and Jake Bailey -- all of whom participated in the Senior Bowl. They also signed undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers, who played in the game. 

In 2018, they grabbed Isaiah Wynn in the first round, Duke Dawson, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Braxton Berrios after they'd competed in the Senior Bowl.

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Three of their four draft picks from 2017, plus two undrafted rookies, were in the Senior Bowl. 

From 2013-16, they brought aboard 20 Senior Bowl participants as rookies.

"The great thing about the Senior Bowl is that you're seeing some of the best players," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said last spring. 

"There have actually been some underclassmen who have been incorporated into that mix. So you're seeing them against good competition and it's a different dynamic or different situation that they've been placed in. You're kind of taking them out of their environment that they've been in and kind of giving them something new and seeing how they handle it against good people."

The small-school players -- or the players who are asked to do something they didn't do much as collegians -- are the ones who have an opportunity to really land on radars during Senior Bowl work. For the Patriots, who constantly harp on the benefit of having seen players work against great competition on a regular basis when they hail from an SEC program, seeing some of the best in the country work against one another matters.

"It’s one thing if they do it against a lower-level team," Caserio said back in 2016, when asked about the Senior Bowl. "I mean, look, not all teams are created equal. Not all conferences are created equal. That’s just a fact. We can’t control that. So when you can see them actually play against really good players or good players that are at a comparable level of competition that they’re going to see every Sunday, that has to be a part of [the evaluation], no question."

The next year, the Patriots took two Senior Bowlers from smaller programs: Youngstown State's Derek Rivers and Troy's Antonio Garcia. 

"Where [the Senior Bowl] probably helps a little bit is players on a lower level that maybe haven’t competed against the same level of competition," Caserio said back in 2017. "Obviously, they’re making a big jump. . . Garcia was down there. That’s going to be a big jump in competition because this is what they’re going to be playing against. 

"With all due respect to whatever conference Youngstown State is in, there’s not a lot of NFL players in that conference. I mean, that’s just the way that it is. You’re going to have to see him against NFL competition, which the Senior Bowl is usually a pretty good indication of that because you’re talking about the top seniors in the country. It’s a part of the process. You’re not making a decision based off of that, but maybe a player who doesn’t have as much experience against that level, you’re going to see how he fares, and then you just kind of continue to move forward."

Some small-school prospects who may have caught Belichick's eye this week? 

Dayton tight end Adam Trautman was already considered one of the better tight ends in the draft class and seemed to only help his stock.

Safety Kyle Dugger -- who hails from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University -- impressed. Ditto for Division III offensive lineman Ben Bartch out of Saint John's, who saw rushers from Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and other high-end programs and reportedly held his own.

Perhaps the most recent success story out of Senior Bowl week for the Patriots wasn't with a small-school prospect, though. It might've been with Shaq Mason, a guard coming out of a run-heavy system at Georgia Tech. The Patriots simply hadn't seen him do much in the way of pass protection for the Yellow Jackets.

But Mason got to the Senior Bowl, took to the coaching he received, and the Patriots took notice. 

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"The thing I’ll say about Shaq," Belichick said after drafting Mason in 2015, "is just watching him at the Senior Bowl, I mean it was only one week, but he made a huge improvement just in those, whatever it was, four or five practices, whatever it was down there. His stance is different. You could see each day progressively how he was taking to the coaching down there and his footwork and his hand placement and his body position. I know it was basic. It wasn’t like it was a big scheme thing at the Senior Bowl, but just doing things on a daily basis better than the day before, looking more comfortable doing them. And it was different than what they did at Georgia Tech."

Big school. Small school. Everyone had something to gain in Mobile this week. And that includes the Patriots. That's why -- with more time off this year than recent years -- they were well represented down there.


Patriots lock up the 23rd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft after Saints lose

Patriots lock up the 23rd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft after Saints lose

The New England Patriots now know exactly when they'll be picking in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

After they lost to the Tennessee Titans, the Patriots were guaranteed to have either the 23rd or 24th pick in the first round. It all depended on the result of the New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings game. 

By virtue of the Saints loss, the Patriots will be picking No. 23 overall.

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The Patriots have only picked 23rd or higher once since 2013. That came in 2018 when they selected offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn with the 23rd overall pick. That pick was acquired by the Patriots when they traded Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams.

That said, it has been 10 years since the Patriots' own first-round pick has fallen at the 23rd spot or lower. The team owned the 23rd pick in the 2009 NFL Draft but traded it to the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens would go on to draft offensive tackle Michael Oher, famous for being the subject of "The Blind Side", with that selection.

In the last five NFL drafts, these players have been picked No. 23 overall:

  • 2019: OT Tytus Howard, Texans
  • 2018: OT Isaiah Wynn, Patriots
  • 2017: TE Evan Engram, Giants
  • 2016: WR Laquon Treadwell, Vikings
  • 2015: DE Shane Ray, Broncos

In Phil Perry's most recent mock draft, he had a wide receiver coming off the board with the 23rd selection while the Patriots targeted a defensive back four picks later.

Patriots vs. Bengals Injury Report: Isaiah Wynn misses practice with eye issue

Patriots vs. Bengals Injury Report: Isaiah Wynn misses practice with eye issue

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's session, but one of his fellow offensive starters was absent.

Left tackle Isaiah Wynn missed the practice with an eye issue. Wynn suffered a toe injury in Week 2 and didn't return until Week 12. It's unclear whether Wynn's eye ailment will impact his availability for Sunday's Week 15 road game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (right elbow) and rookie wide receiver N'Keal Harry (hip) both were full practice participants. Veteran wide receivers Julian Edelman (knee/shoulder) and Mohamed Sanu (ankle) were limited participants. Defensive lineman Byron Cowart (concussion) also returned to practice after not participating Wednesday.

Here are the full Thursday injury reports for both teams.


OT Isaiah Wynn, Eye

LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, Knee
DL Byron Cowart, Concussion
WR Julian Edelman, Knee / Shoulder
OL Ted Karras, Knee
CB Jason McCourty, Groin
WR Mohamed Sanu, Ankle
DL Danny Shelton, Shoulder

QB Tom Brady, Right Elbow
WR N'Keal Harry, Hip


DE Carlos Dunlap, Not Injury Related (Rest)
WR A.J. Green, Ankle
DT Rennel Wren, Hip

DE Sam Hubbard, Knee

DT Geno Atkins, Not Injury Related (Rest)
CB Darqueze Dennard, Not Injury Related (Rest)
TE Tyler Eifert, Not Injury Related (Rest)
WR John Ross, Foot

Sanu gives huge praise to Edelman's toughness>>>

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