The Patriots drafted Sony Michel back in 2018 when they could have used a quarterback.
Sorry, Patriots fans, but we can’t help but broach this subject ahead of New England’s Week 10 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. With all of the issues the team has experienced in 2020, it’s hard to pin most of it on Cam Newton, but perhaps a lot of that chatter could’ve been avoided if the Pats had been grooming a QB with similar traits for the last few years.
Which brings us to the 2018 NFL Draft, when the Patriots, with the No. 31 overall pick, selected Georgia running back Sony Michel, who’s all but officially an afterthought in New England after a tremendous rookie season that propelled the Pats to a Super Bowl victory.
But one pick later, the Ravens snagged Louisville QB Lamar Jackson at No. 32. The former Heisman Trophy winner won the NFL MVP in his first full year as a starter in 2019 and, despite what the critics say (because all quarterbacks have flaws), he’s among the best signal callers in the game.
What if Bill Belichick just drafted Jackson and had him sit two years behind Tom Brady before taking over as the starter?
Jackson was a rumored target for New England ahead of that draft, too, which makes this scenario all the more plausible to look back on. This isn’t a “Captain Hindsight” situation. Brady’s time with the Patriots was very clearly coming to a close given his age and lack of contract extension and Jackson wasn’t viewed as an NFL-ready QB.
This seemed like a situation tailor made for the Patriots’ QB conundrum, but instead Belichick made another average-to-bad first-round pick in Michel. For a team that sported leading rushers named LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, Jonas Gray, and Stevan Ridley since 2012, why in the world was there a need to use a top pick on a running back?
But this is right in line with Belichick’s inability to capitalize on draft choices within the first 64 picks.
If the Patriots had taken Jackson, they’d have a starter in 2020 who is well-versed in their system, and just imagine the results. Newton has done a pretty darn good job for only studying the playbook since July and having pretty much no weapons around him. Plus, Josh McDaniels is a much better offensive coordinator than Greg Roman. Jackson would be flourishing.
Instead, the Patriots got themselves 482 rushes for 2,016 yards and 14 touchdowns from Michel, who averaged just 3.7 yards per carry as the team’s lead back in 2019 and has appeared in only three games in 2020. Did we mention Michel had injury concerns coming into the NFL?
Though the Patriots had a ton of players leave in free agency in addition to a league-high eight opt-outs, they’d have Cam Newton 2.0 right now leading the offense to immediately succeed Brady. And who knows, maybe all of those players don’t depart or opt out if they know he’s QB1 heading into 2020.
How many more draft misses are going to come back and haunt the Pats this badly?