The New England Patriots will make a decision soon on left tackle Isaiah Wynn. It will have a huge impact on the offseason and next season. Why would one player’s role other than the quarterback on the club have such dramatic influence?
First, Wynn is a good football player. Yet, at his listed height and weight, he’s undersized at left tackle. He’s too short, not long enough, and too light. In fact, Wynn shouldn’t be able to even compete in the NFL at the critical position of offensive left tackle at all, but he manages to do a decent job nonetheless.
Those attributes are what make Wynn’s situation so muddled for the Pats. Wynn is being played in the wrong position by the team. So, as the 2022 draft approaches and the season comes closer, let’s take an in-depth look at why Wynn’s situation challenges the Patriots and just how they might — and should — deal with it.
Patriots Wynn is good, but not an NFL left tackle
Wynn was a terrific college offensive left tackle. Georgia’s 2017 national title game loss against Alabama demonstrated that fact. Wynn obliterated the right side of Alabama’s pass rush. Radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Matt Dolloff had this to say about Wynn’s performance:
"“Keeping a close eye on Wynn in these highlights, the thing that sticks out more than anything about the rookie tackle is his deft footwork. Wynn consistently used his feet to keep opponents in front of him, whether bigger guys like Hand or smaller, speedier rushers like Evans. He rarely bit on Evans’ spin moves.”"
He was a force. Even at the SEC level, Wynn’s size was anomalous. The fact is that he shouldn’t have been able to excel at his size against SEC competition. Yet, he did. He was so talented that he overcame all physical obstacles to be the best that he could be — but in college.
Then, in the 2018 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected Wynn with the 23rd pick. Wynn’s highlights would have convinced even the most ardent critics that he was the real deal and a bonafide NFL tackle.
They would have been right … and wrong. First, Wynn can play tackle in the NFL. While undersized for an OT, he can still perform adequately there. Yet, playing on an island does not ideally suit someone at that position without length. Being tall and wide and possessing long arms helps deflect NFL defensive ends and linebackers from the team’s most important asset: the quarterback.
Patriots’ options with Isaiah Wynn in 2022
Wynn would have been prime trade bait for the Patriots (and still may be) this offseason. For a team that needs an offensive tackle, he’d be a good addition when he’s on the field. The problem is that even for a better player, Shaq Mason, New England could only secure (or settle for?) a measly fifth-round pick. That was not a great return for a very good offensive lineman. In Wynn’s case, a fourth-rounder would be nice but they may not be able to even get a fifth-rounder for him. If they can get either, it’s probably best to clear the cap space and just take the compensation. He’s in the last year of his rookie deal and makes a healthy $10.4 million.
Another option other than continuing to misplay Wynn at left tackle is to move him elsewhere on the line. With Mason’s and Ted Karras’ departures, the Patriots need a guard. Wynn could be just that. This isn’t a farfetched idea, either.
As Phil Perry suggests, Wynn could also play right tackle. On the strong side, he’d have more help. That’s an option. Wynn can pass-block and will be a more effective right tackle where he won’t be on an island … but his size is still small there. Yet, at guard, he’s closer to prototypical size. Additionally, he’s a road grader in the running game. Moving Wynn to guard is probably the best option.
The accompanying move would be obvious — move Trent Brown to left tackle where he played in 2018, the year of Patriots’ last Super Bowl (and any playoff game) victory. Now, Michael Onwenu is a perfectly capable right tackle, but he can also play right guard, which is another need after trading Mason.
An accompanying move to shifting Wynn elsewhere would be to draft a young offensive tackle either in the first or second rounds. The choices here are Trevor Penning from Northern Iowa in the first or Daniel Faalele, the Hancock Tower-sized tackle from Wisconsin in the second. Either would likely be an immediate starter at the right tackle.
So, there you have Wynn’s situation and how it may impact both the offensive line during 2022 season and the team’s draft plans in late April. Whatever the Patriots decide on Wynn’s role — if he has one on the 2022 team — one thing is clear: this team needs to draft a top starting-caliber offensive tackle for the future with their first- or second-round pick. To not do so will be a mistake and will cost them dearly during Mac Jones’ favorable rookie contract.