The 2 top choices for the Patriots’ 2022 first-round pick

Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Christopher Smith (29) chases after Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jameson Williams (1) on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, during the College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Christopher Smith (29) chases after Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jameson Williams (1) on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, during the College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. /

The clock is ticking and it’s time to focus on the two top possible first-round picks for the New England Patriots in the 2022 NFL Draft. The first round commences on Thursday, April 28 and the team has to be focused to start a trend of good drafts after what they posted last season.

Prior to 2021, the team had drafted miserably for four years, as so succinctly pointed out in a very public drubbing of the football operations department by owner Robert Kraft. Mr. Kraft didn’t pull any punches when he pointed out that last year’s draft really didn’t compensate for the miserable ones the prior four years. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the facts bore out Mr. Kraft’s observation to a T.

Now it’s time to draft for 2022, and it’s time to zero in on the top two choices as seen in this space for best utilizing the team’s all-important first-round pick and what should transpire if those two players are off the board.

The Patriots’ top two options in the first round of the 2022 draft are …

Readers familiar with this space have observed that the draft emphasis has been counter to the prevailing opinion that defense should be the priority. While the defense fell apart late in the season and was decimated by the Buffalo Bills on two occasions, the choice here is to go offense.

The reason is to make that unit a really good operation first and then turn to the defensive side. The offense is much closer to being a top-flight operation than the D is, and that’s why the top choice should be either a wide receiver Jameson Williams of Alabama or an offensive tackle.

Now every choice comes with a caveat unless a team is either loaded with draft capital or simply will do whatever it takes to move up to ensure it gets the pick it wants. It is no certainty that either of these suggestions will be available at pick No. 21. But if either Willams or the tackle suggested later is and the other isn’t, the pick is easy. If both are available, it’s a bit dicier.

Patriots should just select the best wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft

Jameson Williams is simply the best receiver in the 2022 draft. If so, how may he be available at pick No. 21?

The answer is he suffered a late-season ACL tear and the recovery period will likely extend into the 2022 season.

Not having your top pick is an issue, but not an insurmountable one for the Patriots. Their recent solid trade for DeVante Parker makes the choice palatable. That 2A receiver provides the latitude to be able to wait a while for Williams to emerge either this season or even next. They now have better depth than they did at the end of 2021.

Parker is not a No. 1 receiver, but he, along with Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne, provides a solid trio that is far better than the 2021 crew. Adding a slot receiver like Slade Bolden of Alabama later on in the draft or in undrafted free agency would also help.

The other top Patriots 2022 NFL Draft choice is an offensive tackle

If Wiliams is off the board, the other top option for the Patriots is offensive tackle Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa. Penning has everything the Patriots need now and later on. He can play left tackle now, but if the team chooses to play Trent Brown there (and he should in place of Isaiah Wynn), he can easily slide into the right tackle position. He’d be a destructive force at either position.

Penning is a massive man listed at 6-7 tall and weighing in at about 330 pounds. He’s a menace to any and all defensive players who have the unfortunate happenstance to have to try to rush against him. Almost all of the time, you’ll lose the joust, and on many of those plays, you’ll be pancaked and on the mat.

The Patriots have lacked that type of presence for years if not decades. The last may well have been Hall of Fame guard John Hannah. That’s how long it may have been. Penning rectifies that lack of a truly menacing presence that every offensive line needs. If Wiliams is off the board and Penning isn’t, he’s a no-brainer pick.

In the unfortunate circumstance that both Williams and Penning are off the board, the choice is also an easy one: the Patriots should trade down in the first round for more picks. Then, a further move down for even more premium picks should also be contemplated. The team has so many needs both on offense and defense that should the top guys be off the board, that’s the smart play.

The team should still draft the positions of wide receiver and offensive tackle first whenever they ultimately pick and take the best at those positions on the board. They need both a No. 1 wide receiver and an offensive tackle. Those should be the top priorities.

What do you think are the team’s top draft priorities? We’d like to hear in the comments.