Grading the New England Patriots’ overall 2022 NFL Draft haul
Lots of excellent in-depth draft analysis has been and will continue to be done by technical experts but this will be an overview of the Patriots’ draft and its ultimate value. This space had advocated strongly for Trevor Penning or Jameson Williams as the team’s top pick. Williams went far too early for them. Penning, however, only went two picks above their pick at No. 21. They absolutely should have traded up to snag this immediate and likely 10-year starter.
Penning would have immediately transformed their offensive line into the team’s most important unit. He’s big, strong, tough, and mean. Those are characteristics the team is lacking on both lines. They whiffed on it.
After that poor decision, the Patriots actually went in the right direction and traded down to pick up a later first and two additional picks. That’s sound business. In fact, had they traded down once again out of the first, that would have been applauded, too. But they didn’t and things went downhill from there.
Where the Patriots went wrong in the 2022 NFL Draft
A term in boxing to describe a solid attribute of a fighter is reach. Having long arms to hit your opponent before he hits you is a real attribute. Reach in boxing is good. Reaching in the NFL draft for players is not so good. For their first two picks, the Patriots reached way too far for players who would very likely have been available much later.
That’s a major flaw they have been prone to in the past 22 years, and they went back to the future in 2022. In so doing, they proved that the great 2021 draft may be an aberration, as Patriots owner Robert Kraft and fans had hoped it wouldn’t be.
All the excuses that the team makes about the player maybe not being available later is smoke screening for the obvious. The Patriots’ first two picks were huge reaches. When the consensus of draft-savvy experts is that these players — Cole Strange, the guard/center from Chattanooga in the first round and speedy wide receiver Tyquan Thornton from Baylor — could have been had significantly later in the draft, it’s an issue and it costs the team’s overall effort and grade substantially.
These players may turn out fine, but the opportunity cost is still great. There were much better players available at those lofty picks, and the players they did take could quite likely have been drafted by the Patriots later on. That’s a big issue and it’s not going away. As they have on numerous occasions in the past, they overvalued these players and it cost them and their draft capital big time.
Another major issue is what the team didn’t do. They didn’t address offensive tackle until the seventh round. That was also a huge miscue. The tackle they finally took then, Michigan’s Andrew Stueber, may be a solid player (as may be their sixth-round pick, guard Chasen Hines of LSU). Yet they needed a top-quality offensive tackle earlier and they punted (sorry, bad pun).