Not every draft pick is Christian Gonzalez. He looked like he’d be a starting cornerback in the NFL for a large part of his college career. And he looked like Defensive Rookie of the Year for three games.
Then, the turf monster at AT&T intervened.
And not all draft picks turn out like Kayshon Boutte. He never looked comfortable in the NFL and certainly couldn’t galvanize a lackluster offense.
Then there are draft picks that involve taking a kicker in the 4th round. And that’s always odd, to say the least. Harrison Butker wasn’t drafted until the 7th round, and even Jake Elliott was a 5th-round pick. They both kicked over 93% of the field goals they attempted this season, while Ryland made just 64% of his.
Considering nobody needed to draft a kicker this season, with the likes of Mason Crosby, Matthew Wright, and Robbie Gould available in free agency, now might be a good time to see who the Patriots could have taken at 112. There were plenty of gaps that needed plugging, after all.
Rushing the passer wasn’t technically an area of weakness for the Patriots in 2022 because Matt Judon combined for 27 sacks. But they both suffered injuries this season. Judon, obviously, in that brutal game in Dallas, and Uche was injured for a month in the middle of the season.
Ja’Whaun Bentley seemed to be playing injured for most of the second half of the season too. Those three were responsible for 30 of the Patriots' 54 sacks in 2022.
Now while it’s impossible to predict injuries 5 months out from the season a reliance of 3 linebackers is a bit of a gamble. And the Patriots didn’t draft a specialist EDGE rusher. They did draft Marte Mapu, but he’s more of an off-ball linebacker or even a defensive back.
Players the Patriots could have drafted instead of Chad Ryland #1: Tavius Robinson
They could have taken Tavius Robinson. Robinson went to Baltimore just 12 picks after Ryland was drafted. Robinson is very Judon-esque. He’s even bigger than Judon; Robinson is 6 feet 6 inches tall (Judon is 6 feet 4) but 12 lbs. lighter than Judon.
Robinson is playing at defensive end for the Ravens, just as Judon did in his rookie season. And Robinson’s first career sack was made on Joe Burrow. Judon sacked Burrow on Christmas Eve 2022.