New England Patriots: Thornton's status highlights major draft issue

Tyquan Thornton was a major reach in the 2022 draft
#6 Kyler Gordon of the Bears intercepts a pass from Bailey Zappe intended for #11 Tyquan Thornton
#6 Kyler Gordon of the Bears intercepts a pass from Bailey Zappe intended for #11 Tyquan Thornton / Bob Breidenbach / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New England Patriots are well into their first days of summer camp and will square off against the Houston Texans in their first pre-season game next Thursday. Positives are evident, such as the play of the defense, but the offense has been wishy-washy thus far.

Some positives include Mac Jones' performance and the play of tight end Hunter Henry. Emerging Pro-Bowler, Rhamondre Stevenson provides top upside, yet the questionable offensive line is a clear issue since that unit dictates the entire outcomes of games. It's a deficiency of enormous significance.

To date, one offensive player whose camp has drawn lots of attention and veiled criticism is 2022 second-round pick Tyquan Thornton. Bill Belichick eloquently waxes about the vaunted "second-year leap" players must make. Players who will excel usually take that year to burst onto the scene.

Big things were expected from Thornton this season, and while it's still early, the signs appear ominous. Will the player emerge this season (or next) into a second-round talent, or will he be just another of the New England Patriots draft reaches that go south? Let's take a look.

The New England Patriots often reach for players in the NFL draft

The New England Patriots are no strangers to reaching in the NFL draft for players they think are better than, oftentimes, many other NFL observers do. This is called arrogance, hubris, or any other adjectives that describe the proverbial "we know better than anyone else" syndrome that afflicts the Patriots personnel operation, a.k.a, Bill Belichick and company.

Belichick's rise to fame and fortune hinged on the very fortunate (i.e., lucky) selection of one Tom Brady with the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft. This was, to a large extent, due to the late, great quarterbacks' coach, Dick Rehbein. Nevertheless, Belichick drafted Brady, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Having Brady on hand covered up a plethora of player personnel gaffes by Belichick for two decades. One of them was and is his propensity to draft players far above their expected draft positions.

Here is where the situation of Tyquan Thornton enters the equation. Thornton was drafted with the 50th pick in the second round last season. Most projected him to be drafted much lower, in the third or fourth round.

Like the player the Patriots selected in the first round, Cole Strange, Thornton was considered a huge "reach," a term connoting drafting a player higher than most of the NFL draft cognoscenti feel he should be/would be drafted. That element has never seemed to bother Belichick. It's his way or the highway, so to speak.

Belichick's way on a number of high draft picks has been a hindrance to the New England Patriots even while he had the ultimate safety valve, Tom Brady, on hand.

The Patriots should now be the holders of at least 10-12 Lombardi Trophies rather than the six currently showcased in Foxborough. The reason for the differential was/is Belichick's poor personnel decision-making, especially, but not exclusively, in the draft.

New England Patriots Tyquan Thornton could be a major draft flop

Thornton entered the scene last season as a rail-thin, tall receiver with blistering speed. Yet, as noted, he wasn't expected to be taken as high as the first round. Here's what had to say at the time about Thorton's pick,

"Did the Patriots need to trade up to take Thornton -- or could they have drafted him much later? After speaking with other NFL talent evaluators, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer believes it's the latter.

"One area scout assigned to Baylor told me he had a fifth-round grade on Thornton," Breer wrote Monday morning. "Few had more than a fourth-round grade on him. He went in the second round."

Interestingly, the Patriots selected a projected fourth or fifth-round pick in the second round. The thought here is that the popular wisdom, or "consensus," is a much safer and well-traveled way to go in drafting. Deviate from the norm of NFL draft art, and you do so at your peril.

Belichick survived this deleterious trait while Brady was on hand. After he jettisoned, the all-time best, his track record has been less than stellar, as has his record, under .500 since TB12 left.

From a second-round pick, Thornton's status on even making the team is now being questioned. That's not a great sign. Yet, it's not unexpected. Thornton will be what he will be.

While there is the occasional shocker in later rounds, top draft picks are expected to perform. Yet, when they are drafted much higher than expected, their performance may not be. We'll see but don't expect miracles.