It may be a slower part of the NFL offseason, but the Patriots are continuing to make moves as they have signed eight of their twelve draft picks selected last month, leaving four players awaiting to sign contracts.
Along with the players they drafted, they also signed three undrafted rookie free agents, making for quite the busy Friday as rookie mini camp began.
The drafted rookies that have been signed as of May 12th 2023:
Chad Ryland - The Patriots addressed special teams early when they chose kicker Chad Ryland out of Maryland in the fourth round. They wanted to add Ryland early and quickly, with Bill Belichick trading up to secure the top-ranked player before any other team could snatch him.
Although Nick Folk has been a solid performer since joining the team in 2019, his reliability took a hit last season, adding to the special teams' woes that continued throughout the year.
On top of that, he will turn 39 during the upcoming season, making it all the more critical for the Patriots to find his eventual replacement. He is currently signed through the 2023 season, and as one of the top-ranked kickers of the class this year, hopefully, Ryland can be exactly what the Patriots have been looking for after their failed selections of recent kickers.
Sidy Sow - Another fourth-round pick, guard Sidy Sow hails from Eastern Michigan. Because the offensive line has been one of the weakest parts of the Patriots team over the last few seasons, Sow's versatility on the line will surely be a tremendous help, even during his rookie season.
Aside from his experience at left guard and left tackle providing insurance for the offense, he's also shown to be a reliable player, as he was started for the Eagles in 55 of 57 games. His athleticism for his size is also noteworthy, adding another layer to his draft value as the Patriots hope to massively improve their offense overall.
Atonio Mafi - Although many felt Belichick took too long to finally address the very needy offensive line, he added even more quality players when drafting guard Atonio Mafi out of UCLA in the fifth round.
As one of the captains from the East-West Shrine Bowl earlier this year, the Patriots choosing him was unsurprising. They got to work with Mafi directly during the game week, which led to extending an invite for a pre-draft visit to Foxboro.
Much like others selected by New England during draft weekend, Mafi has experience at multiple positions. He started his college career as a successful defensive tackle, playing on that side of the team for his first two years before switching to the offensive line.
Kayshon Boutte - Referenced as one of the likeliest biggest steals of the draft, the Patriots took wide receiver Kayshon Boutte from LSU.
A formerly projected first-round receiver for the 2023 draft, Boutte has a big boom or bust moniker attached to him. After testing poorly at the combine earlier this year, his stock rapidly fell. Pair that with his performance through the 2022 season; most teams were left unimpressed, looking elsewhere for their pass-catching needs.
However, his athleticism and incredible production during the 2021 season were too much to look past for Belichick, and getting a potential WR1 talent in the sixth round could be the steal of the century.
He was the first of the draft class to be signed, landing a four-year, $4.027 million contract and has most fans more excited than any of the other draft picks.
Bryce Baringer - It was an expected move for Belichick to double-dip in the draft to address special teams with a kicker and punter, and they secured the best of the class when taking punter Bryce Baringer in the sixth round.
Historically, the typical Patriots' special teams unit has not been problematic on game days. And over the years, New England has been praised consistently for how reliable their roster has been in this area.
But much of that changed in the 2022 season, with the season-ending injury to Jake Bailey, and those brought in to replace him could not maintain quality performances.
Baringer can immediately fix one of the team's most significant issues, as he led all punters in the country, averaging 49 yards per punt. He doesn't have any actual competition on the roster as of now, making his drafting even more vital to special teams' success.
Demario Douglas - After seemingly appearing content with the offensive weapons for most of the draft, Belichick took another receiver in the sixth round, selecting Demario Douglas out of Liberty. He's among the players the Patriots' coaching staff worked with at the East-West Shrine Bowl, and it's clear they liked what they saw enough to take a chance on the undersized player.
Despite concerns about his transition to the NFL, Douglas gives the Patriots another dynamic player to use in multiple positions. Along with his experience as a receiver, he's also well-versed as a returner for special teams.
His speed and ability to create separation are what has stood out the most about his game, two skills that will instantly boost an improving Patriots offense.
Ameer Speed - A common theme through the last two drafts for the Patriots has been the emphasis on building a faster team, and they did just that when they took defensive back Ameer Speed out of Michigan State in the sixth round.
Brought in to likely play cornerback, Speed possesses many traits Belichick has typically looked for at that position. On top of his pun-inducing last name, Speed does bring the quickness the Patriots have lacked defensively for some time. He also will become one of the taller players in the secondary, standing at 6-foot-3 inches tall, but he also has experience playing on special teams.
Because the secondary doesn't appear to be the neediest unit after the draft, Speed could be a significant piece to the evolving special teams and contribute to their (hopefully) improved 2023 season.
Isaiah Bolden - The last (but not least) pick of the 2023 draft class for the Patriots was defensive back Isaiah Bolden from Jackson State.
On their quest to not lose games courtesy of special teams, Bolden's career success as a returner was a key component to being drafted to New England. He led the nation averaging 36.9 per attempt on kick returns, and led the entire FCS with two kickoff return touchdowns.
Bolden could become the guy for returns as soon as next season, as no other player has been named at the position since Gunner Olszewski and Brandon Bolden left after the 2021 season. Marcus Jones was the go-to guy last year, but he has expressed his desire to remain a true cornerback, potentially opening the door for Bolden to earn his way to the roster quickly.
The undrafted rookie free agents the Patriots have signed:
Malik Cunningham - The first undrafted free agent signed by the Patriots, quarterback Malik Cunningham brings a unique skill set that has not been common in New England over the years.
Often compared to Lamar Jackson because of their similar style and attending the same college, Cunningham is a dual-threat player who uses his speed and athleticism to torture defenses. Because the Patriots have struggled immensely against mobile quarterbacks, his sheer presence during practice will become invaluable, especially as they prepare for a long list of that style of QB play for the 2023 season.
But he may not have been signed because of his quarterback abilities alone.
Because scouts had deemed him "not NFL quarterback material," essentially, Cunningham revealed he is willing to switch positions if needed or asked to. That adds an exciting element to his spot on the team and creates endless possibilities for Belichick and Bill O'Brien to utilize him within the offense.
Jourdan Heilig - Hailing from Appalachian State, linebacker Jourdan Heilig primarily spent his college career playing for special teams.
As another player considered small for his given position, Heilig will likely continue his time in New England as a part of the kicking game. His size (6'2" and 215 pounds) and quickness can be critical to uplifting the weaker unit, especially when he lines up against smaller players who can't compete with his overall physicality.
With Matthew Slater likely playing his last season, Heilig has a golden opportunity to really make a name for himself for the 2023 season.
Johnny Lumpkin - It was assumed that the tight end position would be one of the main targets Belichick would go for high in the draft, especially as one of the top-ranked players of the class (Darnell Washington) continued to fall round to round unexpectedly.
But even with the trade of Jonnu Smith to the Falcons at the start of free agency, Belichick didn't address the position until they signed Johnny Lumpkin from Louisiana. The 6-foot-5, 264-pounder projects to fit exactly what is needed offensively alongside Hunter Henry, as he was a successful blocker during his seven-year college career.
Because we know that Mike Gesicki will be primarily used as a jumbo receiver in his first season with the Patriots, that opens the door for Lumpkin to impress during the summer and make the final roster cut. His blocking skills can be an immediate help offensively, especially with all the changes coming to the offensive line this season.
This leaves four of the Patriots rookies left unsigned, but that will likely change in the coming days: