FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots did something Thursday night that they’d done just twice before in the Bill Belichick era: draft two players in the first round of an NFL draft.
With the 23rd overall pick, the Patriots selected offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, who played both tackle and guard during his time at Georgia. Then, at No. 31, they nabbed running back Sony Michel, a former college teammate — and roommate — of Wynn.
Before Round 2 kicks off Friday night, let’s get to know these new Patriots.
— Is he a guard or a tackle? That remains to be seen.
Wynn started 20 games at left guard and 20 games at left tackle during his collegiate career, with 15 of those tackle starts coming in 2017. Neither he nor Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio gave any indication Thursday night of where he’ll line up for the Patriots.
“I really like any spot on the line,” Wynn said during his introductory conference call. “Whatever way I can contribute to the team, that’s the best spot for me. I’m pretty confident that the coaching staff is going to put me in the right position where I need to be at.”
At 6-foot-3, 313 pounds, Wynn is a few inches shorter than a typical NFL tackle. He was a highly effective pass protector for the Bulldogs, though, allowing just four sacks, two quarterback hits and 20 pressures in 1,104 pass-blocking snaps at guard and tackle, according to Pro Football Focus.
Wynn doesn’t believe his stature will inhibit his ability to play tackle at the next level.
“No, sir,” he said. “I believe my arm length (33 3/8 inches) and my feet and my technique makes up for it.”
— Wynn suffered a serious shoulder injury during his senior season, tearing his labrum in November. He played through it for the rest of the season, then underwent surgery to repair the tear in late January.
Asked how his rehab is going, Wynn said he’s “right on track for recovery” and expects to be ready in time for minicamp in June.
— Wynn sounded genuinely elated to be drafted by the Patriots, breaking into fits of laughter several times during his conference call.
“How do I put this?” he said. “I’m a happy person. I’m always smiling. That’s the first thing you’re always going to see on my face is a smile. I’m a very physical offensive lineman, (but) off the field, I’m a family guy and I just love everybody around me. I’m a very lovable guy.”
Asked about the 40-year-old quarterback he’ll now be tasked with protecting, Wynn responded: “That’s kind of every lineman’s dream, to have a quarterback like Tom Brady back there.”
— Despite sharing carries throughout his college career, first with current Los Angeles Rams star Todd Gurley and then with fellow 2018 draft prospect Nick Chubb, Michel was a workhorse at Georgia.
He carried the ball 590 times over four collegiate seasons, surpassing 1,000 yards as a sophomore in 2015 and again as a senior in 2017. Last season, he averaged an absurd 7.9 yards per carry, rushing 156 times for 1,227 yards and 16 touchdowns in 14 games.
Michel, who now joins a Patriots offense that loves to utilize multiple running backs, said he never viewed splitting time as a negative. In fact, he called teaming up with Chubb in Georgia’s two-headed rushing attack “a wonderful experience.”
“I’m excited to be a part of an organization that has great running backs, guys I can learn from, and I’m excited just to see what they have to offer,” Michel said in his post-draft conference call. “What can they teach me? How much can they teach me? I’m just so eager to know what can they teach me and I’m just excited to have other guys there that I know I can go in there and learn from. Words can’t describe.”
Michel, who admitted he was “shocked” when the Patriots drafted him, will battle Rex Burkhead, James White, Mike Gillislee, Jeremy Hill and Brandon Bolden for touches this summer.
— Michel lists White and Reggie Bush as two running backs he’s modeled his game after.
— Michel’s health was a question mark following a pre-draft report from former Patriots executive Michael Lombardi, who suggested the running back could have a bone-on-bone condition in his knee.
“I think I’m concerned,” Lombardi said on The Ringer’s “GM Street” podcast. “There’s a lot of teams telling me there’s a medical concern here, so he could slip a little bit.”
Michel did suffer multiple injuries during his time at Georgia — including a knee injury that ended his sophomore season — but insisted he feels 100 percent healthy.
“I’m healthy,” he said. “… I’m not sure what’s out there, but I’ve been playing with no problems. I don’t have any injuries. I’m not sure what you guys are hearing.”
— The biggest knock on Michel as a player is his ball security. He fumbled 12 times during his college career.
Putting the ball on the ground is a big no-no for Patriots players, and Michel acknowledged he must improve in that department.
“It’s all about being aware of how I carry the football, ball placement,” he said. “It’s a part of my game that I probably should focus on, work on and I’m sure there’s great coaches at the Patriots that are going to be right there emphasizing on ball security, emphasizing on not putting the ball on the ground, and that’s a very important aspect of this game.”
It is worth noting that Michel fumbled just twice as a senior and that Caserio didn’t seem concerned about his issues carrying over into the pros.
“A player can work on a skill, and you can improve a skill,” Caserio said. “(Former Patriots running back) Kevin Faulk is a good example.”
— For anyone who watched the College Football Playoff, Michel was impossible to miss. He was tremendous in Georgia’s epic 54-48 win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, finishing with 181 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries while also catching four passes for 41 yards and another score.
His 27-yard scamper in double overtime sent the Bulldogs to the national title game, which they lost to Alabama in similarly dramatic fashion. Michel was great in that game, as well, rushing 14 times for 98 yards.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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