Patriots Draft Pick Tracker: Analysis On Every Pats Selection, Trade

The Patriots entered the draft with nine total picks

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The 2022 NFL Draft officially is underway.

The New England Patriots entered Thursday night armed with a total of nine selections: one on Day 1, two on Day 2 and six on Day 3. Follow along with this tracker for NESN.com’s rapid-fire take on each pick, along with any draft-day trades New England executes.

Click each draftee’s name for a deeper look at his skill set and his fit in New England. This post will be updated throughout the draft.

TRADES:
— No. 21 to Kansas City for Nos. 29, 94 and 121

Analysis: A number of intriguing defensive prospects were available for the Patriots at No. 21 overall — including edge rusher Jermaine Johnson and cornerback Trent McDuffie, neither of whom was projected to fall that far — but New England opted to move back eight spots and add two additional draft picks: one in the third round and another in the fourth. This draft is believed to be especially strong on Day 2, and the Patriots now will have another swing in that range, plus an extra one early on Day 3.

The Chiefs used the 21st pick to take McDuffie, who was viewed as a great fit for the corner-needy Patriots. Other prospects who were on the board at that spot included linebackers Devin Lloyd, Nakobe Dean and Quay Walker, cornerbacks Kaiir Elam, Andrew Booth and Kyler Gordon, defensive back Dax Hill and defensive tackles Devonte Wyatt and Travis Jones.

Walker (Green Bay) and Elam (Buffalo) quickly were snatched at Nos. 22 and 23, respectively, with the Bills trading up to take the latter. Jacksonville later jumped ahead of the Patriots to grab Lloyd at No. 27.

— Nos. 54 and 158 to Kansas City for No. 50

Analysis: In the second Pats-Chiefs trade of this draft, the Patriots parted ways with a fifth-rounder to move up four spots in Round 2. Their pick: Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton. More on that selection below.

— No. 94 to Carolina for No. 137 and a 2023 third

Analysis: After taking cornerback Marcus Jones at No. 85, the Patriots dealt their second third-round pick to the Panthers, who moved up for quarterback Matt Corral. In return, the Patriots add another fourth (they now have three in that round) and recoup the 2023 third they gave up in the DeVante Parker trade.

Teams often overpay when trading up for QBs, but that’s a good deal for New England.

PICKS:

First round, No. 29 overall: OL Cole Strange, Chattanooga
A major surprise. We had Strange going to the Patriots in our final mock draft — but way down in the third round, No. 85 overall. At No. 29? That seems like an extreme reach.

Strange started 42 games at left guard at Chattanooga (plus one at left tackle and one at center), so he does fill one of the Patriots’ biggest needs, as they had no obvious internal replacement for Ted Karras. A standout at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, Strange is the first interior lineman New England has drafted in Round 1 since Logan Mankins in 2005.

Here’s what we wrote about Strange in our final mock:

After switching over from defensive end after high school, he proceeded to start 42 games at left guard at Chattanooga, plus one at left tackle and one at center. There are some quality-of-competition concerns with any FCS prospect, but Strange also acquitted himself well at the Senior Bowl and showed excellent athleticism and explosiveness at the combine, testing in the 86th percentile or better in the 40, three-cone, short shuttle, broad jump and bench press. His 120-inch broad ranked in the 99th percentile for O-linemen.

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler had Strange ranked 73rd on his Top-100 Big Board. He was 74th on Daniel Jeremiah’s Top 150.

This pick will be heavily scrutinized, as the Patriots passed on a number of notable defensive prospects — even after their trade-down, defensive back Dax Hill, cornerbacks Andrew Booth and Kyler Gordon and linebacker Nakobe Dean all were available — to draft a player most expected to be available much later.

Hill, Booth, Gordon and Dean all still are on the board after Round 1, so we’ll see if the Patriots target any of them on Friday.

Second round, No. 50 overall: WR Tyquan Thornton, Baylor
The Patriots moved up four spots in the second round to draft Thornton, a Big 12 burner who will add size (6-foot-2, 181 pounds) and speed (a blazing 4.28-second 40-yard dash) to their receiving corps.

A three-year starter at Baylor, Thornton caught 62 passes for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns last season and also threw a touchdown pass. His 40 was the fastest of any receiver at this year’s combine, and he also ranked in the 92nd percentile for wideouts in the broad jump (130 inches).

Thornton has more speed and less short-area quickness than the Patriots typically look for in their receivers:

But, like Strange before him, Thornton went far earlier than most draft experts projected. Brugler had him pegged as a fifth-rounder, and he was the 155th-ranked prospect on The Athletic’s consensus big board.

“He went about two rounds earlier than I would have projected,” Mel Kiper Jr. said on ESPN’s draft broadcast.

The Patriots chose Thornton over several more highly touted receivers, including Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore and Georgia’s George Pickens. Projected first-round linebacker Nakobe Dean also still was on the board.

Third round, No. 85 overall: CB Marcus Jones, Houston
There’s the cornerback pick we were waiting for. Jones is undersized at 5-foot-8, 174 pounds and is coming off offseason surgery on both of his shoulders but he was a highly productive cover man (five interceptions, 18 passes defended in 2021) and phenomenal kick and punt returner in college. He averaged 28.4 yards per kickoff return and 14.0 yards per punt return and scored nine total return touchdowns over two seasons at Troy and two more at Houston.

Lance Zierlein called Jones a “shop-wrecking special-teams talent” in his NFL.com draft profile. The Patriots lost their primary return man when Gunner Olszewski signed with Pittsburgh in free agency, and while free agent signee Jabrill Peppers is a candidate to fill those roles, Jones’ upside there is much higher.

Jones even played some wide receiver in his final collegiate season (10 catches, 109 yards, one touchdown), winning the Paul Hornung Award as “the most versatile player in college football.” We all know how much Belichick values versatility.

Expect Jones — the first Patriots pick in this draft to come off the board roughly when expected — to play in the slot and be a weapon in the kicking game, assuming he can get and stay healthy. (He said he expects to be in time for training camp.) Like Thornton, he took a top-30 visit to Gillette Stadium before the draft.

Fourth round, No. 121 (from Kansas City): CB Jack Jones, Arizona State
Another cornerback for New England — and another Jones. Here’s what we wrote about Jack Jones after he visited the Patriots earlier this month:

Jones took a different collegiate path. He spent his first two seasons at USC before being ruled academically ineligible for the 2018 campaign and subsequently being arrested and charged with second-degree misdemeanor burglary after breaking into a restaurant. He spent that year at a junior college in California and did not play football, then transferred to Arizona State.

Jones also was suspended for part of the 2020 season for violating team rules but returned to play in all but one game in 2021, starting seven of 11 and leading his team in interceptions (three), passes defended (nine) and forced fumbles (three). He ran a 4.13-second short shuttle and 6.90-second three-cone at his pro day.

“As a player, he’s a ball-hawking cornerback with playmaking instincts,” Zierlein wrote in the 5-11, 171-pound Jones’ NFL.com draft profile. “Despite solid ball production, though, Jones also gave up a lot of touchdowns at the college level. His lack of size/strength should make technique a top priority, as his talent for finding the football won’t matter as much if he can’t get on the field.”

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler added: “Overall, his lack of size and discipline (on and off the field) create doubt about his next level future, but his short-area agility, ball instincts and compete skills are NFL-worthy traits.”

Brugler projected Jones as a seventh-round prospect, and he was ranked 235th on The Athletic’s consensus big board, making him the third 2022 Patriots draftee to be selected far earlier than anticipated. But there was recent buzz about him as a potential mid-rounder, and that’s where the Patriots nabbed him.

An older prospect, Jones will turn 25 in December. Both he and Marcus Jones are undersized for their position, though Jack — who primarily played as an outside corner in college — is three inches taller. He’ll provide much-needed depth at a key position after the Patriots lost Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson in free agency.

Fourth round, No. 127 overall: RB Pierre Strong, South Dakota State
With future questions at running back, the Patriots used their second fourth-round pick on a highly productive FCS rusher.

Strong racked up 1,686 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He also caught 62 passes for 681 yards and three TDs in his college career, so he has some receiving ability, too. And he even went 9-for-9 for 208 yards and six scores as a trick-play passer.

Athletically, Strong posted excellent marks in the 40 (4.37 seconds, the fastest of any back at this year’s combine), three-cone (6.95 seconds) and broad jump (124 inches) at 5-foot-11, 207 pounds. From an intangibles perspective, he was a two-year captain at SDSU, showing the type of leadership traits New England often covets.

With Damien Harris entering a contract year and James White coming off hip surgery, the Patriots were wise to invest in a young running back. They’ve now drafted one in four of the last five years.

Fourth round, No. 137 (from Carolina): QB Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
With their third fourth-rounder, the Patriots drafted … a quarterback!

Zappe won’t challenge Mac Jones for the starting job but he’ll give the Patriots a developmental quarterback who could become the Matt Cassel to Jones’ Tom Brady. He completed 69.2% of his passes and threw 62 touchdowns with 11 interceptions last season, and scouting reports rave about his intelligence.

With 36-year-old Brian Hoyer re-signing for an additional two seasons, Zappe projects as the Patriots’ third QB in 2022, which likely will push Jarrett Stidham off the roster.

But while the Patriots drafting a signal-caller wasn’t surprising — they did so several times during the early years of the Brady era — critics will question whether this was the best use of a fourth-round pick. Should they have grabbed a potential contributor at another position and waited until the sixth to take their QB?

Sixth round, No. 183 overall (from Houston): RB Kevin Harris, South Carolina
Well, this was unexpected. The Patriots drafted not one, but two running backs. Harris is a stout, physical, powerful runner who could form a thunder-and-lightning combo with Strong down the line if he can recapture his 2020 form.

Harris averaged 113.0 rushing yards per game and scored 15 touchdowns two seasons ago before undergoing offseason back surgery and seeing his production slip in 2021 (660 yards, four touchdowns in 12 games).

These picks add plenty of intrigue to New England’s running back room, which already featured a dynamite early-down duo in Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson and a seasoned pass-catcher in James White, plus roster hopefuls J.J. Taylor and Devine Ozigbo. With Harris entering a contract year, he could become a trade candidate if Strong and Harris both impress this summer.

Sixth round, No. 200 overall: DL Sam Roberts, Northwest Missouri State
Two years after drafting Kyle Dugger, the Patriots dipped back into the Division-II ranks to take Roberts, who won the Cliff Harris Award last season as the best non-D-I defensive player. He racked up 47 tackles for loss and 18 1/2 sacks over his four collegiate seasons (including 18 1/2 and 6 1/2 in 2021) and also blocked five kicks.

Sixth round, No. 210 overall (from Los Angeles Rams): OL Chasen Hines, LSU
Hines has experience at all three interior O-line positions and started 17 games in the SEC, though injuries derailed each of his last two seasons. He’ll be in the mix for a backup role behind projected starters Strange, David Andrews and Mike Onwenu.

Seventh round, No. 245 overall (from Houston): Andrew Stueber, OT, Michigan
With their final 2022 selection, the Patriots added a developmental tackle in Stueber, who started 20 games at right tackle and two at right guard for the Wolverines. He’s a big dude at 6-foot-7, 325 pounds and is known for his physicality and intelligence, with Brugler relaying that coaches considered the Darien, Conn., native “one of the smartest football guys” in the Michigan football program.

Stueber missed the 2019 season due to a torn ACL but started every game in 2020 and 2021. He has tackle/guard versatility and even saw some action at center at the Senior Bowl, per Brugler’s draft guide. The Patriots lack proven depth behind injury-prone starting tackles Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown, so Steuber will have a clear opportunity to compete for a roster spot.

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