The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books.
The New England Patriots selected a total of 11 players, from Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange with the 29th overall pick in the first round to Michigan offensive tackle Andrew Stueber with pick No. 245 in the seventh.
Between those two selections, New England traded up for a wide receiver with elite speed, used back-to-back picks on cornerbacks, added a pair of bodies to their backfield, brought in a developmental backup quarterback, reached into the Division-II ranks to find a D-lineman and boosted their interior O-line depth.
The Patriots did not, however, draft a single linebacker, despite their perceived need at the position. Director of player personnel Matt Groh said after Day 2 that the Patriots are “really excited” about their current linebacking corps and particularly high on redshirted 2021 draft pick Cameron McGrone, whom Groh is viewing as a de facto member of this year’s rookie class.
Here’s a rundown of all 10 of the Patriots’ actual 2022 draftees:
First round, No. 29 overall: OL Cole Strange, Chattanooga
Perhaps the most surprising selection of the opening round, Strange was widely viewed as a reach for New England, but he fits the Patriots prototype and should be an immediate starter at left guard. The FCS product started 44 games in college (42 at left guard), handled top-tier competition at the Senior Bowl and proved at the NFL Scouting Combine that he’s one of the most-athletic O-linemen in this year’s draft class. The Patriots passed on several highly touted defenders to select Stange, however (Trent McDuffie, Devin Lloyd, Quay Walker, Dax Hill, etc.), making this a questionable use of Round 1 resources.
Second round, No. 50 overall: WR Tyquan Thornton, Baylor
Thornton doesn’t have the physical or athletic profile that New England typically looks for in its wideouts, but the Patriots are hoping he’ll add some much-needed speed to their receiving corps. And Thornton is incredibly fast. His 4.28-second 40-yard dash was the best of any wideout at this year’s combine and the fastest by any receiver drafted by the Bill Belichick-era Patriots. But will his slim frame hold up against better, more physical NFL cornerbacks?
Third round, No. 85 overall: CB Marcus Jones, Houston
Jones will be a fun player to watch this summer. He was both a ball-hawking cornerback and college football’s best punt returner, returning nine kicks/punts for touchdowns across stints at Troy and Houston. Jones even played some receiver last season and acquitted himself well, leading some evaluators to believe he could contribute in all three phases. Given his size — at 5-foot-8, 174 pounds, he’ll be the Patriots’ smallest defensive player — Jones projects as a slot defender and return-game weapon. He’s recovering from double shoulder surgery but said he’ll be healthy in time for training camp.
Fourth round, No. 121 (from Kansas City): CB Jack Jones, Arizona State
One of several Patriots draftees selected much higher than their pre-draft projections, Jones is a former five-star recruit who has suspensions for academic issues and team-rules violations and an arrest for burglary on his record. But his coverage talent and ball skills are obvious, and he broke up nine or more passes in three of his four full collegiate seasons. Jones projects as an outside cornerback who can either learn behind or compete Jalen Mills, Malcolm Butler and Terrance Mitchell, filling a clear need following Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson’s offseason departure.
Fourth round, No. 127 overall: RB Pierre Strong, South Dakota State
Like Thornton, Strong was arguably the fastest player in the draft at his position, running a blazing 4.37-second 40 at 5-foot-11, 207 pounds. Though he piled up 1,686 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns last season and averaged 7.2 yards per carry for his career, the Patriots could view Strong as the successor to veteran third-down back James White, who’s on a one-year deal and is coming off hip surgery. Strong also threw six touchdown passes in college, so he has trick-play potential, too.
Fourth round, No. 137 (from Carolina): QB Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
Is Round 4 too high for a backup quarterback when your promising starter is entering just his second season? You could easily make that argument, especially since the Patriots passed on some intriguing offensive tackles, defensive linemen, linebackers and slot receivers to take Zappe. But the Patriots often drafted mid-round QBs throughout Tom Brady’s tenure, so this selection was no surprise. Zappe was wildly productive as a senior (69.2% completion rate, 5,967 yards, 62 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) and is regarded as an extremely smart player.
Sixth round, No. 183 overall (from Houston): RB Kevin Harris, South Carolina
The thunder to Strong’s lightning, Harris is a 5-10, 221-pound bull who was unable to replicate his excellent 2020 season (113.0 rushing yards per game, 15 touchdowns) after undergoing offseason back surgery and missing spring and summer camp. If he can recapture his 2020 form in New England, this pick could look like a steal. Either way, the arrival of Strong and Harris sets the stage for what should be a fascinating roster battle at running back.
Sixth round, No. 200 overall: DL Sam Roberts, Northwest Missouri State
Two years after drafting Kyle Dugger out of Lenoir-Rhyne, the Patriots dipped back into the D-II pool to take Roberts, who won the Cliff Harris Award last season as the nation’s 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 blocked five kicks. He’s also a huge Patriots fan.
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
Hailing from one of the Patriots’ favorite programs, Stueber started 20 games at right tackle and two at right guard for the Wolverines. He’s a large man at 6-foot-7, 325 pounds and is known for his physicality and intelligence, with The Athletic’s Dane Brugler relaying that coaches considered the Darien, Conn., native “one of the smartest football guys” in the Michigan football program. He has positional versatility and a clear opening to compete for a roster spot with little proven depth behind injury-prone starting tackles Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown.