New England Patriots 2018 Recap
Another year, another championship for the greatest dynasty in American sports history. Hate ‘em or hate ‘em, you have to respect what this team is able to accomplish year in and year out in the salary cap era of the NFL. The year was unlike any other run for the Patriots. However, it began with something that has been a bit too familiar in recent seasons and that was a bumpy September. After knocking off the Texans in Week 1, the Pats were blown out in Jacksonville and then lost an embarrassing match up to the Lions on Sunday Night Football. A lack of WR depth forced them to trade for much maligned wide out Josh Gordon. After the return of Julian Edelman from a 4-week suspension, the Patriots got back on track.
They looked sharp until a rough afternoon in Tennessee caused them to limp into the bye week. The Patriots hit rock bottom when they allowed a fail Mary to succeed in Miami, losing to the Dolphins in improbable fashion. They were the 3rd seed in the conference and would lose the next week to Pittsburgh. After a stumble by Houston, they regained the number 2 seed and would reinvent themselves around a strong defense and dominant run game. That formula would carry them to their 6th Super Bowl title in the Brady-Belichick era.
The 2018 NFL Draft was mostly a wash for New England. Ja’Whaun Bentley looked very promising early on but suffered a torn biceps and was lost for the season. Isaiah Wynn, the teams top pick, suffered a blown Achilles in the preseason. Duke Dawson lurked in the background mostly in a redshirt year. The best pick for the Patriots came from 1st round running back Sony Michel. Michel turned into a workhorse in an offense known for taking a committee approach. He is one of the biggest reasons the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.
New England Patriots 2019 NFL Draft Needs:
Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio are the ones who call the shots in New England come draft time. They will have more than enough draft capital to maneuver around the board, holding 12 picks total and 6 in the top 101. The needs are as follows:
- TE: The retirement of Rob Gronkowski created a Gronk-sized hole in the Patriots offense. They will be the first to tell you that there is no replacing Rob Gronkowski with one player. I expect the Patriots to take at least 1 and maybe even 2 tight ends in the Draft.
- WR: The Patriots’ depth chart at WR is, for lack of a better term, unheralded. After Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman (who turns 33 in May), the Pats are relying on Phillip Dorsett, journeyman Bruce Ellington and little-known Maurice Harris. They will almost certainly be adding multiple wide receivers in this draft.
- DL: New England allowed Trey Flowers and Malcolm Brown to seek greener pastures elsewhere. There is no hint of Danny Shelton returning. They re-signed John Simon who came on and played very well last year and traded for Michael Bennett to replace some of what Flowers can do. They could use some solid depth along the defensive line whether it be at defensive tackle or end.
New England Patriots NFL Draft Targets:
1st Round, 32nd Overall Pick: Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State
I can’t believe I am actually trying to predict the Patriots’ upcoming draft selections because I might as well just go kick rocks. They are easily the most difficult team to get a read on heading into the draft. Couple that with the fact that they are guaranteed to move at least one of their 12 picks and this is a daunting task. Here is my best guess and, like last year when they surprised with an RB in round 1, I’m taking a WR at 32. Kelvin Harmon is a great X WR prospect that could be lethal with an accurate passer. That Brady guy fits the bill and would add another dimension to the New England offense.
Also Possibilities: Jerry Tillery, AJ Brown, Irv Smith Jr. and Dexter Lawrence
2nd Round, 56th Overall Pick: Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M
Here is the first guy who will try to fill the shoes of the departed Rob Gronkowski. Sternberger is a very good receiving tight end that should be able to come in and make an immediate impact in the passing game. His blocking leaves a little to be desired but that will be addressed a little later. For now, the Pats get a great receiving tight end to replace some of the production that Gronk left behind.
Also Possibilities: Dexter Lawrence, Deebo Samuel, Parris Campbell, and Taylor Rapp
2nd Round 64th Overall Pick: Zach Allen, EDGE, Boston College
Zach Allen is right in New England’s backyard at Boston College. He could easily plug along the defensive line and turn into a good young player. The Patriots need pass rush help and Allen accumulated 16.5 sacks along with 40.5 tacklers for loss in his 4 years at Boston College.
Also Possibilities: Jonathan Abram, Tytus Howard, Andy Isabella
3rd Round 73rd Overall Pick: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford
If you haven’t noticed by now, I am not confident in the receiving options in New England. Gronk was a red zone nightmare and scored touchdowns at an alarming rate. Enter Arcega-Whiteside who is pretty much a jump ball specialist. A guy like this would flourish with Tom Brady throwing him red zone jump balls.
3rd Round 97th Overall Pick: Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State
This is part of the two-player plan to replace Gronk. Warring is a capable receiver but he is a stout blocker and that is where the Patriots will miss Gronk the most. With Warring as a duel threat and Sternberger on the field for obvious passing downs, the Patriots can mix and match to put both player in a position to succeed on the field.
3rd Round 101st Overall Pick: Trysten Hill, IDL, UCF
With the departure of Malcolm Brown and the likely departure of Danny Shelton, the Patriots lack depth along the defensive line. Hill adds some much needed big-bodied depth along a defensive line that is in constant rotation.
4th Round 134th Overall Pick: Ross Pierschbacher, IOL, Alabama
The Patriots understand that depth in the trenches is critical. They are good for at least one or two picks along the offensive and defensive line in every draft. They also have Joe Thuney coming up on free agency and Pierschbacher can be the ready replacement once that time comes.
6th Round 205th Overall Pick: Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson
Let’s see here, successful slot receiver who is willing to do the dirty work. Team captain and well liked by teammates. High football IQ who is willing to learn and knows what it takes to win. Yep hunter Renfrow is destined to be a New England Patriot.
7th Round 239th Overall Pick: Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State
Another late round flyer for the Patriots, there is actually a lot to like when it comes to Rypien. He has a big arm and is a stable pocket passer. Brady won’t be around forever and, while he may not end up being the heir apparent, at least Rypien provides an insurance policy.
7th Round 243rd Overall Pick: Tre Lamar, LB, Clemson
The Patriots love targeting team first guys with special teams experience in the later rounds and that is exactly what Lamar brings to the table.
7th Round 246th Overall Pick: Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor
One last throw at the dartboard at receiver, Hurd is an intriguing prospect. Starting as an RB at Tennessee, he transferred to Baylor to become a WR. He was actually very productive and has very good size and speed.
7th Round 252nd Overall Pick: Casey Tucker, OT, Arizona State
Again, depth is key in the later rounds. Tucker would be used primarily as a depth option and a swing tackle in big packages.
2019 NFL Draft Grade
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