The 2019 NFL Draft is in the books, and the Patriots had a pile of picks at their disposal to address the holes left after the Super Bowl LIII victory to conclude their 2018 campaign. What did they make of those selections? Let’s take a look.
Round 1, No. 32 overall: N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
I think Patriots Nation breathed a collective sigh of relief when they saw Bill Belichick draft a wide receiver in the first round for the first time in his tenure in Foxborough. While the Sun Devils may not be a college football powerhouse, Harry represents the exact kind of pass catcher that Tom Brady probably dreams of; good size, great hands, and a knack for bringing down balls in traffic. He won’t be a No. 1 man right away, but Harry has the skillset to add a major boost to a barren Patriots’ receiving corps, and give a future QB a trustworthy target.
Round 2, No. 45 overall: Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt
I know what you’re thinking – drafting another guy for the secondary? Really? And he’s not even from Rutgers! Believe it or not, I actually like this pick from the Patriots. Williams has fantastic size for his position, and in a league where tight ends are becoming just larger wide receivers, having a bigger body in the secondary will be a major plus. Also, Devin and Jason McCourty threatened retirement following Super Bowl LIII, so if the twins were to call it quits, Williams’ experience at both cornerback and safety could prove crucial to filling those gaps.
Round 3, No. 77 overall: Chase Winovich, LB, Michigan
People across the league have called this guy Clay Matthews 2.0, and it’s no secret why; his high-energy style of play from the edge directly mimics the play of the Packers linebacker, and of course, who could ignore that mane of luscious blonde flow! His personality is just about as wild as his hair, so he could potentially provide that locker room spark that will be missing in the wake of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. That said, his greatest impact will have to be on the field, aiding a relatively unproven pass rush that recently lost now-Detroit Lion Trey Flowers.
Round 3, No. 87 overall: Damien Harris, RB, Alabama
Now, if there was one single pick that left Patriots fans scratching their heads the most, it was this one – especially considering they traded up for it. Harris joins a running back group that already includes several proven contributors. The case to be made for Harris, though, is that he is a hard-nosed runner with good size, which the Patriots lacked last season. If Harris takes on the role we saw LeGarrette Blount hold by being the go-to guy in short yardage situations, I’d consider that a big addition to New England’s relatively undersized running back corps.
Round 3, No. 101 overall: Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia
The Patriots sure love drafting offensive linemen, but why not? They have one of the best line coaches in the league in Dante Scarnecchia, and keep making diamonds out of guys who were previously written off (see: Trent Brown, David Andrews, Joe Thuney). Cajuste can play both tackles, and while it’s hard to see him filling the big shoes of the aforementioned Brown on the left as a rookie, his abilities on the right side could be useful if Marcus Cannon has to slide across to the left and Isaiah Wynn isn’t quite ready to jump back in after missing all of 2018.
Round 4, No. 118: Hjalte Froholdt, C/G, Arkansas
If Chase Winovich looks like a Viking, Bill Belichick one-upped that pick by taking an actual Scandinavian here. Froholdt is another offensive lineman that offers versatility, enabling the Patriots to use him as somewhat of a plug-in around the interior of the line like Shaq Mason has been in recent years. There is an opening at guard with LaAdrian Waddle headed to Buffalo, so an impressive offseason could put Froholdt in the conversation for that job. If not, expiring contracts across the line could open the door for the Arkansas man in the near future.
Round 4, No. 133: Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
Here he is, folks! The heir apparent to Tom Brady! The second coming! He is here! Well, not exactly… My immediate reaction is that this pick feels more like a Danny Etling than a Jimmy Garoppolo; a hit-or-miss young QB rather than Belichick’s true playcaller for the future. That said, the timing for this selection is perfect. Tom Brady still has three years until he hits the magic number 45 when he plans to retire, so if Stidham can learn under Brady during that time, maybe he’ll become “the guy”. He just has to be on the sidelines, not the practice squad.
Round 5, No. 159 overall: Byron Cowart, DT, Maryland
Defensive line has long been a wildcard for the Patriots, with the trenches either looking like a turnstiles or a brick wall on any given night. While never the most intimidating, Malcolm Brown ate up time at defensive tackle for four years before moving to New Orleans this offseason. Cowart, who presents the physical makeup of a game-changing DT that New England has been missing since Vince Wilfork, looks to be a blank slate for New England. Teach him the schemes and strategies, and he could become a core piece of the defensive line someday.
Round 5, No. 163 overall: Jake Bailey, P, Stanford
It’s hard to put too much stock into late-round picks, but when one of those picks is a specialist, it does carry some weight. Bailey demonstrated strength and consistency at Stanford, and New England’s current punter Ryan Allen is only signed for one year. Should Allen move on after a solid career in Foxboro, the position could fall to the seemingly capable hands – or leg – of Bailey. The strange thing, though, is that Bailey is right-footed, while Belichick has long preferred lefties. The reasoning behind this change remains unclear, but something tells me it’ll work.
Round 7, No. 252 overall: Ken Webster, CB, Mississippi
No surprise here – the Patriots’ final pick went to a cornerback. Sound familiar? It’s the same thing they did with Keion Crossen in 2018. As a rookie, Crossen became an effective special teams man and even claimed some snaps in the secondary. For Webster, it’s hard to see him getting substantial time in an already stacked secondary group, at least during the 2019 season. While the bar may be low, however, Webster’s elite 40 time and vertical jump provide very surface-level glimpses into what he could be as a guy who could get to the punter or kicker.
It’s easy to get all excited about the draft, and then see none of the rookies play a major role in their first season. But hey, it’s the offseason – what else are we going to talk about, right? Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how these picks pan out when the 2019 season commences in September.