This time of year in the NFL is like late February in MLB. Every team has had a “fantastic offseason!,” “has made great additions!” and is “poised for a huge year!” This type of universal optimism is why NFL Draft grades are typically a worthless exercise, but – hey – every fanbase wants a reason to be excited.
When it comes to the Patriots, this optimism is multiplied by 20 as New England’s track record, combined with analysts’ fear of getting burned by Bill Belichick, plays into annual high grades.
USA Today gave the Pats an “A-minus” for their 2018 draft. CBS gave them a “B.” NFL.com went with a straight-up “A,” and SI.com went with an “A+.”
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Keep in mind that, typically, a “good class” for a team is when a team picks two or three players that have five-year NFL careers. Going back five years, the Pats picked linebacker Jamie Collins No. 52 overall (a good pick). They picked wide receiver Aaron Dobson No. 59 overall (a bad pick). And they did great damage in the third round that year by picking cornerback Logan Ryan at No. 83 and safety Duron Harmon at No. 91.
But the Pats’ rest of the 2013 draft looked like this: WR Josh Boyce (fourth round), DE Michael Buchanan (seventh round), LB Steve Beauharnais (seventh round).
The class of 2018
While upgrading the overall talent level on defense has been at the top of most every Patriots fan’s wish list this offseason, the Pats actually doubled down on offense early in this draft.
Offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn (picked No. 23 overall) is described by most everyone who watched him last season at Georgia as “a beast” with “Pro Bowl talent” and Georgia running back Sony Michel (No. 31 overall) has the ability to take over from Dion Lewis (now in Tennessee) as the Pats’ top option in the backfield.
Here is what NFL.com’s overview of Michel was prior to the draft: “Michel is a well-built, no-nonsense runner who is able to combine vision, burst, and physicality. While he can make open field cuts to find additional yardage, his running style is more angular in nature and he thrives when playing north-south. He’s not the most creative runner and he lacks some finesse, but his size, pass protection and ability to create yardage make him a nature fit as a future NFL starter.”
Florida cornerback Duke Dawson (No. 56 overall) is expected to slide in as the Pats’ top coverage man in the slot. Adding to the Pats’ theme of trying to solve some of their issues in the middle of the field on defense – they also selected Purdue linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (No. 143 overall) and Arizona State linebacker Christian Sam (No. 178 overall).
Miami WR Braxton Berrios (Pick No. 210)
Julian Edelman was once “Wes Welker Jr.” Berrios could very well be “Edelman Jr.” by the time the 2018 season is over. Berrios led a very strong Miami Hurricanes team in receiving last year with 55 catches for 679 yards and nine TDs. He also returned 13 punts for 207 yards.
LSU QB Danny Etling (Pick No. 219)
The knock on Etling is that he panics in the pocket when there’s pressure on the edge. That is very un-Brady-like. That said, he has a low interception rate.
Western Carolina DB Keion Crossen (Pick No. 243)
Not invited to NFL Combine
Florida State TE Ryan Izzo (Pick No. 250)
A good blocker