It might seem crazy or pessimistic but based on the way the Patriots have played so far this season it is fair to begin to wonder whether the Patriots appropriately used their two first round picks in this past NFL Draft. They had many needs heading into the 2018 season and based on their miserable performance so far it is clear that they failed to address these roster holes.
Now, before I keep going, this is not to suggest that Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel are busts, because it is completely impossible to make that distinction right now. Wynn did happen to get injured, but that should not detract from his value because it is unknown whether he would have helped or hurt the team if he had played. Michel also deserves some slack. He had to undergo a significant knee procedure at the beginning of camp and had his first NFL game experience against the Jaguars. He is still catching up to speed. However, he received the lion’s share (hah, get it? See what I did there? Lion’s share? Laugh it’s funny) of the snaps at running back in Detroit, and had little to show for it. Many times in the past, running backs drafted in the first round have made it clear immediately that they possess skill sets that earned them a first round grade. Players such as Ezekial Elliot and Leonard Fournette looked the part in their rookie seasons, displaying absurd levels of explosiveness, strength, and elusiveness. Michel displayed none of those characteristics on Sunday against the Lions, instead of looking like a pedestrian running back who needed huge running lanes to make any sort of play. He was seemingly unable to make plays on his own. In addition, he was inept in the passing game, which is a staple of the New England offseason.
Anyone writing Michel off is ignorant because it is still very early in the season and extremely early in his career. However, it is fair to wonder why he hasn’t played up to his reported potential so far.
Despite neither Wynn or Michel classifying as “busts”, it is fair to wonder whether or not the Patriots made the wrong decisions drafting those players. Heading into 2018, the Patriots biggest holes came on the defensive line, in the linebackers unit, and among the receivers. Wynn is a versatile player who could anchor the offensive line for years and Michel has the playmaking ability to become successful in the NFL, but neither move solved the issues that the Patriots have been facing since Super Bowl 52. A fast, athletic linebacker and a highly talented receiver would have gone a long way in fixing the major issues that New England has displayed throughout this season.
The Patriots options at 22 were not exactly stellar. The options at linebacker, in particular, were pretty slim. However, wide receiver Calvin Ridley out of Alabama was still available, and he ended up getting drafted 26th overall by the Falcons. In his first three games with Atlanta, he has totaled 11 receptions for 210 yards and four touchdowns. He was able to have an immediate and significant impact on the success of the Falcons offense. Selecting him would have given the Patriots an infusion of talent at receiver that would have helped Brady on Sunday night when none of his other receivers could manage to get open.
At 31 overall, the Patriots options were even thinner. However, they passed over Darius Leonard who was selected by the Colts four picks later. Leonard is an athletic linebacker with elite tackling skills. He is already a leader on the Indianapolis defense, wearing the green-dotted helmet during games. While Ja’Whaun Bentley has been a pleasant surprise for New England, an athletic linebacker would have been extremely beneficial considering how slow the Patriots have looked at the position in both run and pass defense.
Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel are not busts, and should not be judged as such. However, the Patriots are older and slower than they were last year and are currently getting very little help from their two first-round picks. They needed an infusion of young talent that could fill holes and provide an immediate boost to areas of the team that had little depth and talent. Ridley and Leonard are examples of a few players thriving in their rookie seasons so far that the Patriots could have selected. This adds question marks to the personnel decision-making that was occurring in New England as they went through the 2018 NFL offseason
Until next time – B$