The first round of the 2018 NFL Draft was strange, with players rising and falling all over the place. The Patriots had the assets to trade up but chose instead to stay pat and use both of their first-round selections on two National Champion Georgia Bulldogs.
Round 1 #23: Isaiah Wynn, OG/OT Georgia
Wynn was projected by many to become a guard in the NFL because he is slightly undersized for an NFL tackle. However, the Patriots depth in their interior line and lack of serious talent at the tackle position indicate that they expect Wynn to jump in as their left tackle.
Wynn is a sneaky good pick for New England who could likely turn out to be a better tackle than Mike McGlinchey and Kolton Miller who were both taken before him. He is short for an offensive tackle at 6’3, but he makes up for it in quickness and a mean streak that you love in an offensive lineman. He is also a smart player who doesn’t get beat by flashy spin moves.
Wynn is a fantastic run blocker, easily getting to the second level against linebackers and sticking on his blocks. He was part of an offensive line that had two thousand-yard rushers in Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. He is also adept at pass blocking as well, and while he will need more experience in that aspect of his game, he has the athleticism and fluidity to develop into a great player.
My only initial concern with this pick is that he was projected by many to play guard in the NFL. He did play all last season at tackle and played well, but I am concerned that he feels his natural position is on the interior line. If he and Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia feel like he can transition well to tackle, then I’m extremely satisfied with the pick.
Round 1 #31: Sony Michel, RB Georgia
This was a rather surprising pick for New England, but one that Patriots fans will be very happy with. I wrote about Michel in my preview of potential running back prospects for the Patriots. He is a powerful north-south runner who knows how to follow his blockers. While Michel may not have the same ability as Dion Lewis to make defenders miss in the open field, he will be able to drop his shoulder and make it hurt for defenders to take him down.
Michel is also a fantastic pass blocker, which is a crucial role in the Patriots offense. He has great identification skills on blitz pickups and is not afraid to take on incoming pass rushers.
The biggest issue with Michel is that he needs to add a little more finesse to his game. Learning to be more elusive in the open field and when searching for creases will make him a top-tier back. Also, he will need to develop more polished pass catching. While he has the tools and agility to beat linebackers, his hands are not always consistent. Michel has also had some fumble problems in the past, but with only two fumbles in 2018, he seems to be getting that issue under control.
Many New England fans may be initially frustrated with these picks. Some, myself included, wanted them to take a defensive player with one of their first-round picks. Others desperately wanted Lamar Jackson. However, the clear-cut first-round level defenders were almost all off the board by the time the Patriots selected at 23. The Patriots likely looked at the defensive players left and realized that they would find much more valuable picks in the second round than by reaching in the first. In regards to Lamar Jackson, he would have been a fun addition but he would not have helped the Patriots win now. Wynn could very well be a day one starter at left tackle, and Michel could become a star in the New England backfield with a solid offensive line in front of him. These players will make Tom Brady’s life much easier in 2018.
Until next time – B$