The New England Patriots compiled a solid crop of rookies during the offseason, many of whom should be able to make an immediate impact when camp opens in just a few weeks. A lot could happen between now and the start of the 2018 regular season (i.e. injuries), but if all goes according to plan then the Patriots most likely candidates for rookie of the year are Isaiah Wynn, Duke Dawson, and Sony Michel. Now that may seem obvious considering these three were the Patriots first three selections in the 2018 NFL Draft. However, they also fill positions of need for the Patriots and have the tools to bring their respective units to new heights.
OL Isaiah Wynn
Wynn is the most likely candidate for Patriots rookie of the year because his versatility will allow him to help multiple positions along the Patriots offensive line. New England’s offensive line was not bad in 2017; in fact, they helped the team run for nearly 1900 yards. However, injuries to key players like Marcus Cannon limited the team’s potential for success. In addition, left guard Joe Thuney had a disappointing second season, struggling against both speed rushers and bull rushers. Wynn has the ability to play both guard and tackle. At guard, he would bring a mean streak and a bullish attitude that could be crucial for both the Patriots run and pass games. He is slightly undersized for an NFL tackle, but he has shown the ability to play the position if necessary and could fill in if needed. The offensive line is the least appreciated position on the football field, but his performance will likely allow the Patriots to have one of the best fronts in football.
CB Duke Dawson
It will come as a surprise to many, but Duke Dawson is the second most likely candidate to be the Patriots rookie of the year. New England’s second-round pick out of Florida is an aggressive, hard-hitting nickel cornerback who could prove vital for the Patriots defense. As seen during the first quarter of the 2017 season, and Super Bowl 52, the Patriots had serious deficiencies in pass coverage. That did not all come from the slot; there was plenty of blame that could be laid at the feet of the outside cornerbacks. However, the Patriots struggled to cover receivers out of the slot because of a combination of slow linebackers, unequipped safeties, and poor cornerback depth that forced Malcolm Butler to play out of position. The injuries to Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones did not help either. Dawson certainly has some skills that he needs to develop, such as his ability to turn and run with deep routes. However, he will have strong safety help and his ability to blanket receivers underneath will make him worth it. In addition, Dawson is tough against the run, and a good tackler to boot, which will allow the Patriots to be confident in the ability of their nickel package to stop the run. Dawson will have to beat out Cyrus and Jonathan Jones for a spot, but his talent makes him a prime candidate to have an explosive year.
RB Sony Michael
Most Patriots fans would likely have chosen Sony Michel to be the most likely candidate for Patriots rookie of the year. That thought is not a bad one. Michel is a north-south back with an aggressive running style that should translate well to the NFL. He will be able to quickly break through holes provided by the Patriots improved offensive line and the best fullback in the league, James Develin. The only thing holding Michel back is a crowded New England backfield. The team retained James White and Rex Burkhead, both of whom played critical roles in the Patriots offense in 2017. While White is not considered to be a traditional runner, he has improved mightily and will likely see more carries than usual. Burkhead was injured for part of last season, but still, put up impressive numbers. The Patriots also have Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill. The former Bengal Hill had an impressive first few years in the NFL before losing his job to Joe Mixon. He also has a chance to make an immediate impact and take snaps away from Michel. However, Michel is still on this list because he has the talent to become a breakout star for New England.
Honorary mention: DL Derek Rivers
Rivers is not technically a rookie, as he was drafted by the Patriots in the third round of 2017. However, he lost his entire rookie season due to a torn ACL suffered during training camp. This will be his first real season in the NFL, and he could have a major impact on the team if he can bring a sorely needed pass rush.
The Patriots can expect significant contributions from their rookies, and fans will likely be happy with New England’s draft day decisions.
Until next time – B$