Patriots’ rookie class grades out poorly

Andy Hart
February 06, 2020 - 1:43 pm
Categories: 

Any time a first-round pick opens his rookie season on injured reserve, it’s a blow to the contributions of a team’s draft class.

Listen to your team news NOW.

That’s exactly what happened to wide receiver N’Keal Harry and the Patriots in 2019.

But that was just one of a handful of disappointments that led NFL.com to give Bill Belichick’s most recent draft class a lowly grade of D-plus.

Harry – the first receiver Belichick selected in the first round in his two decades leading the Patriots war room – joined his teammates midseason, but went on to catch a mere 12 passes for 105 yards with two touchdowns. He started five of the seven games he played in, playing just under 20-percent of New England’s snaps although he topped 50-percent play time in four of the final six games of the regular season.

“Harry was supposed to provide a boost to a receiving corps that desperately needed some youthful exuberance,” NFL.com wrote. “That did not occur…With a famously demanding quarterback at the controls, the rookie caught more of Tom Brady's ire than his passes.”

Second-round pick cornerback Joejuan Williams was healthy all season, playing nine games with zero starts, and accumulated just under eight-percent play time in the deep New England secondary.

The third round brought both an impact rookie and a couple non-factors. Chase Winovich tied for fourth on the team with 5.5 sacks in a reserve role in all 16 games. On the flipside, running back Damien Harris was a healthy-scratch 14 times, notching just four carries for 12 yards despite New England’s overall lackluster rushing attack.

“On the plus side, Winovich played like the third-round steal everyone knew he'd be the moment New England nabbed him at No. 77 overall, efficiently racking up 5.5 sacks and 10 QB hits in just 293 defensive snaps. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 14 rookie in the entire class,” NFL.com noted.

Backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham, solid punter Jake Bailey, undrafted rookie receiver Jakobi Meyers (26 catches for 359 yards) and undrafted rookie punt returner Gunner Olszewski did little to sway NFL.com from New England’s overall negative draft grade.

Related: Tom Brady Watch: How Dolphins do/don’t make sense