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Sunday 7: Recent poor draft history could hurt Patriots in coming years

Ryan Hannable
September 02, 2018 - 6:00 am

1. The Patriots' drafting in the past few years hasn’t been good. Yes, unexpected injuries and losing a first and fourth-round pick because of Deflategate play into it, but the Patriots have not got the most out of their top draft picks in recent seasons. The trade of second-rounder Jordan Richards Friday and then flat-out releasing second-round pick Cyrus Jones Saturday was a reminder the team could face some issues in the next couple of years. Of course, every NFL team is releasing players they draft, but the issue with the Patriots is the young players on their roster that they’ve drafted. The problem is they don’t have many. Starting with the 2011 draft, not including Duke Dawson this year, the Patriots do not have a single second-round pick of their own on the roster (0-for-8). Also, since the 2015 draft, the only players drafted in the first three rounds still on the roster are Malcolm Brown, Geneo Grissom, Joe Thuney, Derek Rivers, Sony Michel and Dawson (Isaiah Wynn is on injured reserve). Most of these are OK players, but not franchise-changing players, which some teams are getting from their recent high draft picks. A perfect example is the 2014 draft, as five years later, the only player left with the organization is James White, who was selected in the fourth-round. And it isn’t even like the organization can make the claim it got something in return for the players in that draft. First-round pick Dominique Easley was just released in 2016, second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo netted just a second-round pick and fourth-rounders Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming got nothing at all. Teams who have a lot of homegrown players are better off financially; first off by getting the most out of players on their rookie deals, but also getting some to sign early before they reach the open market. Ex. Shaq Mason, but those examples are few and far between in recent years. The Patriots have been able to overcome these issues recently, but in the coming years it could catch up to them.

2. Last year this week the Patriots made four trades, but all of them were made before initial rosters were set, including Phillip Dorsett, Cassius Marsh and Johnson Bademosi all being acquired on cut-down day. With that being the case and teams already having their rosters set, perhaps this year the Patriots go the claiming/signing free agents route. There are some intriguing options available, especially at wide receiver, including Leonte Carroo, Kendall Wright and Daniel Braverman.

3. Speaking of receiver, it was interesting Julian Edelman didn’t play in the preseason finale given he won’t be on the field again until Week 5. In the past, the Patriots had players facing suspensions (Tom Brady and Brandon Browner) play a lot in the fourth preseason game. One theory on Edelman being different is what good would it do him playing with Danny Etling at quarterback, when that won’t ever happen in a game this season. Edelman is now not allowed at the Gillette Stadium facility until Week 5.

4. While Cyrus Jones was released Saturday, it’s worth noting how much he’s grown as a person the last year. The Alabama product gave one of the best, most honest interviews during his time with the Patriots following Thursday’s preseason finale against the Giants. He appears to have a more positive attitude towards things and that should help him wherever he lands because another team will surely take a shot at him. It could be a case where a fresh start might be the best thing for him. 

5. A lot will be made of the Patriots’ lack of depth at receiver, and listening to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels speak earlier this week, it’s clear it doesn’t matter at all to the coaching staff. They just have the mentality of winning no matter what they have and doing whatever it takes. “Each year’s different. I know that our responsibility is to take the group of guys in our room and maximize the strengths of the players we have, and we’ve got a lot of strengths,” McDaniels said. “There’s guys in there in each position that do things well. I’ve said it a number of times before, when we get to the point where we’re playing a game, a regular-season game, our job is to take the group of guys we have, and the scheme we have available to us and try and beat the other team.”

6. One thing worth keeping an eye on is with the release of Riley McCarron and Jones, the Patriots really don’t have a punt returner the first four weeks. If the season were to start today, it would likely be Cordarrelle Patterson considering he did it a bit in the third preseason game. This could be something the team is looking to address if they do bring in another receiver. It’s also worth noting it probably isn’t the best idea to have Edelman be the full-time punt returner when he returns given the injury risk.

7. Be sure to check out this lengthy Deadspin Q&A with former Patriots assistant coach Pepper Johnson. The long-time assistant went into detail on the Patriots’ culture, especially with Billl Belichick. He also discussed last year’s Super Bowl and gave some unique insight on the game, noting Belichick doesn’t like facing two talented running backs. “That’s why neither team could stop each other...The Patriots had a linebacker problem, which was said at this time last year. And then you don’t have [Dont’a] Hightower so it’s going to be a bigger problem. So if you put two running backs out there at the same time, how much of a nightmare is that going to be for Belichick? Bill never likes two running backs. He never liked playing against two skillful running backs. It’s a problem because he can’t really cover them with his different combination of coverages with the secondary. The linebackers have to get them. And you need good linebackers.” It’s definitely worth checking out.

Related: 5 thoughts on Patriots' initial roster