PATRIOTS 2019 Draft Review

By | July 12, 2019

There are years when BILL BELICHICK seems to all but ignore the NFL Draft process, and then there are others where the entire organization rolls up its collective sleeves and squeezes every ounce of talent that they can from the process. For the second year in a row, the latter was the case in 2019. With names like GRONK, FLOWERS, HOGAN, CLAYBORN, BROWN and more, leaving town after collecting their Super Bowl rings, this has become a year in which much new talent is needed to retool the team roster. So when the dust cleared, Little BILL and his merry men had added 10 Draftees to the roster. There is another interesting draft note to be added, relative to the 2018 PATS Rookie class, but I’ll touch on that in the final summary. For now, let’s take a look at this year’s effort, Pick by Pick.

Round 1, Pick 32
N’KEAL HARRY WR ARIZONA STATE
6’2/228 4.54/40 PP#36
He is not a TE, nor does he have all the tools that GRONK brought to the game, but HARRY is a special athlete and should bring some of the “big play” components that GRONK mastered, to display on a regular basis. His 33″ arms, and his 38.5″ vertical explosion will make him a big winner on jump balls along the sideline, or in the end zone. Just like GRONK, HARRY will provide an ‘easy to find’ target for Mr. BRADY. He runs solid patterns and is quick out of his breaks. Also, his ball skills are exceptional. Without much around him in the SUN DEVILS receivers group, he still had 155 catches for 17 TD’s over the past 3 seasons. Surprisingly, at least to me, HARRY also excelled as a Punt Returner in college. In 2018, he returned 9 Punts at a 16.9-ypr clip. He is still somewhat raw, and will have to clean up a few items to gain BRADY’s trust, but the future looks bright. Other than the oft-missing JOSH GORDON, HARRY should be the most athletic receiver on their roster.

Round 2, Pick 45
JOEJUAN WILLIAMS DB VANDERBILT
6’4/211 4.65/40 PP#76
This Pick had me a bit surprised, because after WILLIAMS had a pretty pedestrian Combine performance, I felt that he had slipped well into Round 3, or beyond. That slow 4.65/40 is pretty hard to ignore, despite his size. But not to worry said the PATS, who clearly have their own plan for the large DB. I think he looks more like a hybrid LB/SS type than he does a Corner. Those 9 3/4″ hands, and his overall ball skills, make him a turnover waiting to happen. Look at his 2018 stat sheet: 61 T, 2 TFL, 13 PBU, and 4 INT. Those 17 times that he got his hands on the ball in coverage cannot be overlooked. He has some serious work to do in cleaning up parts of his game, but coaching up has always been a major principle under BELICHICK, and he has also always liked to have a couple of bigger, longer DB’s on his roster. No doubt, BILL and his staff have some plans already in mind for the use of WILLIAMS in their defensive scheme of things.

Round 3, Pick 77
CHASE WINOVICH ER MICHIGAN
6’3/256 4.65/40 PP#55
Based on his play in 2018 for the WOLVERINES, CHASE reminds me of some kind of hybrid of CLAY MATTHEWS and TEDY BRUSCHI heading to this team. I look for him to be a chase player, and edge rusher, who flexes around depending upon the formation out on the field, based on down-and-distance, ala ROB NINKOVICH in recent years. Referring to WINOVICH as a guy with a non-stop motor, is an understatement, but he’s not a reckless guy. His 2018 stats: 69 T’s, 17 TFL, 5 S’s, 7 QBH’s, and 1 PBU. He doesn’t replace FLOWERS, but he should help them in multiple ways. Even though he plays all-out, he is still solid at responding to what opponents are trying to do to him. His 10″ hands are strong, and he uses them to good effect. His effort, FBI, and versatility, should make him a solid contributor for this Defense.

Round 3, Pick 87
DAMIEN HARRIS RB ALABAMA
5’10/216 4.56/40 PP#87
HARRIS was a very versatile, productive player for BELICHICK’s coaching buddy and friend, NICK SABAN. He is a very tough inside runner, who can break loose at times. He didn’t get called upon to catch a lot out of the backfield, but showed flashes of potential in that department last season. Those 9 3/4″ hands indicate some potential in that regard. His overall frame is strong and tight. He does not go down easily after contact. He should be a very nice compliment to SONY MICHEL as a RB 1-2 punch. As is the PATRIOTS way, having both of those young studs may allow them to purge one of their more expensive vet RB’s like BURKHEAD. His biggest challenge will be to convince his coaches that he can be trusted in the area of ball security. He was not a chronic fumbler at ALABAMA, but lost the ball in some key game situations during his career.

Round 3, Pick 101
YODNY CAJUSTE OT WEST VIRGINIA
6’5/312 5.20/40 PP#83
CAJUSTE was a 4-year starter who is still raw in his technique, but his physical tools are hard to miss. His 10″ hands, and 34″ arms are well suited for NFL OL play, and his 32 reps in the Bench Press at the Combine are impressive for his arm length. Patience by the coaches, and practice effort from him, will be very important. In the WVU Offense, he seldom went into a 3-point stance. I don’t think that will play out well under Professor SCARNECCHIA. He gets a bit too “handsy” in pass-pro, which may draw flags fairly often as a young pro. I doubt they are counting on him to start as a Rookie, but RT CANNON has been around a while, so CAJUSTE may really be pushed hard in Camp a year from now.

Round 4, Pick 118
HJALTE FROHOLDT OG ARKANSAS
6’5/305 5.18/40 PP#243
Let start with one collegiate stat that really recommends him to be a potential BRADY Bodyguard. Some statistician came up with this factoid: In 1,291 pass-pro snaps during his career at ARKANSAS, FROHOLDT was personally responsible for allowing only 3 sacks. His biggest need is to add some more muscle mass to his frame. With an OL Coach like SCARNECCHIA, his technique will be well received. He has really only been playing football since his senior year in high school. He is wiry strong, considering his lack of bulk. He and CAJUSTE are both in the right place with a seasoned OL Coach like DANTE to teach and develop them.

Round 4, Pick 133
JARRETT STIDHAM QB AUBURN
6’2/218 4.81/40 PP#75
As you might have noticed, STIDHAM is their 6th Pick of this Draft that I have ranked in my Top 100 Prospect ranking list. Any time you get that kind of value and quantity in one Draft, it bodes well for roster building. I think this could finally be the real heir apparent for Mr. BRADY. STIDHAM has a chance to be a better pro QB than he was as a collegian, IMO. He is a good athlete, with a better than average arm. I believe that the AUBURN Offense limited him, and that is partly why he came out early. My Draftnik buddies in Mobile were in general agreement that he was the most consistent QB all week long down there. He extended a lot of plays at AUBURN with his legs, playing at times behind a very marginal OL group. One factor in STIDHAM’s situation with the PATS is that he’ll get a lot of snaps in pre-season if he is ready for them!

Round 5, Pick 159
BYRON COWART DL MARYLAND
6’3/300 5.16/40 PP#214
COWART was a solid 5-star recruit coming out of high school, who never developed much at AUBURN before finally transferring. He will not star as a pro either, but if he works his butt off, he can play in their schemes. He performed very well during Senior Bowl week in Mobile, and it clearly boosted his stock. At the end of the 2018 season, I would have told you that he was not going to be drafted at all. Coward followed up his Senior Bowl work, with a strong all around showing at the Combine. He is not a big time pass rusher, but cleans up in the traffic along the line of scrimmage.

Round 5, Pick 163
JAKE BAILEY P STANFORD
6’1/200 4.90/40 PP#260
A Punter, when they already have RYAN ALLEN in place? Why not, when you have 10 Picks. Not to mention that ALLEN just got a nice new contract, making more money than they really want to pay a Punter. So here comes the very athletic BAILEY, who would pretty much give them a minimum wage Punter, once they get past his modest signing bonus. But then again, they will be cautious not to cut off their nose to spite their face, so to speak. BAILEY has a strong leg, and will boom most kicks into the end zone. This will appeal, since they would rather save GOSTKOWSKI’s leg for the FG attempts, now thatches well into his 30’s. He is also athletic enough to fake a few in short yardage situations, and run for first downs. However, he does leave a bit to be desired on ball placement inside the 20, when compared to ALLEN. The wild card factoid may be that BAILEY is a right footed Punter, and it has been quite a while since BELICHICK employed a righty. BELICHICK has long felt that the lefty Punter puts a spin on the ball that confuses most punt returners a bit. I look for BAILEY to wind up on the Practice Squad, at least for this season. Then they will work on his ball placement skills, hoping to improve them for 2020.

Round 7, Pick 252
KEN WEBSTER DB OLE MISS
5’11/203 4.45/40 PP#NR
I had this guy unranked as a prospect because of off-field issues early in his career at OLE MISS, as well as a series of injuries that were just serious enough to keep him off the field, all too often. At first blush, I would say his chances of making their roster are slim indeed. However, guys of his ilk make this team every year if they show enough in Special Teams work during the Summer months. BELICHICK truly ‘gets’ the value of Special Teams work, and always carries a half-dozen, or more, players who are almost exclusively on board because of their Special Teams play. Just don’t say I didn’t tell you so if he makes their 53-man roster in September.

The PATRIOTS had enough Picks to fill some needs, as well as to take a few fliers on long range players like STIDHAM, WILLIAMS & BAILEY. They have also shown, that despite having the smallest coaching staff in the League, they are teachers as well as strategists. In particular, count on venerable OL Coach DANTE SCARNECCHIA to coach up both CAJUSTE and FROHOLDT from their current level of play. Quality OL depth is big need right now.

I had mentioned at the start of this analysis that I had one angle to bring up when projecting the new talent infusion into a somewhat depleted roster. Their 2018 Rookie class was absolutely decimated by injuries last season. By the end of September, the majority of their 2018 Rookie class was on IR. That included TE/IZZO, OT/WYNN, IB/BENTLEY, IB/SAM, CB/DAWSON, and WR/RS/BERRIOS. They should all be back on the field when Training Camp opens. THat’s almost like having two new draft classes in uniform.
A factoid/detail of some interest to Draftniks, and folks who monitor roster building patterns, should be that of the PATS current 90-man roster, 61 of them began their NFL careers as PATRIOTS coming into the NFL from college, either from the Draft, or as Undrafted Rookie Free Agents (URFA’s)! That is near the top of NFL teams who raise their own players, so to speak.

Pigskin