If there is a high end to team drafts then there must be a Low End. And to my eyes the following teams fit in that category for 2022.
First let’s get the DOLPHINS out of the way, because they gave up so much to get TYREEK HILL that they almost didn’t have a Draft. Let’s start by saying that TYREEK may be the most explosive weapon in the NFL. His combination of speed and quickness are like lethal weapons. As long as TUA has the timing and accuracy to hit HILL in stride, even a 5-yard throw has TD potential in his hands. We may also learn exactly how strong TUA’s arm is when they send him deep to stretch the secondary. But the question remains as to how ready to win the rest of the roster actually is. Because 4 Picks, none in the Top 100, means little new blood help to the existing roster members. The best of the lot is clearly a Georgia defender named CHANNING TINDALL, who was their choice at Pick 102. TINDALL is another superior athlete and a productive player for the Bulldogs, despite never actually starting a game in his career in Athens. TINDALL had an impressive week in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. At 6’2/230 he ran a 4.47/40 at the Combine, and he played that fast in Mobile. His 42″ Vert was also a good indicator of the explosive leg drive he exhibits. He should star on Special Teams and it may not take long for him to win a starting job at LB. Their Pick at 125, ERIK EZUKANMA, from Texas Tech is a polar opposite to TYREEK. His estimated speed is about a 4.50/40, and he’s 6’2/210. His hands measured a very nice 9 3/8″, with 33 1/2″ arm length. He is indeed a strong guy who will mix it up with secondary defenders, and led his team in catches all 3 years in the program. He will battle to be part of the group fighting for DEVANTE PARKER’s roster spot after his trade to New England. They had to wait to Pick 224 for their next player and chose CAMERON GOODE a steady player at CAL, who possesses a few outstanding characteristics, and can rush off the edge a bit and looks like a Special Teams battler to me. He did post some very impressive numbers at his Pro Day which begs the question as to why the CAL coaching staff never got more out of that athleticism. QB SKYLAR THOMPSON was their final Pick at 247. THOMPSON had solid career for K-State, but I just don’t see NFL level arm talent in him. He will battle with others for a roster spot if the team keeps 3 QB. Not much roster help here, but keep TYREEK’s name in mind when you talk about this Dolphins Draft.
The TEXANS still needed anything and everything, but what they did NOT need was to reach at their Picks… but they did just that… and too often. Given one great season as a freshman it was almost shocking for them to take DEREK STINGLEY at Pick 3. KENYON GREEN OG from Texas A&M is a stout IOL, but he’s not the 15th best player in this Draft class. JALEN PITRE DB was a defensive standout for Baylor, but picking him early in Round 2, at 37 was a whole Round too high. And pretty much the whole 3 Days of picking left me wondering if they are short on scouts, or just ignore them on Draft Days. For a team that looked like it made some strides in overall quality of roster last season, this looks like a running-in-place Draft group. In general I would say they took some seriously high risk players and drafted a round too high on even more.
I am guessing here, because I try NOT to follow the Cowboys with their in-house BS and constant flapping mouth of the senior Mr. JONES. For the supposed glamor and glitz team of the NFL this was a very blasé team draft to my mind. Mr. Jerry spouted out about wanting to make some noise and splash at this year’s proceedings. Looks like son Stephen and staff kept him from making too many Picks himself, but the team seemed way too desperate to fill needs that it overlooked quality far too often. TYLER SMITH is a talented young specimen of an OL, but he may be in over his head if they try to push him ahead of STEELE at RT this season. Long term he may be a satisfactory replacement at LT for TYRON SMITH who appears to be worn down after a robust NFL career. SAM WILLIAMS really improved his play the last 2 seasons at Ole Miss, but may not be more than a straight-line Edge player. He’s not really stout enough to set the edge as a 4-3 DE, and likely not flexible enough for full-time OLB duties. The middle of the Draft had the team on its toes though, with 3 straight quality Picks. JALEN TOLBERT, Pick 88, dominated AAC receivers with 88 receptions last season. He’s not a blazer but runs good patterns. Makes a few too many drops for my taste, but overall he should add some depth the receiver group which lost some serious talent with COOPER & WILSON leaving town. JAKE FERGUSON may be the most underrated TE in this year’s talent pool. He’s not an exceptional athlete but blocks well and has very dependable hands. He could develop into their TE2. At Pick 155 they took MATT WALETZKO/OT, who was in my Top 100 for quite some time, falling out in mid-April. He’s bit rough around the edges, but is very talented and athletic. He’s 6’8/310 and has 36 1/8″ arms. At that size he ran a 5.03/40 at the Combine. In a couple years he and SMITH could be their OT tandem. Then it seemed like they lost a few pages in their scouting notebooks, and started reaching. DAMONE CLARK /LB/LSU could be the real deal, but we will have to wait until 2023 to see him out on the field. The Combine medical revealed spinal issues which required surgery and will likely cause a redshirt season this year. DEVIN HARPER at Pick 193 is gonna have to lead the team in Special Teams tackles to have been worth the Pick at 193. I see very little here that helps this team improve significantly in 2022. Longer projection says they may be able to replace a few vets with younger blood in the 2023 season.
Some warts and mistakes will show up in time from this Draft, but in general I think most teams gave their fans hope for improvement on their 2022 roster with many of these players taken. But I do feel I must address a question, as expected, asked by multiple acquaintances of mine. In essence it went something like…’What in the hell was Belichick thinking with his Draft Picks?” And I have to admit even a long time Belichick studier like myself blinked twice at some of the Patriot picks, or at least when & where they were taken. So here we go…
We must not forget that the turnover within the Patriots football building has been significant during the past 5-6 years. And that isn’t just measured in Coaches who moved up within other franchises. Current Texans GM (mentioned above) NICK CASERIO was in reality an Ass’t GM to Belichick for the Patriots for about a decade. Long time confidant and mystery man ERNIE ADAMS retired after the 2021 Draft. The names of those around Belichick have changed and grown younger, especially in the past 3-4 years. And some of those newbies like Director of Player Personnel MATT GROH are gaining Little Bill’s ear and trust. GROH has championed the cause of adding “more speed” and athleticism to the team’s roster.
For instance just as the team finished up the Draft which included Baylor Wideout TYQUAN THORNTON (fastest WR 40-time of 4.28 at the Combine) in Round 2, they also declined to pick up the 5th year option on former Round 1 WR N’KEAL HARRY, the king of jump balls, but he of little separation at the end of his patterns as a pro. Analytics may not have taken over in the Patriots scouting department, but it can now be spoken of out loud in meetings. Even though Belichick has not forsaken his college ties with some premier Head Coaches like SABAN, Harbaugh and others, GROH and his young aids have also been quite willing to draw from the growing amount of talent at smaller college football programs around the country. First Round Pick COLE STRANGE/Chattanooga was one of the smaller school darlings coming out of this year’s Senior Bowl venue. After the PATS had traded back to Pick 29 in Round One, they began to believe that they would never get close to picking Strange in the middle of the Round Two, so they took their favorite guy STANGE at Pick 29. Strange at 307 lbs, had run a 5.03/40 at the Combine, and the trade of SHAQ MASON/OG to Tampa had opened up a potential job for STRANGE as a rookie. MARCUS JONES was a solid Top 100 prospect until he submitted to surgery on both shoulders after the college season. His Combine medical must have been a good one. PIERRE STRONG/RB/S. Dakota St. their Pick @ 127 was the fastest of the RB at the Combine with a 4.37/40-time. JAMES WHITE is still not cleared for contact yet after his 2021 season injury. SAM ROBERTS/DT/NW Missouri St. at Pick 200 was another well thought of smaller school standout. Even BAILEY ZAPPE/QB Pick 137 makes some sense since the team clearly has lost its faith in the further development of Mr. STIDHAM. And HOYER may be a good tutor as back-up and in a young QB room, but he’s now in his mid-30’s and past whatever level his prime once might have been. And ZAPPE’s QB plusses and minuses are similar to those of JONES. No, it is not the JETS draft haul, but then again the PATS Picks were well past the Top 10 of Round One and beyond. We’ll likely see next Fall if BELICHICK and his newer/younger lieutenants have discovered a creative new approach to the Draft, or if they have lost their touch. Don’t panic quite yet Patriots fans. An AFC Wild Card slot is the likely, realistic goal for this team. And if going for it with a younger, Salary Cap friendly roster is part of that answer then bully for Billy once again.
Next post-Draft article will contain… why I did not like the Giants Draft as much as I did the JETS, for you Big Apple/Jersey pro football fans; some of the top Rookie Free Agent signings so far this week; further tales of ‘Trader Howie’ of the Eagles; and more.