In terms of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Patriots broke one old pattern but revamped some others. Sure, last week’s “That Guy” draft preview broke down the types of players Coach Bill Belichick tends to select (you can see all past Patriots drafts summarized in our annual Round-By-Round Review). But every year, the old coach seems to do something he hasn’t before, like taking a wide receiver in the first round.
Some of the other tendencies, like taking an Alabama player, or a pouncing on a fifth-round special teamer? We’ve seen those before. For this wrap-up, I’ve stuck with the “That Guy” format and have included the names of players from previous columns I predicted would fit those categories. (Spoiler: in terms of predictions, Miss Cleo I ain’t.)
Three quick surprises regarding these selections: One, no tight end. Maybe the Patriots staff feels they can cobble together a scrappy band of TEs to replace Rob Gronkowski. (I think something notable happens in this spot during the summer, as I’m not depending on 6-5, 285-pound überfullback Jakob Johnson to bring der Donner.) Two, no slot receiver, per se, though said first-rounder showed some solid versatility at N. C. State. And three, they used 10 picks, which added up to way more than I figured considering most of their 2018 draft haul will come off of last year’s injury list.
This has shaped up as a fascinating year for New England’s roster. So many newbies. Guess Belichick might be looking toward the future more than some thought. My favorite quote from last year’s draft review column, re: talk of the coach retiring:
Yes, we all know BB enjoys fishing off of Great Point in a boat called VII Rings. But you know what he’d like even more? Fishing off Great Point in a boat called VIII Rings. So maybe let’s table the retirement talk for now.
Hmm. Maybe I can predict the future?
On to the draft!
THE TRADES: Did I do these right? I’ve gone over it a ton and I’m not even sure. Anyway…
Moves UP: New England moved up in the second round, trading their second (56) and third (101) for Los Angeles’ second (45). They also moved up in the fifth, trading 167 and a seventh (246) for Philadelphia’s fifth (163). The Patriots traded a fifth (162) and seventh (259) for Minnesota’s fifth (159).
Moves DOWN: The Patriots swapped their second (64) for Seattle’s third (77) and fourth (118). They also gave Chicago their third (73) and sixth (205) in exchange for the Bears’ fifth (162) and 2020 fourth. New England traded a third (97) and fifth (162) for Carolina’s third (101) and fourth (133). Lastly, the Patriots handed over a fourth (134) and seventh (243) for two Rams’ fifths (162 and 167).
Here’s the point where people joke around and say, “There will be a test.” Well, no. There will be no test. New England moved around, per usual. We need never speak the details again.
On to the picks!
THE PICKS: New England’s 2019 selections listed by round (and overall number):
Round One (32): N’Keal Harry (6-2, 228), Arizona State WR
Round Two (45): Joejuan Williams (6-4, 211), Vanderbilt CB
Round Three (77): Chase Winovich (6-3, 256), Michigan DE
Round Three (87): Damien Harris (5-10, 216), Alabama RB
Round Three (101): Yodny Cajuste (6-5, 312), West Virginia OL
Round Four (118): Hjalte Froholdt (6-5, 306), Arkansas OL
Round Four (133): Jarrett Stidham (6-2, 218), Auburn QB
Round Five (159): Byron Cowart (6-3, 298), Maryland DL
Round Five (163): Jake Bailey (6-1, 200), Stanford P
Round Seven (252): Ken Webster (5-11, 203), Mississippi CB
And now, some particulars about the picks, sans grades, because really, people: who knows?
The Solid First-Round Guy (Maybe?): Oh, we have reached uncharted territory, dear readers. For the first time since Belichick grabbed control of the Patriots’ draft pick pen in 2000, he wrote down a receiver’s name in the first round. N’Keal Harry has size, quickness (6.92-second 3-cone), and strength (27 bench reps, tied for top combine receiver), making a high-potential addition to the pass-catching crew.
Historically, New England has done a great job selecting 300-plus pounders in this round. I had them going in that direction and away from receivers after considering some of the difficulties they’ve had drafting rookies who can adapt to their system. On the plus side, Harry has shown the ability to run routes from different spots on the line, as well as a knack for plucking the football away from defenders’ reach. Last season he had 73 receptions for 1,088 yards (14.9 avg.) and nine touchdowns while also running the ball seven times, once for a TD.
A first-round receiver in Foxboro. Now I guess we have seen it all.
Fun Fact: This is not the first time the Patriots have drafted an ASU pass-catcher, as in 2016 they took Devin Lucien in the seventh, along with Lucien’s teammate D. J. Foster as an undrafted free agent.
My Pick Prediction: Dexter Lawrence, Clemson DL, who got drafted by the Giants 17th overall.
The Second-Round Defensive Back Guy: Figured out a new category for this column, though not a new move for New England, who have selected defensive backs here on a regular basis (last year’s Duke Dawson and 2016’s Cyrus Jones the most recent examples). Joejuan Williams brings his redwood height to the secondary, drawing comparisons to former Patriots corner Brandon Browner (only on the field, though, because off the field? Yikes). Williams made All-SEC Second Team for 2018 after coming up with 61 tackles and four interceptions. He also broke up more passes than a nun at a school dance, as his 14 swat-aways led the conference. Belichick appreciates players who excel in the bigger conferences like the SEC (which went into selecting a certain running back below).
Fun Fact: It appears that Lindy’s Sports Pro Football Draft magazine projected Williams as a fourth-round pick; however, they also listed him as 6-foot-2, so I’m not sure what to believe.
Not-So-Fun Fact: Williams had a difficult upbringing, documented in this video. You’ve got to root for the guy.
My Pick Prediction: It was more of a “Who’s That Guy?” Guy pick, but I liked the look of combine snub Chris Johnson, North Alabama safety. As of this writing, Johnson got signed by the Texans as an undrafted free agent (UDFA).
Long-Limbed Defensive End Guy: A slight adjustment to this category, as the length of Chase Winovich’s 32.75-inch arms don’t quite reach (ha!) those of past Pats picks Trey Flowers (34.25 inches) and Deatrich Wise (35.63). Though less of an octopus and more of a bobtail squid, Winovich (who, by the way, has the perfect pass-rusher’s first name) has the size and speed of a versatile athlete who can play at different spots. His 4.11-second 20-yard shuttle beat all other edge defenders at the combine, while his 4.59-second 40-yard dash came in third and his 6.94-second 3-cone came in fourth. That horror-movie suddenness helped him turnstile numerous Big-Ten offensive linemen, to the tune of 69 tackles (nice: 17 for loss) with five sacks. Winovich played on the line for the Wolverines but has the agility to roam as a linebacker, much like former Patriots Rob Ninkovich.
Plus: amazing hair. Gorgeous.
Fun Fact: the suffix “-ovich” is Russian for “son of.”
My Pick Prediction: Renell Wren, Arizona State DL, who got drafted by the Bengals in the fourth round.
The Alabama Guy: At last, a category that needs no finessing, as Belichick’s longtime relationship with Alabama coach Nick Saban has given him the tendency to pluck players from this particular SEC team. Damien Harris seemed like too valuable a pick to pass up here. Though few would call him huge at 216 pounds, Harris runs with power and could help current Pats back Sony Michel avoid kicking the insides of the van too early. (Oh, dear Boxer.) In his talent-stacked conference, Harris managed 6.4 yards per carry for his career, a Crimson Tide record. In 2018, he compiled 876 yards on 150 totes (5.8 avg.) and scored nine TDs. He also caught 22 passes for 204 yards.
No, New England didn’t need a running back, but Harris has the potential to help.
My Pick Prediction: Christian Miller, OLB, who got drafted by the Panthers in the fourth.
The Offensive Line Double-Dip Guys: Not only did the Patriots regain their draft form of the previous few years (save 2018) by taking two offensive lineman, they did so back-to-back. This year, tackle Yodny Cajuste and interior lineman Hjalte Froholdt got the call. Cajuste played left tackle for West Virginia, earning a Big-13 Offensive Lineman of the Year Award and Second Team All-American Honors as a senior. He helped his Mountaineer offense rank eighth nationally in yards per game. He also had 32 reps on the bench at the combine, notable especially for a man in possession of 34-inch shoulder vines.
Froholdt hails from Denmark, land of strong men, and he lived up to that rep with 31 bench presses at the combine. He made Second Team All-SEC in 2018, allowing zero sacks for the second year in a row. Especially impressive considering that this past season he flipped from center to left guard and back again due to team injuries. Froholdt began his Razorback career as a defensive lineman, notching three tackles as a freshman. Crazy potential with this guy.
Fun Fact: Just like these two were selected back-to-back by New England, they ended up in the same positions for their bench press performances at the combine, coming in fourth and fifth for offensive linemen.
My Pick Predictions: Max Scharping of Northern Illinois and Trey Pipkins of Sioux Falls. Scharping went to the Texans in the second, one round before Pipkins went to the Chargers.
The Backup QB Guy: A quick reminder that Tom Brady will turn 42 on August 3. For perspective, Mike Brady was 37 when he realized he and Carol should somehow form a family (here’s the story). It makes sense to bring in a young quarterback for a possible apprenticeship. Jarrett Stidham has had a more up-and-down couple of years than a North Sea buoy. As a junior, he completed 66 percent of his passes for 3,158 yards. Playing in one fewer game as a senior, both of those numbers went down to 61 and 2,794, respectively. Stidham did manage to go out on the highest of notes at the Music City Bowl, composing a sweet symphony that had scouts swaying (okay, we get it) by completing 15 of 21 passes for 373 yards and five TDs to lead the Tigers over Purdue and win MVP. Another nice stat for Stidham: he owns the school record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception at 162.
There might be something Brady-ish about the guy’s tenacity in regards to his desire to play. Started at Baylor as a true freshman, transferred out of that flaming dog-pile of a program to McLennan Community College for a year, then on to Auburn to seek out a starting role. Doing whatever he could to get on the field.
Fun Fact, Maybe: According to his Auburn stats page, in 2018 Stidham rushed 72 times for one yard. Just to put that in perspective, that beats my rushing total from 2018 by one yard.
My Pick Prediction: Ryan Finley of N. C. State, who got scooped up by the Bengals in the fourth.
The Long-Limbed Defensive End Guy: Now, that’s better. New England picked up Byron Cowart to deepen their defensive line corps, bringing in yet another versatile defender with the physical ability to play at different positions along the line. Cowart ran a 5.16-second 40 and leapt a 30-inch vertical at the combine, both solid numbers for his position. He also put up a respectable 26 bench reps. At Maryland, Cowart earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention with 38 tackles (five for loss) three sacks, a forced fumble, and two interceptions. He played for two years at Auburn before transferring his junior year to Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida to be closer to his mother, who had taken ill. He became a bit of a redemption project for the Terps. It will prove interesting to watch where Cowart ends up on the line, either as an interior pass-rushing specialist or a flexible, every-down guy.
Fun Fact: Cowart was the nation’s top football recruit coming out of Armwood High in Tampa.
The Special Teams Guy: This category has become as much of a sure thing as any other in this area of the draft. New England picked up kicker Stephen Gostkowski (2006) in the fourth round, with punter Zoltan Mesko (2010), long snapper Joe Cardona (2015), and career special-teamer Matthew Slater (2008) all going in the fifth. Add another to their mid-round specialist haul, as Jake Bailey got the phone call. Bailey has a leg like a 2-wood. He made the All-Pac-12 Team three times, finishing with a 43.8-yard career average, Stanford’s all-time leader. He also kicked off, racking up 173 touchbacks in his career.
Kind of weird the Patriots would look to replace Ryan Allen after his all-star Super Bowl performance (five punts for 215 yards, 43.0 avg.). On the other hand…
Fun Fact: Bailey once punted the ball 84 yards. It’s true. He punted it so far that the ball rolled into the end zone for a touchback and still netted 64 yards. Yeesh.
My Pick Prediction: Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas OLB, whom the Niners picked … in the fifth round(!!).
The Freakishly Athletic Guy: The Jamie Collins Award for most notable NFL Combine performance goes to Ken Webster, as the Mississippi defensive back leapt a 43-inch vertical that bested all combine corners. Webster achieved top 10 scores in every event, completing a 4.43 40 (sixth corner), 18 bench reps (tied, second corner), an 11-foot-1 broad jump (third), a 6.85 3-cone (eighth), and a 4.14 20-yard shuttle (ninth). At Ole Miss, Webster totaled 33 tackles (one for loss), with two interceptions and eight passes defensed. With his athletic talent and experience in the (checks notes) SEC, Webster could work his way into a contributing role as a special-teamer/part-time defender.
Fun Fact: Webster’s career high in tackles came against rival Mississippi State as a junior, when he recorded eight stops.
Fun Addendum: The annual Mississippi vs. Mississippi State game is called the Egg Bowl, based on the football-shaped trophy given to the winner. Interesting history to that part of the rivalry.
My Pick Prediction: Miles Boykin, Notre Dame WR, taken by the Ravens in the third.
So, what to make of all this? My wrap-up note for this year’s selection process should ring eternal: draft grades are dumb. After past selections, very few people saw the potential of players like Trey Flowers, Julian Edelman, or a certain quarterback picked 199th in 2000. All had uninspiring first years in the league. Some players take time.
Draft coverage gets wrapped up on Thursday with a comprehensive look at New England undrafted rookie signees. See you then.
Chris Warner kind of misses reading up on potential draft picks. Crazy, he knows. Share his lament or mock him at Chris.warner.patriotsdaily.com or on Twitter @cwarn89.