The New England Patriots rookie class had a hard time making an impact in 2019. According to Pro Football Focus, the unit ranked 27th in terms of overall value, ahead of just the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers, and Cincinnati Bengals. While this doesn’t mean that New England’s rookies are doomed to NFL failure, it’s certainly not an encouraging sign for the future.
PFF: New England Patriots Rookie Class Ranked 27th in NFL
Pro Football Focus cites N’Keal Harry’s lack of impact as the biggest reason for the low ranking. According to the advanced analytics site, Harry “recorded less than one yard per route run” and couldn’t “consistently separate when he was on the field”. The separation is definitely a valid criticism and one of his biggest red flags coming out of college.
While he certainly didn’t live up to expectations, it’s worth noting the rookie missed a sizable portion of the season with a foot injury. Additionally, Harry showed an ability to make NFL-caliber plays, although he relied heavily on scheme and low-percentage contested catches. It’s far too early to call him a bust, but the Patriots shouldn’t count on him turning into a superstar overnight.
New England’s best value pick was defensive lineman Chase Winovich. Selected with the 77th overall pick, Winovich played well as a rotational lineman. According to PFF, Winovich ended the year with a 72.5 grade, good for 32nd in the league among edge defenders. Bill Belichick has a history of slowly transitioning his defensive linemen to the starting lineup, so look for WInovich to make a big splash in Year 2. He probably won’t ever be Khalil Mack, but Winovich can be the next Trey Flowers on this defense.
It’s worth noting that this list does not include undrafted free agents like Jakobi Meyers. Meyers didn’t set the world on fire by any means, but he played well when given the opportunity. While he occasionally struggled to pick up the playbook, he demonstrated an ability to separate and haul in contested catches. He should be a solid role player for the 2020 Patriots.
The Rest of the Picks
Joejuan Williams hardly saw the field as a rookie, but that’s not really his fault. New England had the best secondary in the league and there was simply no chance for Williams to see playing time. The Vanderbilt product recently got into a drug-related legal issue, but New England appears content to stick with Williams through this issue. Williams looked good in the preseason and, with Jason McCourty getting older, could see a larger role in 2020.
The Patriots probably selected Damien Harris as an insurance policy. Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead both have extensive injury histories, and Bill Belichick didn’t want to have to resort to starting a wide receiver at running back for the second straight season. Michel and Burkhead both stayed relatively healthy, and Brandon Bolden had arguably his best season. Because of this, Harris hardly saw the field. With all three aforementioned running backs and James White under contract, Harris will probably spend most of 2020 on the bench. Ultimately, investing this high of a pick on depth for an unimportant position is a move the Patriots would like to have back.
Yodny Cajuste and Hjalte Froholdt both missed their respective rookie seasons with injuries, while Jarrett Stidham spent the year on the bench. Stidham looked good in the preseason and might have a chance to start if Tom Brady leaves in free agency. Byron Cowart spent the year as a depth piece while Jake Bailey was one of the best punters in the league. Ken Webster couldn’t make New England’s final roster but saw the field with the Miami Dolphins.
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