New England Patriots NFL Draft Grades 2022: Patriots surprise in Round 1 with Cole Strange

What are the New England Patriots' grades for their selections in the 2022 NFL Draft as they look to address their main needs this offseason?

The 2022 NFL Draft has officially kicked off, and the New England Patriots have made their first selection. As the seven rounds progress and the team makes all of their picks, we will provide a live draft grade and analysis for each of the Patriots’ selections. How do these new prospects fit with the roster, what kind of impact will they have on the team, and what do the team’s needs look like now that the draft is complete?

Make sure to continue to check back as the 2022 NFL Draft continues for live New England Patriots draft grades and analysis.

New England Patriots grades for 2022 NFL Draft

What are the Patriots‘ grades for their selections in the 2022 NFL Draft as they look to address their main needs this offseason?

Round 1, Pick 29: Cole Strange, G, Chattanooga

The Patriots managed to start Round 1 on a high note by trading back and acquiring extra picks. But they stacked that move with a very surprising selection at 29th overall: Chattanooga offensive guard Cole Strange. Strange figures to be the replacement for Shaq Mason, who was traded to Tampa Bay earlier in the offseason.

Strange is hands down the most unexpected pick of the first round. But there’s a realistic scenario where the Patriots make this selection worth it. Strange certainly has the tools. At 6’5”, 307 pounds, he’s an elite athlete who registered a 9.95 RAS at the NFL Combine. He also showed resilience at the Senior Bowl. That said, while Strange has high-end upside, he needs to get stronger to hold up against NFL defenders. This is a notable reach. If he develops, it’s worth it, but there’s a way to go.

Grade: D+

Round 2, Pick 50: Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor

The Patriots have made clear so far in the 2022 NFL Draft that they are going by their board and no one else’s. That was emphasized by their first-round pick Cole Strange, and it’s emphasized even more here. With the 50th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots have selected Baylor WR Tyquan Thornton.

Much like Strange, Thornton can easily be worth this pick – and more – at his maximum potential. He stands at 6’2 3/8” and 181 pounds, with arms over 33” long. He also has blazing 4.28 speed, which he can use to get upfield and find space in a flash. Thornton’s long-strider speed is one of his best traits, but he’s more than a simple speed guy. He has great body control and hands at the catch point, and he’s flashed twitchiness as a route runner. He can still refine his route running, and he’s a bit of a reach here. But he’s a stellar talent – and a stellar run blocker to boot.

Grade: C+

Round 3, Pick 85: Marcus Jones, CB, Houston

The Patriots have been drafting to the beat of their own drum so far this weekend. It’s a strategy that’s paid off for New England before, and it could this time around as well. There’s some uncertainty with each pick but also great upside. The same can be said for Houston CB Marcus Jones, who is the Patriots’ selection at 85th overall.

Jones does provide immediate utility as a high-level return man. That likely played a hand in the Patriots’ selection of him. He’s elusive, agile, and explosive in the open field. He plays bigger than his frame on defense, and he has impressive ball skills for his size. At 5’8”, 174 pounds, he’s still severely undersized – that will limit his ceiling on defense. However, some reason can be seen in this pick, even if it’s a reach.

Grade: C

Round 4, Pick 121: Jack Jones, CB, Arizona State

The Patriots took a cornerback in Round 3, selecting Marcus Jones out of Houston. But Jones is just as much a special-teams player for New England, so adding more depth and rotational ability on defense was a must. The Patriots did that here, adding Arizona State cornerback Jack Jones.

Jones feels like a bit of a reach here for New England, but he does have a lot of the traits that the Patriots look for in their cornerbacks. Jones is a bit undersized, standing at 5’11”, 177 pounds, with arms just over 31” long. He also doesn’t have elite long speed. But he is fairly explosive in the short range, with good twitch and matching ability. He’s a feisty competitor whose proven ball production emphasizes his playmaking potential. This is maybe a bit too rich for him, but New England is an environment that can develop him and deliver on his potential.

Grade: B-

Round 4, Pick 127: Pierre Strong Jr., RB South Dakota State

If there’s one thing about the Patriots, it’s that they love to keep a deep, versatile running back rotation. They already have quite a few players in the fold with Rhamondre Stevenson, Damien Harris, and James White. But in Round 4, Pierre Strong Jr. adds a different flavor to the group altogether.

Strong is a fantastic athlete, who builds his running style off of that athleticism. Strong has good size at 5’11”, 207 pounds, and he also has 4.37 speed and a 36” vertical. He’s explosive through lanes but also has searing cutting ability and jittery short-area athleticism. He doesn’t have much contact balance, but his ability to use and extend space could be valuable for the Patriots.

Grade: B+

Round 4, Pick 137: Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky

Maybe Brian Hoyer will be around forever. Maybe he’s immortal. No one knows for sure. But the safe assumption is that, at some point, Hoyer won’t be around in New England anymore. When that time comes, the Patriots will need an able backup.

In Round 4, taking Bailey Zappe to fill that role isn’t a bad decision. There may have been more upside at other positions, particularly cornerback, where the Patriots’ selections haven’t yet inspired completely. Still, Zappe gives some long-term security behind Mac Jones with his pocket navigation, processing, and toughness.

Grade: B-

Round 6, Pick 183: Kevin Harris, RB, South Carolina

If there was such a thing as a 51 personnel – five running backs and one tight end – the Patriots would find a way to use it. They came into the draft with a solid running back rotation. And so far, they’ve picked both Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris on Day 3.

Harris isn’t a bad player and has plenty of redeeming qualities. At 5’10”, 227 pounds, Harris is an extremely dense runner with great contact balance. With his explosiveness, he barrels downhill like a bowling ball. He can certainly add to New England’s RB room, but one can’t help but think that the RB room is already saturated as is.

Grade: C+

Round 6, Pick 200: Sam Roberts, DL, Northwest Missouri State

Sam Roberts won’t be a familiar name for most, but this is quietly a strong pick for the New England Patriots. Roberts was extremely productive at NW Missouri State, with 17.5 sacks and 41 tackles for loss in his final three seasons. Standing at 6’5”, 293 pounds, with 33.5” arms, Roberts has a 30” vertical and 5.14 speed. He’s an elite athlete with a penchant for disruption. In the Patriots’ hybrid-front scheme, he should be used effectively as a pass-rushing catalyst.

Grade: A

Round 6, Pick 210: Chasen Hines, G, LSU

The Patriots have shown they have an eye for offensive line talent in the middle and later rounds. With Chasen Hines, they may have struck gold. At 6’3”, 327 pounds, with 34” arms, Hines is an extremely compact blocker, with the length to assert his will and gain an edge in contact situations.

Hines also moves well in space and can obliterate defenders as a puller. He plays with a baseline physicality that whittles down defenders, and he fits what the Patriots look for in their interior blockers. He’s superb depth right away, but an increased role down the line can’t be ruled out. New England may have been better served adding a tackle, but Hines is a great player.

Grade: A-

Round 7, Pick 245: Andrew Stueber, OT, Michigan

At this point, you’re mainly either looking for depth or upside. Andrew Stueber is a great depth piece right away for the Patriots. He has a load of right tackle experience from his days at Michigan, but he can also play on the interior, which he showcased at the Senior Bowl. Stueber isn’t an elite athlete, but for his size, he has good knee bend and can maintain his leverage. Moreover, he’s shown he can use his hands methodically to negate rushing moves.

Grade: B+

What were the Patriots’ biggest needs entering the draft?

  • CB, WR, S, LB, OT

In the space of six months, the Patriots saw both Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson head out of the door. What was once the strength of the roster is now a major weakness that they must address. At safety, Devin McCourty appears to be playing out his final seasons, so depth is also required there. The departure of Dont’a Hightower has also opened a major need at linebacker.

Wide receiver has been a need for the Patriots for years now. The additions of Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne last offseason did not really move the needle, and neither did the arrival of DeVante Parker this season. At offensive tackle, Trent Brown is back to hold down the right side of the line. However, the future at left tackle is far from certain heading into 2022.

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