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Rookie Report Card: How Are Patriots’ Top 2022 Draft Picks Performing In Their First NFL Seaso

“In the end, if you want a good, consistent, winning football team, you can’t do it in free agency. You have to do it through the draft because that’s when you get people of great talent.” – Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots

The Patriots 20-year dynasty that famously accumulated six rings was possible because of one off-season activity: the NFL Draft. Bill Belichick knows better than anyone that the NFL Draft is far more important than anything Free Agency has to offer. The NFL Draft is where you invest in youth, talent, and success without expending tens-of-millions.

That information then begs the question: How has the 2022 Draft gone for the Patriots so far? How have the top Patriots draft picks from the most recent NFL Draft panned out for New England? In this piece, I will be talking about how the Patriots draft picks from the first three rounds (Cole Strange, Tyquan Thornton, and Marcus Jones) have done in the first-half of the NFL season.


Round One: Guard Cole Strange

Grade: A+

The Patriots selecting Cole Strange in the first round (literally) earned laughs from Super Bowl-winning coach of the Rams, Sean McVay. Considering the Los Angeles Rams now have one of the worst offensive lines in football, it is pretty clear who had the last laugh.

Up to this point, Cole Strange has been nothing short of phenomenal. He has played in 98% of the offensive snaps up to this point, and barring an injury, he may not sit out another offensive snap for the rest of the season. There are many to choose from, but my favorite moment from him this season was his performance against Steelers’ veteran pass rusher Cam Heyward.


I clearly remember when we were clowned for taking Cole Strange in the first round. This is *ROOKIE* Cole Strange agains the Steelers today.pic.twitter.com/rK8sa9mXiy — Pierce J. Downey (@patsdowney) September 19, 2022

Strange has not been completely perfect. In the Patriots’ wacky win last Sunday against the Jets, Cole Strange had his worst career game. Strange had a bundle of holding calls against him and was a participant in a drastically underperforming offensive line.

Regardless of the Week Eight fluke, Strange has been good in every blocking combination imaginable. His work in the guard position has not gone unnoticed. Belichick did a great job with this pick.

Round Two: Tyquan Thornton

Grade: B+

Every Massachusetts resident was pumped to see Baylor receiver Tyquan Thornton head up to Foxboro and play for the Patriots. Thornton possesses truly generational speed with a 4.28 40-yard dash time, but he was unfortunately held back from playing for the first few months due to a collarbone injury suffered in the preseason.

After coming off of IR, Thornton made an underwhelming NFL debut against the Lions, accumulating seven yards off of three targets and two receptions. His talents were not properly involved in the Patriots’ offensive scheme, and he seemed to be on the latter parts of Zappe’s reads.

In the subsequent week against the Cleveland Browns, the Patriots coaches decided to involve Thornton more in the offensive game plan. Thornton scored two total touchdowns, one coming off of a jet sweep and the other coming on a goal-line pass.


Bailey Zappe ➡️ Tyquan Thornton ➡️ Touchdown. First career touchdown for Thornton. pic.twitter.com/p5HlMR17t7 — Pats Buzz (@PatsBuzz) October 16, 2022

Tyquan Thornton has been relatively quiet since his domination in Cleveland, but I still think that he has the capacity to be an important weapon for the New England Patriots. I didn’t give him an ‘A’ because I haven’t seen many signs of him being the downfield speed threat that was advertised. As he gains more chemistry with recently-returned Mac Jones and becomes more familiar with the speed of the NFL, he’ll be a wonderful player and another good draft pick under Belichick’s belt.

Round Three: Marcus Jones

Grade: A

For a third-round rookie, Marcus Jones has met every expectation set for him. Much like his domination in college, Jones offers versatility and quickness to the Patriots roster.

Marcus Jones has seen a slim margin of the defensive plays at cornerback–only playing 15% of the available snaps–but has seen an increase in special teams snaps as the kick returner in recent weeks as a replacement for Myles Bryant. He hasn’t statically brought much, but if you are a Patriots fan who pays attention to the little details, you definitely know who Marcus Jones is because of his minor, yet impactful contributions. Against the Jets, his punt returning prowess was on display as well with a couple really nice returns.


✨ Marcus Jones appreciation post ✨ pic.twitter.com/YvllXlJ30I — Boston Cream 🍩 (@itsbostoncream) October 21, 2022

Marcus Jones was awarded the Paul Hornung award in college–given to the most versatile player in college football. If the Patriots have half a clue, Jones will see snaps on several sides of the ball.

Conclusion

Draft picks take several years to completely pan out. The fact that the Patriots 2022 picks have been excellent is a cause for happiness, but it is not a cause to prematurely react. The coaching staff needs to prioritize development and complete understanding within the rookies before more steps are taken.

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