NFL draft winners and losers: Patriots baffle everyone

Pretty much no matter what draft grade you want to read about, the New England Patriots finished at or near the bottom. And that’s where the problem begins.

Bill Belichick and the Patriots have been doing things their way for 20 years, probably since they fired attorney Milloy when everyone thought they were crazy. It turned out pretty well for them, resulting in the greatest dynasty in major American professional team sports.

Therefore, each rating comes with a disclaimer. Everybody dislikes the ratings on the Patriots, but… it’s the Patriots. They’re just smarter than everyone else.

But what if they aren’t this time? What if getting to a round or two on almost every pick isn’t the right decision? Tom Brady is no longer there to cover up problems; this is a new age of patriots.

It’s possible all the ratings are correct and this was just a bad draft, just at the time New England needs to move forward.

The Los Angeles Rams laughed at the Patriots’ first-round pick, Tennessee-Chattanooga guard Cole Strange. And if you want to believe the Rams’ reaction was misconstrued, fine, but it reflected the opinion of others. The Patriots traded from No. 21 to No. 29 and took Strange, who wasn’t on anyone’s radar for a first-round pick. Belichick said the Patriots could have carried him to 21st if the team hadn’t changed (“Probably a good chance it was him,” Belichick said). Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton was seen as a reach for at least one round, and if there’s one negative about Belichick that no one can argue with, it’s that he has trouble recruiting receivers.

There’s nothing wrong with being unconventional, but the entire draft seemed to be a scope.

“As a general rule, most of their picks, aside from Marcus Jones, were taken a round higher than we would have liked, and there was repetition (Jack Jones, Bailey Zappe) of pieces they already had on the roster.” Yahoo Sports draft expert Eric Edholm wrote.

There were small school picks and picks that seemed like reach and picks that didn’t seem to fill a need. Of course, the Patriots don’t care what you think about it.

“We try to ignore the noise around here,” Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh said.

This is the Patriots draft, for better or worse. It will largely depend on your own scouting views, what has worked in the past. But it could be the most fascinating draft class of all. Either the Patriots haters are finally getting the laugh at New England or, as is often the case, the Patriots will have the last laugh.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, and Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, right, pose with first-round pick Cole Strange. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Here’s our look back at the NFL draft and the pick of the overall winners and losers:

WINNERS

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens are very, very good in the draft.

They stayed put and got Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton with the 14th pick. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Hamilton ends up having the best career of any player in this draft class. Later in the first round, after trading wide receiver Marquise Brown, they got their starting center, Tyler Linderbaum from Iowa, who slipped a little bit but is a really good player. Second-round pick David Ojabo is a risk because Michigan’s running back is coming off an Achilles tendon injury, but he could hit hard if he recovers. Defensive tackle Travis Jones, a third-round pick, was considered by some to be a borderline first-round pick.

Every pick seemed like a batting practice fastball for the Ravens. They filled needs, they got value, they landed impact players from day one. The Ravens were a good team last season that was decimated by injuries. They’ll be back in contention this season, with a good rookie class to help.

Malik Willis: Willis, the Liberty quarterback many thought would be the best off-the-board quarterback in the NFL draft, might not have been happy to slip into the third round, but it could work out pretty well.

The Tennessee Titans took Willis with the 86th pick. That’s not the worst of it. First-round quarterbacks are expected to play. There isn’t the same pressure on teams to play third-round quarterbacks. Willis has tremendous skills but he will need some time. The Titans aren’t going to displace Ryan Tannehill anytime soon, but he will turn 34 during the season. If Willis comes in and hits it off with the NFL, there could be a clear succession plan without him being under undue pressure to play too soon.

“I’m lucky to have a place to go, a place to call home,” Willis said, via Titans Wire. “I appreciate the opportunity to play at the next level, and I’m ready to come in and work hard and be the best teammate I can be.”

The draft slide had to be frustrating, but Willis finished in a great spot.

Jalen hurts: The quarterback who could have been the biggest winner in the first round was probably Hurts.

A healthy AJ Brown makes any quarterback look better. Hurts is entering a key third season, still not sure if he is the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback of the future, but he has shown some good times. The Eagles made the playoffs last season, and now they have Brown, DeVonta Smith, tight end Dallas Goedert and a solid running game that had the most yards in the NFL in 2021. All of that helps a quarterback .

Hurts has a great opportunity. Brown is going to do better. There is nothing stopping the Eagles from making the playoffs again. With a breakout season, Hurts could establish himself as the Eagles’ starter for the foreseeable future, just as his rookie deal is one year from expiring. He’s in a good spot, and the Eagles could be, too.

LOSERS

Tennessee Titans: Maybe the Titans don’t need anyone on offense besides Derrick Henry. We could find out.

The Titans underestimated AJ Brown and then traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles, saying there was no way they could close the gap on his contract demands. With that, the Titans lost their second-best offensive player.

It could end up looking smart, especially if Treylon Burks has a great career. The Titans took Burks with the first-round pick they got from trading Brown. But a No. 1 seed in the AFC last season, he’s suddenly pretty skinny in the passing game. Burks is physically impressive, but he might need some time to adjust to the NFL game. Robert Woods, acquired from the Los Angeles Rams, is a very good player but he is 30 years old and coming off an ACL.

We’ll see where the titans go from here. But giving up Brown sets them back.

Justin Fields: There’s more than one way to help a quarterback. Writing a good defense to take the pressure off him can help.

But the Bears didn’t go all out to put pieces around Fields before his second season. They had three picks in the top 167 and used the top two on defense. The third pick, wide receiver Velus Jones Jr., could work, but he’s more of a device player than an alpha receiver.

It’s a big year for Fields, and in practical terms he’ll have the same offense around him, but without Allen Robinson II. We’ll see how that goes. You may hear a lot this season about how the Bears haven’t done enough to help Fields develop.

Jet Haters: It’s fun to tell jokes about the New York Jets. Sometimes they make it easy.

But it’s hard to do after this draft. Yes, making three first-round picks will make any team’s draft look better, and it’s not like the Jets haven’t paid for those picks. However, they did well with the picks, being the first four players who should start right away and make an impact: cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson, pass-rusher Jermaine Johnson II and running back Breece Hall. Many would agree that Gardner, Wilson and Hall were the best at their respective positions in this draft class.

The Jets’ draft last year also went deep, and those players should continue to come through this season. Quarterback Zach Wilson’s development is huge and we’ll see how it goes. But the Jets helped him out a bit and improved the roster overall. The AFC East is tough, but the Jets are going strong with a core of young talent. They could be contenders soon.

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