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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cameron Garrity

Reassessing Patriots’ 2019 Draft Class: What Went Wrong?

In the 2019 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots held the 32nd overall draft selection after winning Super Bowl 53 over the Los Angeles Rams. At the time of the draft, Tom Brady just won his sixth Super Bowl, yet the Patriots had aging receivers and an aging defense.

Coach Bill Belichick was tasked with adding some youthful weapons around Brady, while also injecting youth into the defense that just held the Rams to three points.

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At pick No. 32, Bill Belichick surprised us all, with multiple talented players on the board—a typical Belichickian move.

Round 1, Pick #32 - N'Keal Harry WR

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The Patriots selected WR N’Keal Harry out of Arizona State University. At the time, this was a bold move for Bill Belichick as a lot of the league knew he disdained taking skill positions in the first round.

Harry was supposed to be what DeVante Parker is, a contested-catch deep threat, but he could never put it together or stay healthy enough to do it. He lacked true separation and in 2022 was shipped to Chicago for a late-round draft selection.

Round 2, Pick #45 - Joejuan Williams CB

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The Patriots used their next selection (pick No. 45) on Joejuan Williams with hope he would become a big-bodied corner similar to Brandon Browner. Williams never could crack the starting lineup and instead became a niche corner, tasked with covering tight ends.

But as time went on, many saw Williams fail to produce. In 2022, it was expected he would be cut during camp, but he suffered a shoulder injury that would end his season, which was his last under contract in New England.

Round 3, Pick #77 - Chase Winovich EDGE

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With their next selection, New England took successful pass rusher, Chase Winovich at No. 77. Winovich immediately showed promise but otherwise failed to find consistent playing time on the EDGE due to his lack of prowess in the run game, along with his freestyling tendencies, which didn’t sit well with Belichick.

He would also be moved in 2022, as he was traded earlier in the offseason for speedy linebacker Mack Wilson Sr. from the Cleveland Browns.

Round 3, Pick #87 - Damien Harris RB

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It took all the way to pick No. 87 for the Patriots to find some value in this draft, when they selected RB Damien Harris out of Alabama. Harris redshirted his first season but has since been a productive running back.

However, 2022 is the last year for Damien Harris under contract, and in New England, they are not fond of giving running backs a second deal unless they’re a pass-catching, third-down back. So there is a chance that Harris walks in free agency after his tenure in New England.

Round 3, Pick #101 - Yodny Cajuste OT

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At pick No. 101, the Patriots selected OT Yodny Cajuste out of West Virgnia, but he has struggled to find the field in New England due to injuries in each of his first three seasons. He has only suited up for seven games, which occurred in 2021.

The jury is still out on Cajuste, but he has had a solid camp thus far and has remained healthy. So at bare minimum, he has the chance to become a depth lineman for the 2022 Patriots

Round 4, Pick #118 - Hjalte Froholdt OL

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At pick No. 118, New England double-dipped at offensive line when they selected Hjalte Froholdt. Froholdt was placed on IR in training camp and was activated after the 2020 season. He was then released after only eight games with the team that selected him in 2019. To make things worse, the Patriots traded their second-rounder, which turned out to be DK Metcalf, for Froholdt and Chase Winovich during the draft.

Round 4, Pick #133 - Jarrett Stidham QB

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At No. 133, New England took promising QB Jarrett Stidham to serve as the backup to Tom Brady and eventual replacement. Stidham would never take over starting duties for Brady while he was a Patriot, barring injury. But when Brady left for Tampa, Stidham has multiple opportunities to take leaps and win the job, but he could never manage to consistently find the field. The Patriots traded him to Las Vegas this offseason.

Round 5, Pick #159 - Byron Cowart DL

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At pick No. 159, Byron Cowart was selected to help stop the run in New England. But after only 19 games through 2019-2020, he couldn’t stay healthy and was subsequently released in 2022 and signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

Round 5, Pick #163 - Jake Bailey P

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At pick No. 163, the Patriots shocked everyone and selected their star punter, Jake Bailey. Bailey has been the best player of those selected in the Patriots’ 2019 draft class and has recently signed an extension that would make him one of the league’s top-paid punters. He may end up being the only player on the Patriots roster from the 2019 draft class after this year’s camp.

Round 7, Pick #252 - Ken Webster DB

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At the final selection, pick No. 252, New England selected CB Ken Webster out of Mississippi, but Webster never made the roster, as he was cut with the intention of signing to the practice squad after camp, before the Miami Dolphins swooped in and claimed him. He is currently a free agent after spending some time with the San Francisco 49ers before being waived by the team in 2021.

UDFA Spotlight: Jakobi Meyers

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The lone bright spot for 2019 didn’t come through the draft, but when they signed current WR Jakboi Meyers as an undrafted free agent out of NC State. However, the Patriots have had one of the worst drafts in recent memory in 2019.

The fact that only one player may be left is concerning as the majority of the league relies on the NFL Draft and UDFA market to fill out their depth and develop players. Bad drafts are one thing, but the Patriots may have also lacked in player development.

Another major issue not a lot of people seem to mention is that this draft was right in the middle of the Tom Brady drama of 2019, where he ultimately left for Tampa in 2020. This major distraction could have been the root, as I am sure anyone would admit having Tom Brady changes how you approach the offseason.

The big concern

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New England has always been known for taking high upside players with injury or character concerns to hopefully develop into a cost-effective piece, rather than taking talent in position of need. In 2020 and 2021, it was very hard due to COVID for scouting to be consistent with years past.

So although New England tried to get back to the draft strategies of taking the best talent and finding where they fit later, it was hard to evaluate just what they were getting. So in 2020, Kyle Dugger was taken out of a Division II football program with the Patriots’ first selection (No. 37)

A glimmer of hope

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Since 2019, New England has surely hit on some young talent like Mike Onwenu, Kyle Dugger, Christian Barmore, Joshuah Bledsoe, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings and especially Mac Jones. We will see soon if the 2020 and 2021 drafts are more in line with past New England drafts or if it was more like 2019 in just a few weeks. 2022 is a huge year for all of these players but especially the scouting and development teams.

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