It’s not often the New England Patriots can look back on something and say they’ve got it wrong — especially when it comes to the NFL Draft.
After all, this is the team that got Tom Brady in the sixth round, Rob Gronkowski in the second round, and has had an undrafted rookie on the team for 15 consecutive seasons.
But over the years, the Patriots have had a few flops and mistakes, rarely in the first round. But in 2018, the Patriots got it totally wrong and they learned that in a Sunday night defeat to the Baltimore Ravens.
Lamar Jackson, a Heisman Trophy winner, a generational talent, and someone who has redefined the quarterback position since entering the league was left unpicked for most of the first round. That was until Baltimore took him 32nd overall.
The Patriots had two picks, two chances to take Jackson who would have easily been their quarterback of the future and would have left New England in a position to maintain its dynastic run for years to come. Instead, the Patriots took Isaiah Wynn, who has only played in two games over his first two seasons, and Sony Michel who has proven less inclined to be a feature running back by the week.
Brady’s Days Are Numbered
With Brady set to become a free agent after the 2019 season, there’s a chance the legendary quarterback either retires or plays elsewhere next year. It’s hard to imagine a Patriots team without Brady under center.
But Lamar Jackson would have been a tremendous asset to replace Brady when he retires. New England has cycled through some quality backups in recent years, developing Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett into bona fide starters and elite starting quarterbacks. With Jackson already a step ahead of both, his transition in New England would’ve been seamless.
The Patriots have drafted a pair of quarterbacks in the last two seasons — Danny Etling, who was cut, and Jarrett Stidham, who remains Brady’s backup. If Stidham really is to be the next Patriots’ quarterback, New England still could be in good hands, but he’s no Lamar Jackson that’s for sure.
Lack of Production from the Georgia Boys
Statistically and considering the future, the Patriots should have taken Lamar Jackson in the 2018 Draft, yet somehow a no-brainer escaped Belichick’s mind. However, it‘s not like the Patriots didn’t address key positions in the 2018 Draft.
New England had just lost long-time left tackle Nate Solder in free agency and opted to take Isaiah Wynn, an undersized, athletic tackle who thoroughly impressed at Georgia. If he had stayed healthy, there’s no doubt Wynn would have made an impact in New England by now.
But that’s the issue: he has only been healthy for one full game and was pulled from his second-career start. This came after he missed his entire rookie season with a torn Achilles. Hard luck for a guy who was expected to immediately anchor the Patriots’ offensive line.
Eight picks later, New England took Sony Michel, Wynn’s college teammate. Michel had a strong rookie season, narrowly missing 1,000 rushing yards partially because of a mid-season injury. In the playoffs, he showed glimpses of being a budding star.
Those glimpses all but faded in 2019. Through nine weeks, the Patriots are still waiting for Michel to get going. His other college teammate, Cleveland RB Nick Chubb, has become one of the league’s top backs and he was taken four picks later.
Michel has 1,413 career rushing yards while Jackson is close behind with 1,332. This season, Jackson has 637 rushing yards while Michel has just 492. Obviously, things would be different with Jackson not getting the playing time in New England, but he would be phased into the offense with his skill set and athleticism.
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