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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Reviewing the Patriots’ 2022 draft class

Tyquan+Thornton+catches+a+football+for+Baylor+University.
Bianca Oppedisano
Tyquan Thornton catches a football for Baylor University. Illustration by Bianca Oppedisano / Mass Media Staff

When the news broke, Los Angeles Rams General Manager Les Snead and Head Coach Sean McVay were doing a live stream of the 2022 NFL draft. The defending Super Bowl champions didn’t have a first-round pick, having traded it to Detroit to get quarterback Matthew Stafford, which paid off for them in a big way. The New England Patriots had the 21st overall pick in the draft but traded with Kansas City down to 29. Many Patriots fans had to have hoped that they would pick an instant impact player for their team: a wide receiver to help young quarterback Mac Jones’s development, a playmaking linebacker, or a number one cover cornerback. Instead, the Patriots went with…guard Cole Strange out of Chattanooga. Snead and McVay were stunned. McVay chimed in on the live stream, “And we wasted our time watching him thinking he’d be available at 104!”—the 104th pick in the draft being the Rams’ first selection—and the gathered visitors at the Rams’ draft party erupted in a hearty laugh. McVay and Snead were not alone in being puzzled by Head Coach, de facto General Manager Bill Belichick’s selection of Strange in the first round. Most NFL Draft prognosticators pegged Strange as a third or fourth rounder at best, and probably still would have been available when the Patriots picked then. But Belichick’s “big board” is not the same as everyone else’s and he saw a need for a guard, especially after trading Shaq Mason to Tampa Bay. But one has to wonder if it was truly the right pick to make there. The modern NFL is less based around tough interior linemen like Strange, and more about explosive players around the perimeter—edge rushers, wide receivers, cornerbacks.
The Patriots did get a little bit of said explosiveness in the second round when they picked Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton in round two. Like Strange, Thornton was picked way above where most scouts predicted he would be, but still has desirable traits in a wide receiver. His speed is certainly above average, completing the 100-meter dash at the NFL scouting combine in 4.28 seconds. Thornton may provide some burst and quickness to New England’s wide receiving corps, but Pats fans would be well to remember another speedster prospect who didn’t quite pan out. Bethel Johnson was a second-round draft pick out of Texas A&M in 2003, and he wowed NFL scouts with his 4.26-second 40 time. But Johnson never quite caught on in the pros, with just 405 total receiving yards in three seasons in Foxborough before he was cut following the 2006 season.
The Patriots also addressed the cornerback position with third rounder Marcus Jones out of Houston and fourth rounder Jack Jones out of Arizona State. Corner was a huge area of need for the Patriots this offseason, especially after JC Jackson left in free agency. The Pats partially addressed the position by bringing back former Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler out of retirement. Marcus Jones split cornerback, kick-returning and wide receiver duties at Houston, and performed his various duties so well in 2021 that he won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player. Jack Jones had a bit of a bumpy ride to the pros, beginning his college career at USC but leaving due to academic and disciplinary problems before transferring to ASU. Jones received honorable mention all-conference honors in 2021.

About the Contributors
Jack Sherman, Sports Writer
Bianca Oppedisano, Illustrator