The draft always brings optimism and that has certainly been the case this week in Foxborough. The Patriots selected 10 players in their recently completed draft and many of them were household names from major programs many fans are familiar with.
Therefore the reaction locally among New England fans has not surprisingly been overwhelmingly positive. The Patriots entered the weekend with most people feeling the team’s top three needs in some order were wide receiver, tight end and edge rusher. Bill Belichick and his staff then went out and used two of his first three picks on two of those three positions, with only tight end missing.
So, as N’Keal Harry and the rest of the class get set to begin their Patriots careers, it seems like a good time to look at the class and use it as the basis for our weekly debate. This week’s Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Which Patriots draft pick are you most excited about?
PFW’s Erik Scalavino says …
It may not have been the highest of perceived priorities for New England this offseason but cornerback was targeted by the Patriots with their second pick. Why? Probably because 6-4 athletes like Joejuan Williams are rare indeed at that position.
More and more teams are featuring tall receivers and tight ends who are playmakers in the passing game, so, there’s a need for defenders who are able to compete against those kinds of weapons. Williams could be just such a defender, given his physical gifts.
The Patriots haven’t had a cornerback this tall since Brandon Browner in 2014, when Browner and Darrelle Revis helped the Patriots secondary become a strength of that eventual Super Bowl champion squad. With Stephon Gilmore now the No. 1 corner and 2018 undrafted rookie J.C. Jackson showing promise as an occasional starter last season, the Patriots have the makings of another strong defensive backfield.
Williams is young and will need time to learn this Patriots defense, but if he is able to integrate himself into the secondary rotation, he could become a valuable component to this team.
PFW’s Paul Perillo says …
Most Patriots fans felt wide receiver was among the team’s top needs entering the draft, and Bill Belichick picked the second one off the board in the first round. N’Keal Harry has the size and strength to make an impact in the NFL, and the idea of him catching passes from Tom Brady is exciting.
Harry is a physical receiver who can play outside the numbers as well as in the slot. He provides a badly needed option in the passing game, and based on his college tape he excels at catching the kinds of back shoulder throws that Brady relies on.
Even the one knock on Harry – his struggles to gain separation – aren’t as concerning to me because of Brady. His accuracy will put the ball in places where Harry’s strong hands can grab it and I expect him to be a big part of the offense immediately as a rookie.
Every once in a while Belichick looks at things the same way we do, and this was one of those times. Harry is the Patriots most exciting first-round pick in years.