Positive Potential Impact of 2022 Draftees In Their First Season

July 31, 2022
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The Patriots had an interesting 2022 draft class, but many could make an impact right away. We made ten picks, and several were surprising. So now I will rank them based on their likely impact during their rookie years and ONLY their rookie seasons. I will also assume that all ten players make the team (which has happened just once in the past eight years for us).

Patriots Draft Picks

ROUND (PICK)PLAYERSPOSITIONSCHOOL
1 (29)Cole StrangeIOLUT-Chattanooga
2 (50)Tyquan ThorntonWRBaylor
3 (85)Marcus JonesCBHouston
4 (121)Jack JonesCBArizona State
4 (127)Pierre StrongRBSouth Dakota State
4 (137)Bailey ZappeQBWestern Kentucky
6 (183)Kevin HarrisRBSouth Carolina
6 (200)Sam RobertsDTNW Missouri State University
6 (210)Chasen HinesCLSU
7 (245)Andrew StueberOTMichigan

Ranking The Players By Impact

Ten: Bailey Zappe: Fourth Round, 137th Pick (Quarterback, Western Kentucky)

The exciting draft choice for us was drafting a quarterback in the fourth round while having a QB who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last season. He is also behind Brian Hoyer on the depth chart, so he would likely come ahead of Zappe.

Zappe does have a lot of talent, as he broke the FBS record for yards and touchdowns last season with 5,967 yards and 62 touchdowns. There could be a scenario where Hoyer has left, Jones gets hurt for a few weeks, Zappe plays well, and a team gives us a better draft pick than we used on him. This is the only real scenario I can see this working out for us.

It is doubtful he gets any game time this season besides possibly a little mop-up duty late in a blowout, and this may be true for as long as he is a Patriot.

Nine: Chasen Hines: Sixth Round, 210th Pick (Center, LSU)

Hines could be an outstanding player in the future but likely will need some time to develop, and he will almost certainly be given that time (if he makes the team). However, his size (6’3″, 349 pounds) could allow him to make an impact on special teams as a block in the kick return game and on field goals/punts.

He is currently listed as the third-string right guard on the depth chart, which shows that on the negative side, he will get very little game time, but on the positive side, Belichick is trying to get him familiar with a new position to help him see the field.

Eight: Andrew Stueber Seventh Round, 245th Pick (Offensive Tackle, Michigan)

Another offensive lineman who could work out long-term but likely will not make a real impact outside of special teams is Andrew Stueber. He is ranked above Hines because he was regarded as an elite lineman in college (Second Team All-American) and is an offensive tackle rather than a center (two tackles vs. one center).

He is currently listed as the third-string right tackle and will almost certainly play on special teams if he makes the roster. He’s 6’6″, 323-pound frame could help block on special teams. Still, he may only positively impact the kick protection team as his explosion and agility were below average according to his pro-day measurements.

Seven: Kevin Harris: Sixth Round, 183rd Pick (Running Back, South Carolina)

Harris has a lot of talent but is currently not even listed on the depth chart. He also has no experience returning kicks or punts, which could limit his impact this season. However, I feel he could move up the depth chart with a good preseason, and the running back position sees a lot of injuries and inconsistency from year to year.

He ran for 1,138 yards and 15 touchdowns in the shortened ten-game 2020 season, ranking second in the SEC behind only Najee Harris (who ran for 1,200 yards his rookie year). He is a bruising back who could be the valuable short yardage back if Damien Harris gets hurt.

Six: Sam Roberts: Sixth Round, 200th Pick (Defensive End, Northwest Missouri State)

Roberts could make a surprising impact this season and is already listed as the second-string right defensive end, which is a promising start for a late-round pick. He could also be a key player on special teams if he cannot earn a significant role in the defense. However, it may be a good idea to have him develop a bit before jumping into the defense due to Roberts not needing to worry as much about fundamentals in college. In addition, he likely had a considerable talent edge over opponents at a D2 school.

He did play at a D2 school, so he has not faced anywhere near the top level of competition, but he did get 18 TFLs and 6.5 sacks last season while winning the Cliff Harris Award for small college defensive player of the year.

He is also a lifelong Patriots fan and was a massive fan of Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork, so this could be a positive, motivating factor and makes for a fantastic story.

Five: Pierre Strong: Fourth Round, 127th Pick (Running Back, South Dakota State)

Strong should make some impact in the run game this season, even if he is currently listed fourth on the depth chart, as Belichick likes to spread carries around a bit. He had 1,000+ rushing yards in all three seasons he played (although it was at the FCS level). He led the FCS in 2021 with 1,686 rushing yards.

He could be a significant big-play threat with ten 50+ yard touchdowns in college. However, I would think about using his speed in the passing game more, possibly as a slot receiver, as he has shown the ability to get separation in the passing game.

Four: Jack Jones: Fourth Round, 121st Pick (Defensive Back, Arizona State)

Jones an excellent defensive back at Arizona State with ten career interceptions. Belichick has spoken extremely highly of him, saying he played in a pro system with a lot of pro coaching. His college experience will help him adjust to the NFL and get him on the field faster. He also had an outstanding minicamp which will positively impact his playing time.

He is not listed on the depth chart as of now, which is concerning but could be fixed by the start of preseason games, and he could potentially be a nickel or dime back this season. However, if he fails to play a critical role in the defense, he will still impact special teams and has blocked several kicks while in college and returned punts at ASU.

Three: Marcus Jones: Third Round, 85th Pick (Cornerback, Houston)

Tyquan Thornton could be an impact rookie

His versatility can create an enormous impact as he won the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile FBS player. He was a Second Team All-AAC cornerback, ranking fourth in the FBS with five picks and ninth with 13 pass breakups. He won the Hornung Award because of his returning ability.

He should be our kick and punt returner this season (he is not listed as the top kick or punt returner). He averaged 28.4 yards per kick return with six touchdowns (34.0 yards per kick return in 2021) and 14.0 yards per punt return with three TDs. This is a game-changing ability that could help us win a game or two that we really shouldn’t

He could also quickly impact defense in a nickel or dime back role. He is currently listed as the third-string right cornerback, and his speed could benefit defense against speedy receivers like Tyreek Hill.

Two: Tyquan Thornton: Second Round, 50th Pick (Wide Receiver, Baylor)

Controversial selection as he was projected to be a third or fourth-round pick (although reports have come out that other teams were interested in drafting him in the second round). He was on draft boards because of his speed and explosiveness (4.28 seconds 40 times).

Thornton has a nose for the end zone and scored ten touchdowns on just 62 catches. His speed and ability to create separation 15.3 yards per catch last season are a big reason he scored ten touchdowns despite his slight frame.

Size may be an issue for him as he is 6’2″ but only 181 pounds. As a result, he likely will have problems matching up against physical corners (although his speed will mitigate that).

One: Cole Strange: First Round, 29th Pick (Guard, Chattanooga)

The most controversial pick in the NFL draft was projected to be a third or fourth-round pick (Sean McVay said he was thinking about getting him in the fourth round). Strange was a very defensible pick if you ignore mock drafts and look at skills and potential.

He is a stellar athlete (the sixth most athletic guard measured by the Relative Athletic Score (RAS) since 1987). This athleticism will be especially useful for running blocking as he can get to the second level and make more effective blocks. He also has five years of college starting experience and is regarded as a hard-working and intelligent player.

He lacks experience against top-level D-linemen in college (he played at an FCS school) while also being lighter than the average guard (307 pounds vs. 320 pounds). However, his positive attributes will likely outweigh these concerns, and he should make a significant impact in his rookie year.

Check out my article on Cole Strange for more!

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