The Patriots Draft Picks Who Could Have the Biggest Impact on Their Title Defense

April 28, 2019 - 10:00 am

When the dust settled, the New England Patriots ended up making 10 selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, five of which came in the top 101. This means they acquired multiple players who have the potential to be Day 1 contributors. This could have ripple effects on the current roster with some veterans potentially needing to look over their shoulder.

Wide receiver N'Keal Harry (first round) and Joejuan Williams (second round) shouldn't impact things too much, but Chase Winovich (third round) could. Winovich is an edge rusher, which means Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis and Trent Harris are by no means locks to make the initial roster. With the selection of running back Damien Harris in Round 3, Rex Burkhead is the player to watch. While the team can keep all the current backs they have, if Harris impresses during the spring and summer, and Burkhead continues to show he's injury prone, there is a chance the Patriots could cut bait at some point because they have depth at the spot unlike last year.

Danny Etling shouldn't feel too great after the selection of quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Both are of the developmental variety, and with the team using a fourth-round pick on Stidham, he should stick around unless he's an absolute disaster. And at that point, there's really no use for Etling, unless the organization feels comfortable with him replacing Brian Hoyer as backup, which is a long shot.

Finally, a punter -- Jake Bailey out of Stanford -- was selected in the fifth round, and that is not great for Ryan Allen, who only re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason. His dead cap is only $100,000, so if Bailey has a strong summer, Allen's roster spot could be in danger.

There are also a few players on the roster who should feel good following the draft, including wide receiver Braxton Berrios and some of the young linebackers who didn't get a chance to play last year due to injury. The Patriots did not draft a slot receiver, and after not signing any free agents, it seems to indicate the organization views Berrios of having a real chance of making the roster after spending last season on injured reserve. By not selecting a linebacker, the same can be said for Ja'Whaun Bentley, Christian Sam and even Elandon Roberts. In Bentley's and Sam's cases, this will essentially be their rookie season after they spent last year on IR.

The players who will make the biggest impacts as rookies may not be the top picks: Winovich and Harris, both selected in the third round. Winovich just seems like the perfect Patriot with the way he plays, and could really help replace the void left by Trey Flowers. Harris could surprise some. He played behind a ton of great backs at Alabama, so didn't see as many carries as some of the other top running backs in the country. The lack of wear and tear on his body could be beneficial to him in the NFL. Though the position has a good amount of depth, both Burkhead and Sony Michel are injury prone, so don't be shocked to see Harris be forced into action at some point and take full advantage.

Looking at the roster following the draft, there still are a few needs, including tight end, defensive tackle and wide receiver. Speaking at his post-draft press conference, director of player personnel Nick Caserio acknowledged there's another phase of team-building over the next few weeks, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see veterans added at these positions, whether it is as free agents or even a trade. Tight end feels like the most pressing need, and one name that comes to mind is Ben Watson.

One of the things that stood out most from Stidham's conference call was how much he knew about the Patriots organization. He mentioned Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Tom Brady, Hoyer and Etling in discussing his top-30 visit to Foxboro. He made a great first impression when he ended the call with, "Awesome, guys. I really appreciate it. Can't wait to get up there and meet all of you individually. Really looking forward to it."

Stidham and Harris played youth football together in Kentucky and now they find themselves back on the same team again in the NFL.

"I was telling somebody last night that we played Pee Wee football together back when we were eight years old, back when we were in Kentucky," Stidham said. "So, I've known Damien for basically my entire life it seems like ,and we've definitely kept in touch, and I've obviously played him the last couple of years. It's funny, as soon as I get off this call, I'm actually going to give him a shout and tell him how excited I am to play with him again. Life always comes full circle, and to be with the very first year of tackle football playing with Damien and now we're both New England Patriots, it's going to be a lot of fun."

The first real chance to see the rookies, along with the entire 2019 Patriots, will come at OTAs at the end of May. The first session the media has access to is May 23. The next access will come at mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 4-6, and then a final OTA session on June 10. Phase 2 of the voluntary offseason workout program begins Monday, but the media is not present until OTAs.

By Ryan Hannable