The New England Patriots entered the night in a unique position, holding the 23rd and 31st picks in the NFL Draft. With their history of maneuvering selections, many expected the Patriots to trade one of or both of the picks. When it came time for the Patriots to make their selections, they stayed put and added two former Georgia Bulldogs to their offense. Offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel are both players who shined brightly during the Bulldogs’ run to the National Championship game, and who will add versatility and youth to the Patriots’ offense.
Isaiah Wynn – When the Patriots lost long time anchor Nate Solder in free agency, they had an obvious need along the offensive line. Rookie third round pick Antonio Garcia missed last season with health complications, and lost weight as a result. With his health, weight, and conditioning uncertain for the upcoming season, the Patriots needed to add a starting caliber offensive lineman to their depth chart. With Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason cemented at guard, David Andrews at center, and the return of former all-pro Marcus Cannon at right tackle, a player with experience at left tackle was necessary.
Enter Isaiah Wynn.
Despite not possessing traditional size for a left tackle (6’2 3/4″, 313 pounds with an arm length in only the 19 %tile compared to offensive tackles), Wynn is a natural at the position with his mobility, power, and pass protection technique. Wynn has clean, seamless footwork for his balanced frame, and combines that with proper hand placement and the ability to anchor against power rushes. As a run blocker, Wynn offers great hat placement and the agility to climb to the second level. He is consistently finishing blocks through the whistle with his ability to drive defenders off the spot.
Wynn has few weaknesses as a lineman, but his lack of length could limit him as a pass protector. With experience playing tackle and guard throughout college, if this poses a consistent problem Wynn could be a candidate to take over the right guard position with Shaq Mason entering a contract year.
Sony Michel – With the departure of Dion Lewis, New England saw running back as a large enough need to take fellow Bulldog Sony Michel with the 31st pick. Michel fits the mold of a Patriot: a versatile player without much wear and tear on his legs and a two-year captain at Georgia.
As a ball carrier, Michel is a downhill runner with good vision and vertical elusiveness. He possesses a solid frame at 214 pounds, and is able to fight off potential tacklers with his strong lower body and seamless, explosive cuts. Michel has the combination of pass catching prowess and pass protection that the Patriots covet in their third-down running backs. While Michel projects into a larger role than that, his versatility and pass catching ability will be valuable assets in the Patriots’ offensive system.
Michel has an apparent bone condition in his knee, but it has yet to hinder him as an athlete. Eagles running back Jay Ajayi has a similar condition, and has had a productive career through three seasons. Michel was never the bell-cow running back at Georgia, and comes into the NFL without much wear and tear on his body as a result. Additionally, being a first round pick with New England having the ability to have him under contract for 5 seasons, the Patriots are apparently willing to look past the condition.
What Could Have Been – While the Patriots hit an obvious need with their first selection, the argument could be made that they reached for Michel at pick 31. With Derrius Guice and Ronald Jones still available, there’s a chance they could have gotten an equally, if not more, talented runner at pick 43. With Boston College EDGE product Harold Landry still on the board when they selected at pick 31, there was a chance to take an immediate contributor to the pass rush. Despite having personnel present at Landry’s pro day, New England decided to look elsewhere from the best pure pass rusher in the class. They will look to add pieces to their defense on day 2, as well as a potential heir to Tom Brady at quarterback.