New England Patriots: How 2018 draft gaffes is still haunting team

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball during the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball during the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

It’s time to revisit the New England Patriots first round in the 2018 NFL draft and evaluate just how bad that draft has been in retrospect with the team reeling after jettisoning Tom Brady.

The wheels are falling off the once-feared Patriots and were, even before the unfortunate injury to second-year quarterback Mac Jones. If Jones indeed has a high ankle sprain, he’s likely to be out for many weeks if not months. It’s a tough injury to overcome. It demands rest and lots of it.

With only veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer and rookie Bailey Zappe available, things don’t look rosy this season now at all. Expect a losing season.

But the roots of the team’s fall from the pinnacle of the NFL to now also-ran status can also be traced at least partially to two fateful decisions in the first round of the 2018 draft.

The results of two massive draft gaffes were on clear display against the Baltimore Ravens in game three. The Patriots passed twice on the tremendous Lamar Jackson, and the rest, as they say, is history.

New England Patriots blew the 2018 draft in its very first round

In 2018, the Patriots were sitting pretty with two first-round draft picks at their disposal in picks 23 and 31. They were still a Super Bowl-ready team then with Tom Brady at the helm and could have either strengthened an already fearsome team with solid drafting or, even more importantly, set the team up for the future.

The Brady situation was central to this entire discussion. Things weren’t rosy for the all-time best evidently and in retrospect, the seeds of his leaving the team were germinating. It was after the 2018 season that the Pats and Brady mutually consented to his taking flight from Foxborough.

That happened immediately when owner Robert Kraft and head football guy Bill Belichick agreed to a contract extension with Brady that did not include a franchise tag after 2018. He was gone right then and there.

With this in the future at the time of the 2018 NFL draft, it can easily be assumed, and it is here, that Belichick and company were disposed to let Brady go at some point, and probably relatively soon. That’s where the 2018 draft comes in.

The New England Patriots failed to prepare for Brady’s departure

In light of the deteriorating Brady situation, the team had a golden opportunity to prepare for his departure two seasons later by grooming his successor. They had the means with the two first-round picks, and the motive, with their looking to inexplicably move on from the still great Brady.  As fate would have it, on two occasions in that fateful first round they also had the opportunity.

Here’s where one of the all-time Patriots draft gaffes occurred. A spectacular Louisville running quarterback was available that season, Lamar Jackson. Inexplicably and quite fortunately for the Patriots, he was available to them at pick number 23. They should have taken him right then and there. Instead, they took offensive tackle, Isaiah Wynn.

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Wynn was a solid college offensive left tackle but he was never well-suited with his small guard/center-like size to play out on the island known as an offensive left tackle in the pros. Nevertheless, the team chose him instead of Jackson at 23. That was gaffe number one.

Yet, as fate would have it, sitting at pick 31 somehow unexpectedly, ridiculously fortunately really, Jackson somehow slid to the New England Patriots at pick number 31. This observer can remember anxiously thinking, “take Jackson. Take Jackson …” in the minutes before the team selected … Sony Michel.

That was gaffe number two and probably even worse. Fate smiled on Bill Belichick and the Patriots and they grimaced right back at it. Wynn has been mediocre at best and Michel was traded for a sixth-round pick. It was very little return and lots of “what might have been”.

Why bring this sore spot up now? Because the extent of these gross errors in judgment was on total display against Baltimore when Jackson sliced and diced the Patriots’ previously decent defense to shreds both with his feet and with his supposedly suspect arm.

Good and great teams are molded in the off-seasons through the draft and deft free-agency moves. In both areas, the Patriots have largely been deficient the past five or six years. Even Mr. Kraft himself has criticized the Patriots drafting.

dark. Next. New England Patriots: Turnovers wreck team in loss to Ravens

The results of the 2018 draft were painfully evident against the quarterback who should have been wearing the red, white, blue, and silver jersey yesterday but who instead wore white, purple, and black, Lamar Jackson.

And to make it even worse, Jackson, in his fifth season, won’t turn 26 until January. Some mistakes just keep on hurting, and hurting, and hurting. These were two of the worst ever by the Patriots.