The New England Patriots selected highly-regarded Oregon cornerback, Christian Gonzalez in the first round of the NFL draft. He went at pick No. 17 after the Patriots had traded out of pick 14, foregoing drafting offensive left tackle Broderick Jones there in the process.
Not selecting Jones or trading back once or twice more and still landing a solid player were the opportunity costs of not taking Gonzalez. Nonetheless, this is an acknowledged consensus player at a position of need for the Patriots and they aced the selection getting an A grade here.
So what about this pick could possibly be risky? Other than the risk inherent in selecting any player in the draft at any pick number, there are still inherent risks for this team with this player.
New England Patriots have flopped drafting cornerbacks high up
The downside of this pick is absolutely mitigated by the noted consensus view of the player in the general NFL community and is specific to the New England Patriots’ drafting history.
The Patriots have been atrocious in drafting cornerbacks for years now. Gonzalez is the first in the first round in ages. Yet, over recent past years under Bill Belichick, a number of second-round cornerbacks have totally flopped.
They have been proven to be incapable of drafting a cornerback high up in the draft who can actually play in the NFL. The names include Joejuan Williams in 2019; Duke Dawson in 2018; Cyrus Jones in 2016; and a safety type, Jordan Richards in 2015. None could play.
Without question, the New England Patriots have a poor track record drafting cornerbacks high up in the draft. Will Gonzalez be the next in that long line of high-pick flops? That should give pause in the evaluation of this pick.
The team’s track record dictated that it should forego cornerback and wide receiver with its first two picks because of its dismal track record on each.
Ironically, they have been masterful at signing undrafted free-agent cornerbacks (e.g. J.C. Jackson, Malcolm Butler, and Jonathan Jones) who shined. They decided to roll with Gonzalez nonetheless. The possibility of failure is inherent, but Gonzalez’ pedigree makes it far less likely.
New England Patriots need to win this pick and this draft
This is a pivotal draft for the New England Patriots. They need a great draft to be in the picture in the improving and ever more dangerous AFC East.
Add Aaron Rodgers to the mix in New York, and the Patriots are right now looking up at all three divisional rivals. It was suggested here that adding edge player, Lukas Van Ness would have been an alternative strategy to going offense high up. He was an exception to the rule.
The New England Patriots need offensive help more than anything else. The priority should probably have been placed there. By passing on Broderick Jones, a consensus top offensive left tackle, the team eschewed adding a left tackle who may be a 10-year starter.
While Gonzalez also fills a clear need, cornerback and wide receiver should have been secondary to bringing in a top offensive tackle like Jones.
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The team if it does not draft a tackle early will go into the season, with 30-year-old Trent Brown at left tackle and 34-year-old Riley Reiff at right tackle. That’s not optimal and there is no quality depth behind them.
It will be a strategic blunder and injuries to older players being what they are, will likely consign the team to the AFC East basement. We’ll see if the team goes right after a top tackle (or two) on days two and three of the draft.
The Patriots have 11 picks remaining as they enter day two. We’ll see if they skate on a top offensive tackle in the top three rounds.
If they do, with the immobile quarterbacks at their disposal, the outlook will be a shoddy one for the Patriots. Expect them to slip even further down the AFC East pecking order.
The team did the right thing in selecting a top talent in Gonzalez and not a projected third-rounder as they did last year with guard, Cole Strange.
It’s a good beginning but absent fixing the offensive tackle position, it won’t matter all that much.
They’ll finish last anyway.