Hot Takes, Predictions for Patriots Rookies After 2022 NFL Draft

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 4, 2022

Hot Takes, Predictions for Patriots Rookies After 2022 NFL Draft

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots' 2022 NFL draft strategy was viewed as a bit strange from the outside.

    New England was criticized for reaching on first-round selection Cole Strange and second-round pick Tyquan Thornton. 

    The Patriots filled two roster holes with the selections, but an argument could be made that those players would have been available one round later than they were chosen. 

    The actual late-round picks made by Bill Belichick and his staff are more intriguing than the first two players taken. 

    Pierre Strong Jr. comes to the NFL off a fantastic career with FCS power South Dakota State, and he could turn into a difference-maker behind Damien Harris. 

    Defensive back Marcus Jones won the Paul Hornung Award last season at Houston because of his versatility. DeVonta Smith, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley are previous winners of the award. 

    Jones might turn into the biggest steal of the third round because of the impact his versatility could have on the Patriots' secondary. 

Cole Strange Takes over Starting Guard Role

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Cole Strange needs to live up to his first-round status and start at offensive guard in Week 1. 

    The Patriots drafted the Chattanooga product at No. 29 to fill that specific need. 

    New England entered the draft with little on the offensive interior following the offseason departures of Shaq Mason and Ted Karras.

    If anything, the Patriots drafted the player who should fill the biggest need on the team's roster. 

    Strange needs to earn the position with a strong performance in training camp. He will not face a ton of competition for one spot since the other side has to be filled as well.

    The odds are low that Strange begins the 2022 NFL season as a reserve because of the holes on the offensive line. 

    The Patriots need Strange to perform at a high level right away to provide support for Mac Jones and back up his surprising late first-round selection. 

Pierre Strong Jr. Takes No. 2 Spot on Running Back Depth Chart

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Pierre Strong Jr. could be the most impactful offensive player chosen by the Patriots in the 2022 draft.

    The son of former NFL running back Pierre Strong produced a pair of 1,000-yard seasons at the FCS level with South Dakota State. 

    Strong averaged 119.7 yards per game in his final season with the Jackrabbits. That production helped him jump high on to the NFL radar. 

    Strong has a fight on his hands to land the backup running back spot behind Damien Harris. Rhamondre Stevenson showed some nice moments in his rookie season, but it is notable that the Patriots selected two running backs in the draft.

    New England's picks of Strong and Kevin Harris in the sixth round suggest it is not entirely happy with Stevenson as Harris' primary backup.

    Strong has the potential to steal the No. 2 spot away from Stevenson and not give it back, especially if he avoids the fumbles that hurt Stevenson last season. 

    The Patriots could use Strong in third-down situations, or in cases that Harris is on the bench resting. 

    The only concern about Strong is that he has four years of high-volume rushing on his legs from South Dakota State. 

    That may be more of a worry as he gets further into his NFL career than in his rookie campaign. 

Marcus Jones Turns into Vital Part of Secondary

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Marcus Jones has the statistics of a first-round pick.

    The Houston product had 13 passes defended and five interceptions last season. He was a consensus All-American at defensive back. 

    Those numbers and that accolade suggest the Patriots got a steal at No. 85 and that Jones could have more of an impact than the team's first two selections. 

    The Patriots have an aging secondary with Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty in place. They could use a young pass defender in Jones to deal with the explosive offenses in the AFC East. 

    Jones has the potential to be a Week 1 starter, or play a high snap count, because of his versatility and pass-defending skills. 

    He lined up at cornerback and safety at Houston, and he could be utilized as a roving defender right away to give the Patriots an edge against Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill and others.