Trying to Make Sense of the Patriots 1st Rounders

“My dear Frodo, Hobbits really are amazing creatures. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month and yet, after a hundred years, they can still surprise you.” – Gandalf the Grey

After almost two decades spent obsessing over everything Bill Belichick does, the only surprising thing about him is that he is still capable of surprising me. We’re just one draft round and two picks down so there’s a long way to go here, but The Dark Lord has pulled off two selections that I never saw coming. In fact, I did six separate positional breakdowns, each profiling over a dozen players, and the names Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel were never mentioned by me. Neither ever pinged my sonar because they were listed at positions I didn’t consider a need. Not even remotely. But such is the life of The Belichick Whisperer. The same thing that makes predicting what they’ll do so frustrating is what makes it so fascinating.

Even though the Pats list Wynn as a tackle, he was almost universally regarded as a guard prospect. Generally speaking the third best in his class, but a guard. Even as a tackle, he’s a major departure from the types they’ve built around in recent memory. He’s officially listed as 6-3, 313 lb on a team that’s protected Tom Brady with massive guard towers at either end of the wall like 6-8 monsters Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder. Marcus Cannon might be 6-5, but not only is he 363 lb, even at that size they drafted him to play guard. So for the Pats, drafting Wynn to play OT is totally going against type. Like if all of a sudden DiCaprio started dating librarians or Kevin Spacey started hitting on 45-year-olds (too soon?).

Which is not in any way to suggest he’s not a good pick; just a surprising one. Mike Mayock for one had him coming of the board one pick earlier than the Pats took him. Once you get past your exterior-linemanist cultural biases, you can see why he appealed to the Patriots college scouting staff. He’s considered easily the best pass blocker among the OG prospects. He kicked outside in Georgia’s pro-style offense and made All-SEC. Against the best competition in the country he produced this eye-popping stat:

To elaborate, playing both positions since 2014, he gave up a total of just four sacks, two hits and 20 quarterback hurries in 1,104 pass-blocking snaps. You don’t need my help finding scouting reports on him, but just to pull one quote from

Wynn is a talented, technically sound block-winner with a demeanor that offensive line coaches will love. … His plus pass protection will be appealing to teams looking for help in that area and he is capable of sliding out to tackle in an emergency. He appears to have the technique and play traits to overcome any concerns about size and could become an early starter.

And apparently Solder leaving to sign with the Giants is just such an emergency because Wynn was undoubtedly taken so high to slide outside for the next five seasons or so.

As far as Sony Michel, it was no oversight or positional confusion on my part. It was no accident. I purposely ignored running backs because the team seems plenty all set at the spot. Sure, they lost Dion Lewis. But they added Jeremy Hill. Still have the underutilized Mike Gillislee. Have Rex Burkhead and James White returning. And have proven time and again that the bus terminals are always filled with eager, young, available RBs they can pick up at any time. Some BenJonas Gray Ellis or whomever.

I should’ve known better. I was at Belichick’s pre-draft press conference when, at the very mention of drafting for “need,” he practically hocked up a throat oyster and spit on the carpet. Saying something to the effect that if you draft for “need” and the player doesn’t work out, what have you accomplished? You just need good players. Which by all means Michel appears to be. Via a database that tracks how prospects were rated across the board, he was regarded as the 4th highest RB and 38th highest player overall. Another Georgia Bulldog, he’s a product of the same program that gave the world Todd Gurley, Knowshon Moreno and, if you’ll take a step into the TARDIS with me, Patrick Pass in 2000.

Michel’s numbers are metahuman: 156 carries for 1,227 yards, good for 7.9 YPA, with 16 rushing TDs. And that production shows up on tape:


As a general rule, I try not to fall in love the running backs who were huge home run hitters in college, because those running lanes aren’t available in the pros and their skills don’t translate. (See Reggie Bush.) The pro Michel is drawing the most comparisons too is Alvin Kamara. Which would be great if that’s what he becomes. But Kamara was taken by a franchise that invests a lot more in backs than the the Patriots do, and even they didn’t take him until the 3rd round (67th overall).

So this is a decision I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around, I won’t lie to you. Especially given that the last time we saw this team, they were being shredded for 41 points and what felt like 29-of-30 on 3rd downs by a team led by Nick Foles. And who couldn’t tackle anyone. So yeah, you’ll have to forgive me if I need time to process them going converted OG and RB in the 1st round. So it’s time to say what we always say when things are being done that are beyond our comprehension. #InBillWeTrust.