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Your newest New England Patriots

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This past weekend, the future of the NFL was unfolding in Dallas.

The NFL Draft took place over the course of three days as representatives from all 32 teams selected players from among the cream of the collegiate crop in an effort to separate the wheat from the chaff and hopefully land the next NFL superstars.

The Patriots haven’t been major players early in the draft for some time, but this year saw New England pick in the first round for the first time since 2015 – and they did it TWICE.

Don’t worry: Bill Belichick and company did plenty of wheeling and dealing in the middle rounds, moving up and down, stockpiling future picks (and landing offensive lineman Trent Brown) along the way.

Still, there’s something exciting about New England actually adding first-rounders to a team that made it to the Super Bowl last season. And they actually used more draft picks than usual; their haul of nine picks more than doubles the total of four they selected in 2017. New doesn’t always equal better, but it’ll be exciting to see how this all plays out.

Let’s meet the new guys.

(Obligatory annual caveat: This is not an effort to grade the Patriots draft class. Literally nothing has changed about any of these players except that they have been given an opportunity to potentially make an NFL roster. As to whether any or all of them cash in on that opportunity, well … I can’t say. And neither can anyone else, no matter how authoritative the sound on TV or on the internet. Grading a draft that just happened is nonsense; a worthless exercise. This is just an introduction.)

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First Round (23rd overall): Isaiah Wynn, offensive lineman, Georgia

It should come as no surprise that New England would pick an offensive lineman early – with the departure of stalwart left tackle Nate Solder, the Pats need a replacement. Wynn could well fit the bill as an elite performer on a championship-level squad. Some say he projects at guard in the NFL, but he’s got experience at left tackle. He’s noted for playing with a nasty streak and was integral in clearing the way for one of the nation’s best rushing attacks. He’s a high-floor prospect; barring injury, the worst-case scenario would appear to be starting NFL guard.

First Round (31st overall): Sony Michel, running back, Georgia

Michel has the potential to be one of the most impactful offensive weapons in this entire draft. He put up massive numbers for the Bulldogs, averaging just shy of eight yards a carry and scoring 16 touchdowns. He’s also got some receiving skills and is considered by many to be among the best pass blockers among this year’s crop of backs. He’s shown a tendency to occasionally put the ball on the ground, so that’ll require some work, but he has a chance to neatly fill a key role for New England – he’s a younger, stronger, faster Dion Lewis waiting to happen.

Second Round (56th overall): Duke Dawson, cornerback, Florida

The defensive secondary is another spot where the Patriots were looking for help, so landing a talent like Dawson near the end of the second round is big. He’s the kind of versatile defensive back that Belichick loves; he’s projected to be capable of playing not just traditional corner, but in the slot and even at safety. His coverage skills are exceptional, he’s a decent tackler and he’s shown a nose for the ball. It’s a range of skills that could potentially prove very valuable to the New England defense.

Fifth Round (143rd overall): Ja’whaun Bentley, linebacker, Purdue

Bentley is a bit of a throwback player, a big, run-stuffing linebacker who is much better suited to working the interior than to heading out into pass coverage. While the game is moving toward rangier, more athletic LBs, there’s still a place in the NFL for thumpers like Bentley. He’s athletic for his size and knows how to hit – he managed nearly 100 tackles his senior year. Still, he feels like a bit of a reach here.

Sixth Round (178th overall): Christian Sam, linebacker, Arizona State

Here we have an example of the sort of more athletic linebacker that is currently en vogue in NFL circles. Sam has all the physical measurables, but his on-field performance has been somewhat underwhelming and there are attitude questions. If he puts those concerns to rest, he has a chance to be a real contributor – if he can play the pass, he might even be a steal.

Sixth Round (210th overall): Braxton Berrios, wide receiver, Miami

Oh look – an undersized slot receiver with good hands and a fearlessness with regards to going over the middle. Berrios couldn’t be a more prototypical Patriot pickup; at 5’ 9”, 186, he’s got an Amendola vibe about him. He’s also demonstrated some special teams skill – particularly returning punts – which will only serve to make him more attractive.

Seventh Round (219th overall): Danny Etling, quarterback, LSU

Etling isn’t the quarterback many of us were expecting/hoping that the Pats would land in this year’s draft (I wanted Lamar Jackson SO BADLY), but he’s the one we got. His numbers aren’t bad – he takes care of the ball and completes over 60 percent of his passes – but there’s not much of a wow factor to him. Call him the quarterback of the future of right now.

Seventh Round (243rd overall): Keion Crossen, cornerback, Western Carolina

Crossen is an undersized guy who didn’t even pull a combine invite; his on-field stats are nothing to write home about. However, he is a straight-up freakish athlete – his pro day numbers would have put him among the best at his position if he had appeared in Indianapolis. He might be a legitimate special teams force with a chance at something more.

Seventh Round (250th overall): Ryan Izzo, tight end, Florida State

New England’s final pick, Izzo is a block-first tight end who only caught a handful of passes at FSU. However, in other aspects of the game, he projects well. He’s strong in both pass- and run-blocking schemes and could be a player on special teams as well. Not a sexy player, but one who could potentially be an end-of-the-roster mainstay.

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