he New England Patriots made multiple picks in the 2022 NFL Draft that had fans scratching their heads but one reigns supreme according to one ESPN Analyst.
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New England started to gain the attention of draft experts after the surprise selection of Cole Strange with the 29th overall pick. The questioning of the Patriots draft strategy only continued when they selected Tyquan Thornton in the second round.
Thornton was drafted with the 50th overall pick but ESPN Analyst Matt Bowen believes that was a bit of a reach.
“Thornton has the vertical juice to stretch defenses down the field and the foot quickness to create route separation,” Bowen said. “But given the wide receiver talent on the board at No. 50 — including George Pickens, Alec Pierce and Skyy Moore — I felt the Patriots reached a little here to draft Thornton.”
Thornton’s speed is his greatest asset. In high school, he was a four-star recruit who ran personal bests of 10.5 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 21.07 seconds in the 200-meter dash according to NFL.com.
That speed carried over into college and Thornton’s performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He ran a 4.28-second 40-yard dash.
In 2021, Thornton was Baylor’s leading receiver with 62 receptions for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns in 14 starts.
“There is a lot to like about Thornton’s game, including his instincts, long speed and ability to create separation on the move,” said NFL.com draft expert Lance Zierlein. “He’s a vertical threat with the speed and poise to win deep and has an excellent feel for maintaining spacing when working against zone coverage. He’s skinny and linear, which is a bad combination in defeating strong press-man corners on the next level. The poise and catch radius will work in his favor, but the success rate on contested catches will be lower than teams like, based upon his history and physical traits.”
Zierlein projected that he would be selected in the third or fourth round.
Thornton’s Role in 2022
The second-round pick will need to work hard to earn his snaps. New England has a deep group of wide receivers including DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, and Jakobi Meyers.
While those players are the cream of the crop, the Patriots also have Nelson Agholor and Ty Montgomery who are serviceable pass-catchers. There’s also the question of whether or not N’Keal Harry will be on the roster when the regular season arrives.
Agholor and Harry’s spots on the roster are not guaranteed as both have underperformed and have a high salary. Agholor has a cap hit of $14,882,345 this season. Harry on the other hand has a cap hit of $3.2 million after struggling to catch on in New England. The former first-round pick has only had 57 receptions for 598 yards and four touchdowns in his three-year career. Depending on what New England decides to do with these two receivers, Thornton has a chance to be quite involved in the Patriots passing game in his rookie season.
But Bowen believes that Thornton is a head-scratching pick and only time will tell if that was a correct assessment.