Patriots’ rookie draft class last year set high bar

Patriots’ rookie draft class last year set high bar
Credit: John Wilcox

Dial it back a year and the names hold little weight. But by the time the Patriots made their furious rally past the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, the 2016 rookie draft class was everywhere.

Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, a fourth-round pick, caught 32 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season. Third-round offensive lineman Joe Thuney locked down the starting left guard position. Sixth-round selection Elandon Roberts became a regular contributor at linebacker. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, nabbed in the third round, won a regular-season game against the Texans starting in place of the suspended Tom Brady and the injured Jimmy Garoppolo. Defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, cornerback Cyrus Jones, and offensive lineman Ted Karras had meaningful snaps, as well.

All in all, out of the nine players selected, seven made the 53-man roster and, in some cases, critical contributions to the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl title.

For one draft, that’s a significant impact. But, realistically, most organizations don’t hit that type of home run. There always remains the possibility for lukewarm results, if not a near whiff. However, for the Pats, that latter scenario has not been the case lately.

So as they prepare to make their picks in next week’s NFL draft, starting in the third round at No. 72 overall, it’s realistic to think, even without a first- or second-round pick, the Pats can strike gold again.

“Our philosophy really hasn’t changed,” director of player personnel Nick Caserio said this week. “We evaluate the players, we assign the grades to the players and then…