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No one can ever predict a Bill Belichick draft.
When people start assuming he’ll act based on his stereotypes (first-round trade down, OL early, no early WRs, all Alabama players or small school guys or guys from Rutgers), he’ll do the opposite. When the consensus is that he’ll shift away from those stereotypes, he’ll lean right into them.
So in observing mock drafts, both full and team-centric, there was a lot of accord that he would follow those stereotypes. (Adam Korsak, both a punter and from Rutgers, was EVERYWHERE.)
But then the end of April came.
Before then, New England had suffered a 2022 season full of embarrassment, from Matt Patricia and Joe Judge’s ineptitude at running the offense to a team that seemed to find new ways to lose in humiliating fashion (a certain ill-fated lateral sequence peak among them). The Patriots went from their dynastic reign as a team which would trounce their opponents in laughers to the team that everyone pointed and laughed at. Mac Jones’ Patricia- and Judge-sparked regression along with impressive cameo appearances by ‘22 rookie Bailey Zappe split the fanbase into Mac and Zappe camps, with sports media fueling the flame by spreading or outright fabricating rumors
of Belichick shopping Mac, rumors which lasted through the first day of the draft. It was an ugly season and an uglier start to the offseason.
The franchise clearly needed to make changes in 2023, and changes started near the top. Patricia and Judge lost their roles, the former joining the Eagles coaching staff and the latter moving to lead special teams, a necessary move as this Belichick-led squad had plummeted to the lowest-ranked third unit. (More on that later.) Patricia had filled the dual roles of de facto
offensive coordinator and facto
offensive line coach, and filled both roles with the acumen of me designing plays in Backyard Football 2002
, except I could actually design plays that resulted in touchdowns. Judge had manned the quarterbacks room, and given that Daniel Jones finally broke out for the Giants once Judge had been booted from mentoring him, you can guess how that went for Mac and the Pats. In his new role in charge of special teams, he has already cost the team two OTAs and Bill Belichick $50,000 for an offseason meetings violation, and has elevated his 2022 title of Co-Most Hated Man in Foxboro to Single Most Hated Man in Foxboro.
Anyway, New England needed to fill their old roles, and brought in: Bill O’Brien, Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks Coach
A long-time friend of Belichick’s, O’Brien returns for his second stint as Pats OC, having dictated the offense in Rob Gronkowski’s record-setting 2011 season. Additionally, O’Brien comes by way of running the offense and the QB room at the University of Alabama, which spawned Mac Jones. Mac regressed in 2022 after an impressive 2021, but recall that 2022 was under the abysmal leadership of Patricia (calling his plays) and Judge (his direct coach), a situation in which no one could develop. By bringing in his old OC and QB coach, Mac has been put in the best possible position to develop in ‘23, a position which will much more clearly give fans a vision of his future as an NFL quarterback. (And the playcalling will be legitimate! It’s been but a year and we have already forgotten what creativity, route concepts, and misdirection have looked like!) Adrian Klemm, Offensive Line Coach
Belichick’s first draft pick after taking the helm in New England in 2000, Klemm has joined the team after coaching at Oregon last year. He comes with a strong reputation at that coaching position, having headed a Ducks O-line that allowed just five sacks in 2022. Last season, the Patriots saw a regression from their veterans on the line, most notably in Trent Brown’s newfound flag-happiness, and first-round rookie guard Cole Strange put forth a mixed performance. Bringing in an actual offensive line coach gives the team the best chance to fix any issues that showed in ‘22 and to develop their young linemen.
Of course, coaching was not the only issue last season, as New England was criticized for their lack of talent on the roster. Of New England’s high-cash free agent class of 2021, only edge rusher Matthew Judon shined in both his seasons in Foxboro: neither tight end Jonnu Smith nor wideout Nelson Agholor ever got off the ground, tight end Hunter Henry regressed after a solid ‘21, and wideout Kendrick Bourne found himself suddenly in Patricia’s doghouse and off the field. Moves needed to be made as the calendar turned to free agency. Notable Departures S Devin McCourty (retired)
The most prominent departure from the ‘22 squad, McCourty is one of many who can be termed a quintessential Patriot. A first-round cornerback out of Rutgers in 2010, D-Mac made the switch to safety in 2012 and locked down the position for the next decade. When he was on the verge of leaving the team in free agency in 2015, even reaching out to Belichick to say goodbye, Belichick signed him to a top-valued safety contract and kept him in red, white, and blue. His leadership and personality made him a joy to watch on the field and off, his personality showing itself especially well recently through interactions with his twin brother Jason, who played alongside him for the Patriots from 2018 to ‘20. Statistically, D-Mac ends his career with 35 interceptions, one shy of the franchise record, and 4 touchdowns (two picks, a kickoff return, and a blocked field goal return). We miss him already. P Jake Bailey (released; signed with Miami)
What a drop. After an All-Pro season in 2020, Bailey signed a four-year extension in 2022 only to become the worst statistical punter in the league. After he was injured, the Patriots brought in Michael Palardy, who managed to be even worse (personally, I blame the team’s curse that comes with the jersey number 17). Neither punter remains with the team, Bailey joining an AFC East rival in the Dolphins and Palardy currently unsigned. TE Jonnu Smith (traded to Atlanta)
There is a strong case to be made that Smith is the worst free agency signing Belichick has made as Pats GM. In the two years since inking a 4-year, $50 million deal, Smith totaled just 55 catches for 539 yards and one touchdown, and a ‘22 restructure of his contract meant that Smith appeared to be a monetary albatross the Patriots would not be able to shake loose. What led to Atlanta agreeing to take on his whole contract, sending New England a seventh-round pick to get the player, I have no idea, but I think every Pats fan would agree that Smith didn’t work out in the least and a change was best for all sides. WR Jakobi Meyers (signed with Las Vegas)
Meyers’ departure was somewhat shocking, as the 2019 UDFA had worked his way up to the top of the Patriots’ wide receiver depth chart. More of a big slot guy than an outside #1, Meyers had a minor role in his rookie season and started 2020 at the bottom of the depth chart, but injuries to the players above him got him onto the field, and a 12-catch, 169-yard performance against the Jets that November meant he wasn’t leaving it anytime soon. While not possessing top-tier speed or explosiveness, Meyers was the team’s best route runner and separator, and his departure left another void that needed to be filled. QB Brian Hoyer (released, signed with Las Vegas)
Hoyer was third on the depth chart, Zappe having shown enough to take the #2 spot. While a fine veteran mentor, the Patriots chose to go a different direction with that third QB role. WR Nelson Agholor (signed with Baltimore)
Agholor was given a two-year contract in 2021 with the anticipation of his being the #1 receiver, something which did not happen due to his unreliable hands and separation abilities. For those two years and $22 million, Agholor produced 68 catches, 835 yards, and five touchdowns. Not worth it. RB Damien Harris (signed with Buffalo)
By far the most productive member of the Patriots’ atrocious 2019 draft class, Harris was good in New England but had been passed on the depth chart by sophomore Rhamondre Stevenson midway through 2022. Couple that with Belichick’s predilection to let running backs walk instead of giving them second contracts, sprinkle in a dash of two ‘22 draft picks (Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris) who will get more opportunities in 2023, top it off with the return of Ty Montgomery II from injured reserve, and it’s no surprise that Harris is no longer a Patriot. T Isaiah Wynn (signed with Miami)
Another former first-round pick, Wynn was all right as a left tackle though was criticized for frequent injury problems; with his fifth-year option picked up for ‘22, he was inexplicably switched to right tackle, where he was very bad. He never really earned the role of franchise tackle, so it was expected that the Patriots would let him walk.
But on the upside, the team now has: Additions WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (via Kansas City)
After Meyers signed with the Raiders, the Patriots worked quickly to bring in his replacement in the slot. Smith-Schuster revived his career in Kansas City and is now in position to be a primary target for Mac for the next three seasons, possessing more explosiveness and speed than his predecessor. The biggest concern with JuJu is his durability, but I believe the Patriots have made preparations in the draft (spoiler) in case that becomes a significant problem. The fanbase is excited for Smith-Schuster on the field in Foxboro, and deservedly so. RB James Robinson (via New York (the green side))
A one-time breakout UDFA in Jacksonville, Robinson’s role diminished with the rise of Travis Etienne Jr.; after being traded to the Jets, Robinson never got settled into a role. In New England, Robinson is likely first in line for the #2 RB spot behind Stevenson, an important role given that Stevenson’s overwork saw his productivity decline as last season came to an end. Robinson also possesses the pass-catching versatility that Belichick loves, a role Harris was never used in but Stevenson is, further suggesting he can have a significant spot on the field for the Pats. TE Mike Gesicki (via Miami)
As Smith never worked out as the co-#1 TE, here comes Gesicki. A pure pass catcher at the position, Gesicki has the size and hands to be a reliable target in the red zone, and should pair nicely with Henry for a potential TE-heavy formation as the team approaches the goal line. T Riley Reiff (via Chicago) T Calvin Anderson (via Denver)
While neither comes with the contract expectation of being a long-term solution at either tackle spot, the hope is that Reiff (expected to start at RT) will be an upgrade over Wynn, while Anderson serves as a reliable swing tackle who can start if needed. LB Chris Board Jr. (via Detroit)
Remember that awful special teams unit? Board is one of the NFL’s top special teamers, a player Belichick singled out when New England faced the Lions last year. It’s unsurprising he brought in such a veteran to help solidify the unit after… just all of last year. QB Trace McSorley (via Arizona)
By bringing in McSorley in Hoyer’s stead, the team is showing a bit of a shift in philosophy with how it is using its backup QB spots. Both Mac and Zappe are pocket passers; McSorley does most of his work outside the pocket and can run with regularity, a trend more common among top-level quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. At minimum, he’s worth a camp spot, and that’s fine. P Corliss Waitman (via Denver)
Following the implosion of Bailey and Palardy at punter, the Patriots were on the verge of entering the draft with none on the roster. Waitman is a veteran addition there, but pretty much everyone expected New England to add a punter either as a draft pick or UDFA. (Another spoiler – my bad.)
After this free agency, many saw the Patriots as still having holes at the top of their depth chart at wideout, tackle, and cornerback. Tight end was also considered a need as New England, despite adding Gesicki to pair with Henry, does not have a tight end signed beyond 2023, entering the draft with only Matt Sokol and Scotty Washington behind their name duo.
Then they went on the clock, entering the draft with:
1-14 2-46 3-76 4-107 4-117 4-135 6-184 6-187 6-192 6-210 7-245
Here’s how it all went down. Draft Picks TRADE: 1-14 to PIT for 1-17 and 4-120
Although this trade was criticized for receiving too little back from Pittsburgh, it was not a major loss in capital according to the Rich Hill value chart
(325 points to PIT, 320 to NE), and it came with enough high-level talent on the board that the Patriots were sure to get one of their targets. The way the board fell, fans most wanted Christian Gonzalez, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, or Broderick Jones; when the Steelers took Jones, it became clear that the Patriots were not interested in him (reports came out that the Patriots had not been interested in Jones at all due to coachability concerns), but they were sure to land an exciting player after moving down only three spots rather than the seven-plus many mockers had predicted. Additionally, the Steelers landing Jones appeared to knock the Jets’ war room for a loop (though later video has shown that the Jets were expecting the trade), and the only thing New England fans love more than a victory is an opportunity to screw over the Jets. 1-17: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
The Patriots’ selection of Gonzalez received universal acclaim, and it’s easy to see why. Despite having strong CB depth, the Patriots lacked a true #1 corner; Gonzalez has the ability, length, and athleticism to be that from Day One. The first-round pick via Colorado and Oregon was widely projected as a top-10 selection, so for New England to land him at 17 is a tremendous coup. From his interviews and his play style, Gonzalez seems like a quiet guy off the field who wants to shut the opponent down when on the turf. He’ll be fun to watch. 2-46: Keion White, ED, Georgia Tech
White is another player falling under the new Patriots draft umbrella under Belichick and Matt Groh: as athletic as can be. While he is raw, White has the athleticism to play three downs along the defensive line and the versatility to move inside when the situation calls for it. The Patriots thought so highly of him that he was a player they were considering drafting in the first round, even considering a move back into the last picks of the round to snag him, but landed him at 46 anyway. How much he will play as a rookie is uncertain as New England has a very good edge duo in Matthew Judon and Josh Uche, but even if White has to take a year to get acclimated to the NFL, that’s not unheard of in Foxboro and has produced success for highly-touted picks: neither Nate Solder (first round) nor Trey Flowers (fourth round) took on long-term starting roles as rookies (though Solder filled in at right tackle plenty), but were established starters in their second years. Similarly, Uche (second round) started off as an occasionally-used part of a pass rushing rotation before hitting double-digit sacks last year, his third season in the league. And if White earns significant playing time in 2023, all the better. 3-76: Marte Mapu, LB, Sacramento State
* Here’s that small-school selection that detractors tend to point at regarding Belichick, but Mapu has elite potential. I got tipped off to Mapu late in the pre-draft cycle, and watching film of him I was reminded a lot of Kyle Dugger, another small-school Day 2 player who has turned into an excellent Patriot. Mapu is going to play linebacker, likely his best position, and fill the role of coverage ‘backer that New England has lacked for several seasons. He’s also athletic and scheme-versatile, having spent time at safety and linebacker while at Sacramento State, so he will be able to move around the defensive formation if the situation calls for it. Add to that his tackling, his closing speed, and his containment, and you’ve got yourself a potential stud. 4-107: Jake Andrews, C, Troy
The Patriots need their future long-term center with David Andrews now 31 and having an injury history, and Jake Andrews (unrelated) is set up perfectly to be that guy. Andrews the Younger is built in the same mold as Andrews the Elder: both exited college as smaller in stature than other centers but able to get a push on defensive linemen from below, meaning Jake can easily learn specific bits of technique from David. While not expected to play the role immediately, [anagram: Ned Was a Jerk] is now in position to spend time behind [anagram: Swan Diver Dad], preparing himself to take over at center in the near future. TRADE: 4-120 and 6-184 to NYJ for 4-112 4-112: Chad Ryland, K, Maryland
This is not the first time Belichick has selected a kicker in the fourth round, selecting Stephen Gostkowski with pick 118 in 2006; with the Patriots in desperate need for a strong player at the position, moving up to make sure they could land him makes sense (especially with Jake Moody being selected by the 49ers at 3-99). And Ryland is what Nick Folk is not: a big-legged kicker with kickoff ability. Folk has been appreciated in New England for his accuracy, but his distance and accuracy notably declined in 2022, and when forced to kick off, his lack of touchback distance led to trouble, the Patriots surrendering a league-high three kick return touchdowns (including two in the season finale). It’s clear an upgrade at kicker was a requirement this offseason; with Moody gone, giving up a sixth to move up eight spots is absolutely fine. In doing so, New England has hopefully landed their kicker for the next decade. 4-117: Sidy Sow, G, Eastern Michigan
At this point, it may be considered confusing for the Patriots to have drafted a left guard in Sow when last year’s first-round pick Cole Strange is entrenched there and Mike Onwenu mans right guard at an elite level, but Groh’s post-draft comments indicated the team would give Sow opportunities at left tackle as well. And not only does Sow have experience at left tackle, he has the size at 6’5” and 326 pounds. New England’s projected starting tackles are veterans Trent Brown and Riley Reiff, both of whom are over 30 and are in contract years; if Sow returns to the position, the former mauling EMU Eagle (heh, two birds) offensive lineman could ease the need at tackle for next offseason. TRADE: 4-135 to LV for 5-144 and 6-214 5-144: Atonio Mafi, G, UCLA
Another interior lineman? Yes. Mafi is a guard whom the Patriots worked with at the Shrine Bowl, and has the versatility to move between left and right guard. As the aforementioned Onwenu is in a contract year, Mafi has a clear path to a potential starting job in 2024, and the most important thing right now for the development of Mac Jones is keeping him upright. By selecting three offensive linemen – using a quarter of their 12 selections on the offensive trench – Belichick and Groh have signaled their intent to do just that. From all accounts, Mafi, who met with New England in a pre-draft visit, is thrilled to join the team
; now it’s about proving it on the field. 6-187: Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
Boutte is the epitome of a boom-or-bust prospect, his elite 2020 and ‘21 being overshadowed by a disappointing 2022 that dropped him from clear first-rounder to a middle-of-Day-3 selection. As a freshman and sophomore, Boutte looked to follow in the footsteps of highly-drafted LSU wideouts such as Odell Beckham Jr., Justin Jefferson, and JaMarr Chase, showing a complete package of agility, speed, and route running. Unfortunately, an injury plus conflicts with his new coach Brian Kelly led to underperformance, and a poor combine performance cemented his draft stock as having drastically fallen. But if he can get back to his earlier form, where his talent and athleticism led to a combined 83 receptions, 1244 yards, and 14 touchdowns in his first two college seasons, Boutte could become the steal of the draft. 6-192: Bryce Baringer, P, Michigan State
While New England had signed Corliss Waitman so as to have a
punter on the roster heading into the draft, none assumed he was the long-term answer; when the Patriots made Baringer the first punter taken in the 2023 draft, it became clear who was. A walk-on turned cut turned best punter in college football, Baringer has a booming leg that showed itself in an average punt length of 49.0 yards in ‘22; he also holds the Michigan State record for career punting average at 46.0 yards. As a bonus, he worked with Ryland at the Senior Bowl, so the two have already begun to develop chemistry in the holding game. As another bonus, he wore No. 99 in college, and that is awesome. 6-210: Demario Douglas, WR, Liberty
When one imagines a typical Patriots slot receiver – small, shifty, and explosive with the ball in his hands – one might well be imagining Douglas. The five-foot-eight Liberty product can absolutely fly, moving all around the formation and catching balls at all levels of the field. New Englanders got a preview of what Douglas’ game might look like when rookie cornerback Marcus Jones began to take snaps on offense last year; Jones was often put in motion before the snap, worked out of the backfield, and assigned touches where his elusiveness was the spark to gain yards. Douglas has said he models his game after Jones, a claim that demonstrates itself when one views his collegiate tape. I had a third-round grade on Douglas, so the Patriots landing him at 210 is a thrill. (Even though the Giants took one of my draft crushes in Tre Hawkins III the pick before, for which I’m still irked.) 6-214: Ameer Speed, CB, Michigan State
The unknown about Speed is whether he will develop on defense; that is not his skill at the moment. There are three things known: his size (6’3”, 210 lbs.), his speed (4.34s 40), and his special teams prowess. With longtime special teams captain Matthew Slater likely entering his last year, the Patriots need to develop a new crop of special teams standouts, long a hallmark of Belichick’s Patriots from the time of Larry Izzo. Last year’s UDFA Brenden Schooler looks like one of those players already; Speed will certainly be given every chance possible to be another. 7-245: Isaiah Bolden, CB, Jackson State
More tall athletic cornerbacks! The only HBCU selection in the 2023 draft, Bolden is an incredible athlete who likely earned his way to a draft selection by lighting up his Pro Day. Though just a role player on defense, Bolden has developmental traits that any defensive coach would love, and has also been a top collegiate kick returner, leading all of college football in 2021 with a 36.9-yard average on kickoff returns. I don’t see the two late-round cornerback selections as “throw players on the field and see who sticks” à la the ill-fated dual tight end picks of Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in 2020’s third round, but selecting players who might have longer chances to succeed, but if they do succeed can truly shine.
Though Bolden was the last of the Patriots’ 2023 draft picks, that did not conclude their rookie class as the period of UDFA signings immediately began. The Patriots have had an undrafted rookie make the Week 1 roster every year since 2004; with just a four-man class this season, chances are slim. They’re not impossible – their only
2021 UDFA, kicker Quinn Nordin, made it – but they’re definitely slimmer. Here are the four who can continue that streak. Undrafted Rookies Malik Cunningham, QB, Louisville
The most expensive ($200,000) and well-known of the quartet, Cunningham’s slight build and arm as a quarterback led to piles of speculation of his switching positions. However, he has started off his Patriots tenure as a quarterback in rookie minicamp, so he remains a quarterback until further notice. Throughout college, Cunningham’s most intriguing asset has been his supreme athleticism at the position, something which showed up in testing, and it remains to be seen how the Patriots will use that athleticism to help the team. (It may be a good while until outside sources get a look, as minicamp and OTAs have thus far been closed off to the media.) Johnny Lumpkin, TE, Louisiana-Lafayette
After foregoing using a selection on a tight end in a deep draft class (another Belichick trend), New England instead brought in Lumpkin, who projects as a blocking tight end in the NFL. This offsets the biggest negative, his age (he’ll be 26 to start the season), as the Patriots lack a true blocker at the position. Whether Lumpkin can take advantage of this path to a roster spot remains to be seen, but his road to making the team as an undrafted rookie seems easiest at the moment. Jourdan Heilig, LB, Appalachian State
Like Board and Speed, Heilig joins the Patriots as a special teams standout, playing minimal defense as a Mountaineer (three snaps in 2022) but standing out in college on the third unit (210 snaps in 2022). He’ll have a chance to follow in the path of Schooler as a UDFA who makes his mark as a core special teamer. Justus Tavai, DL, San Diego State
The middle of the Tavai brothers (older brother Jahlani is a Patriots linebacker, younger brother Jonah signed with Seattle as a UDFA), Justus played alongside Jonah on the Aztec defensive line in 2022. While Jonah put up eye-popping numbers with double-digit sacks, Justus was a steady contributor as well, putting up 3.5 sacks and intercepting a pass. Tavai is the ninth man on the Patriots’ defensive line right now, so he has a difficult path if he wants to make the team.
He’s not an undrafted rookie, but the Patriots have also brought in veteran free agent Anthony Firsker, TE
to compete with Lumpkin, Sokol, and Washington for the third tight end spot, the roster spot opened with their losing reserve Raekwon McMillan, LB
to a partially torn Achilles tendon. Projected Offseason Depth Chart
(italics = rookie
, (in parentheses = exclusively or primarily a special teamer)) (Note: the Patriots assign temporary jersey numbers in the offseason starting with 50 based mainly on draft position.) QB
10 Mac Jones 4 Bailey Zappe 19 Trace McSorley 64 Malik Cunningham RB
38 Rhamondre Stevenson 3 James Robinson 14 Ty Montgomery II 35 Pierre Strong Jr. 36 Kevin Harris 42 J.J. Taylor WR
1 DeVante Parker 7 JuJu Smith-Schuster 84 Kendrick Bourne 11 Tyquan Thornton 58 Kayshon Boutte 60 Demario Douglas
82 Tre Nixon (44 Raleigh Webb) (18 Matthew Slater) TE
85 Hunter Henry 88 Mike Gesicki 86 Anthony Firsker 87 Matt Sokol 17 Scotty Washington 65 Johnny Lumpkin T
77 Trent Brown 74 Riley Reiff 76 Calvin Anderson 75 Conor McDermott 64 Andrew Stueber G
71 Mike Onwenu 69 Cole Strange 54 Sidy Sow 55 Atonio Mafi
63 Chasen Hines 62 Bill Murray C
60 David Andrews 53 Jake Andrews
65 James Ferentz 66 Kody Russey DL
90 Christian Barmore 92 Davon Godchaux 91 Deatrich Wise Jr. 93 Lawrence Guy Sr. 95 Daniel Ekuale 98 Carl Davis Jr. 96 Sam Roberts 70 Jeremiah Pharms Jr. 67 Justus Tavai ED
9 Matthew Judon 55 Josh Uche 51 Keion White
58 Anfernee Jennings (97 DaMarcus Mitchell) 51 Ronnie Perkins LB
8 Ja’Whaun Bentley 48 Jahlani Tavai 52 Marte Mapu
30 Mack Wilson Sr. (45 Chris Board Jr.) 43 Calvin Munson 59 Terez Hall 47 Olakunle Fatukasi (66 Jourdan Heilig) CB 50 Christian Gonzalez
31 Jonathan Jones 13 Jack Jones 25 Marcus Jones 27 Myles Bryant (61 Ameer Speed) 63 Isaiah Bolden
37 Tae Hayes 26 Shaun Wade 34 Quandre Mosely 39 Rodney Randle Jr. S
23 Kyle Dugger 5 Jabrill Peppers 2 Jalen Mills 21 Adrian Phillips 24 Joshuah Bledsoe (41 Brenden Schooler) (22 Cody Davis) 29 Brad Hawkins K 62 Chad Ryland
6 Nick Folk P 59 Bryce Baringer
15 Corliss Waitman LS
49 Joe Cardona 46 Tucker Addington Conclusion
Is this a perfect Patriots team? No. There are still long-term holes at offensive tackle and tight end, and there is a question mark as to who can be that pass catcher whom defensive coordinators have to plan for, a player the team has lacked for several seasons.
But is this an exciting Patriots roster, a team who has a chance to exceed their middling projections and expectations, a team worth watching and cheering for? Absolutely. Belichick and company have stabilized the coaching staff; added explosive, athletic players at nearly every position; brought in a new crew of players to take over special teams; and begun their draft with three players who could not only start in the NFL but have the potential to star. I fully believe that this is not an 8-9 caliber team, even in an AFC East with three other teams that have added big name after big name.
As Bill Belichick might say, we’re on to 2023.
We’re on to victory.
We are less than a week away from kick off, and I thought to be a good idea that we ,as a fans, could share in this fantastic community our views of the teams we support. Rather than an expert breaking down all ELF rosters for us, we could break down and analyze the team we support for the others in this community to have a different view of ELF teams than those published in the "official/expert" websites.
I will start myself with Barcelona Dragons. Please join me and share in this thread the roster breakdown of the team you support.
HC: 🇲🇽 Gabriel "Black" Sanchez
OC: 🇲🇽 Miguel Angel "Micky" Romero
DC: 🇲🇽 Gabriel "Black" Sanchez
🇲🇽 Coach Black is promoted to HC/DC from last year's DC duties. He brings along quite a few countrymen to take on key coaching positions this year. The likes of 🇲🇽 Coach Micky Romero to lead the offense, 🇲🇽 Eduardo Yagues to develope the Offensive Line or 🇲🇽 Genaro Alfonsin, former CFL player, as DB coach. Some familiar faces are back for another run too like 🇺🇸 Chase Baker, former NFL player, as a Defensive Line coach or 🇪🇸 Victor Martin to take again on WRs. 🇺🇸 Alexander Durazo signs this year to take the lead of special teams & LBs unit.
Dragons fans are very excited with coach Black promotion to HC position while keeping DC duties. Coach Black made an amazing job last year by unexpectedly building a proficient defensive unit at ELF level. Arguably, one of the best defenses in the league. His comeback has also been cheered by the players themselves who talk wonderful things of his leadership, football knowledge, passion and coaching style. The franchise has heavily invested in the coaching staff this season. Special mention to coach Eduardo Yagues. Over two decades coaching OL players at City College of San Francisco, brings over his knowledge to make the OL to grow and perform at its best. It is well known that Spanish football is not overloaded with homegrown talent and the departures of key Spanish players to other ELF teams added salt to the injury. Therefore, it was time for an audacious approach: Develope better and faster the rich young but somehow raw talent available in the country. Conclusion is that some of the biggest Dragons signings this Offseason are not in the field but by the sidelines. Be ready, dear readers, for a "spicy" Mexican branch of American Football.
🇺🇸 Imports: QB-WR-DL-S
🇪🇺 Imports: OL-OL-WR-WR-DL-S
Quarterback: Big change of style in this position. Dragons move from the athletic and open play specialist in Zach Edwards to a more classic pocket QB in 🇺🇸 Connor Miller. It is well known the capacity of Zach in extending broken plays and run for his life when necessary. Instead, Connor will most likely provide a different approach to the offense, exploiting multiple reads within the security of the pocket. Unlike Zach, Connor has proved in his successful career in Europe to be a vocal leader that has the ability to gather individuals towards a common objective. Dragons fans are willing and excited to embrace this shift of paradigm in the most important position in football, QB.
Wide Receivers: This unit has been almost entirely revamped. Only young local star and fan favorite 🇪🇸 Jordi Torrededia comes back to the team to continue his solid progression in his 3rd season in the league. Kyle Sweet is a sensible lost for Dragons. To fill this shoes comes 🇺🇸 Josh Johnston right off from Denver Broncos mini-camp. Johnston finished his college career this last season with Colorado School of Mines (NCAA D-2) where he posted top stats and earned multiple awards. 🇸🇪 Theodor Landstrom and 🇫🇷 Melvin Palin complete the poker of aces to follow in this unit. Palin has a long experience playing college football in Canada. Last year he moved to GFL to play with Dusseldorf Panthers. Landstrom comes from Telfs Patriots (AFL) where he posted 55 rec for 888 yds and 9 TD in 12 games.
Tight Ends: Big hopes and excitement around newly signed 🇪🇸 Raul Cernuda from Badalona Dracs (LNFA). A top Spanish player who finally makes the move and joins Dragons to showcase his skills at ELF level. Very good hands adds to his big size and body frame. Disciplined and good blocker, stands out for his goods hands to catch any pass coming his way. On the cons...lacks speed. Youngster 🇪🇸 Elias Rodriguez moves from 3rd string RB to TE in his 3rd season with the team.
Running Backs: 3rd year veteran 🇪🇸 Toni Monton returns to the team. Elusive once he gets his wheels spinning, brings good hands to the mix too. New signing 🇪🇸 Eduard Molina will be Toni's partner in crime in this unit. Eduard comes from having a monster season with Badalona Dracs (LNFA) this last year. Very good stats with 1121 run yds and 13 TD in 8 games.
Offensive Line: Most likely the line most affected by departures of homegrowns players this offseason. The losses of last year starters Eduardo Sanchez and Celestin Ngimbi to Musketeers and Gabriel Rodriguez to Guards called for bold action from the franchise. Last year's starters 🇪🇸 Elvys Núñez who most likely will take on C duties and 🇪🇸 Jose Ariza return to the team. Rotation player 🇪🇸 Mikel Gómez will be promoted to the starting unit as per sources. After that, new faces all over. 🇳🇴 Jonas Hagerup has already 2 years experience in the league after stints in Leipzig Kings (2021) and Wroclaw Panthers (2022) and 🇬🇧 Ben Dixon comes from Hamburg Huskies (GFL2). Youngsters 🇪🇸 David Culebras and 🇪🇸 Diego Varela from reigning Spanish Champs Las Rozas Black Demons should add depth to the line. 🇪🇸 Enzo Biasizzo from Dragons Academy (LNFA Jr) could be an unexpected surprise as season moves along. Nonetheless, the biggest signing this Offseason in this unit is coach Yagues. He has been given the mission of crafting the interesting material he has been given into a proficient unit at ELF level.
OFFENSE FINAL COMMENTS: Many new faces in this side of the ball. Only 6 players returning from last year's roster. The capacity of coaches Black, Micky and Yagues to swiftly develope chemistry and glue this unit will determine Dragons fate this season. We can expect Dragons to remain pass focused but we also expect to be far more unpredictable than previous years by moving away from the one-dimensional, Zach to Sweet/Constant, approach of previous coaches. Coaching staff is fully determined to implement a much richer offensive approach and get more players involved in offense. Overall, good vibes coming from training camp...
Defensive Line: One of the units where Dragons fans are more eager to see on the field. Although the key losses of homegrowns Alejandro Fernandez to Fire and Yago Rivero to Potsdam Royals (GFL) plus Michael Sam retirement from football, big things are expected from the DL. Key DTs 🇪🇸 Sebastian Bowen and 🇪🇸 Daniel Franco are back for another season. DE/rusher 🇺🇸 Darius Slade has impressed in training camp with his technique, athletics and implication with the team. Experienced 🇸🇪🇺🇸 Benjamin Egbudiwe brings more fire power to the line. Newly signed youngsters 🇪🇸 Mamadou Ka Thiobane from Terrassa Reds (LNFA), 🇪🇸 Diego Paz from Las Rozas Black Demons (LNFA) and 🇪🇸 Leo Rovesti from Alcobendas Cavaliers (LNFA) have already made some eyebrows rise in training camp. Other signings in 🇪🇸 Francisco Olivas from Mallorca Voltors (LNFA) and 🇪🇸 Rodrigo Sanz from Osos Rivas (LNFA) seems to point towards a deep and exciting DL for Dragons this season.
Linebackers: Good news here too. The LBs Corp are back almost in full for another season. 🇪🇸 Cesare Brugnani, 🇪🇸 Alex "Posito", 🇪🇸 Victor Albarracin and 🇪🇸 Sebastian Castañer, not only they proved to fully belong to this league last season but actually shine. To add more gun power, Dragons signs experienced LB 🇪🇸 Manuel Fernandez from Ravensburg Razorbacks (GFL)
Safeties: Another unit ready to brightly shine this season. 🇺🇸 Luke Glenna comes right off the University of St Thomas Minnesota (NCAA D-1) where he earned All American team and All Conference first team honors in 2022. Fan favorite 🇦🇷 Lautaro Frecha comes back for his 3rd season with the team and 🇪🇸 Jorge Félix Velasco is back too to complete the transition to S from LB that coach Black already envisioned last season. 🇪🇸 Hugo Minguez from Las Rozas Black Demons (LNFA) is another addition that might surprise as the season evolves.
Cornerbacks: Good talent in this unit but it might be the thiner unit in defense at this moment. Team captain 🇪🇸 Jordi Brugnani and 🇪🇸 Lucas Masero return to lead this unit for a 3rd season in a row. Experienced DB 🇪🇸 Julio Aguado from Las Rozas Black Demons (LNFA) and young but very promising prospect 🇪🇸🇩🇪 Pascal Sendelbach from Dragons Academy (LNFA Jr) will need to adjust quickly to the league and step up to help consolidate this unit.
DEFENSE FINAL COMMENTS: Defense has been reloaded and ready to go again after an already good performance last year. Defense will need to take the lead early in the season so that the offense earns time to get fully oiled in the first games of the season. Many team veterans are back, key import signings are giving out good vibes in training camp and a loaded promotion of promising young players seems a good receipt for success. And above all, defensive mastermind in coach Black ruling them all.
Kicker: 🇪🇸 Luis Cereceda. After year and a half under Giorgio Tavecchio wings as a mentor, he is now ready to take charge of this position.
Punter: 🇦🇺 Sam Higgins. Former Australian rules player, took on football by joining Badalona Dracs (LNFA) a couple of years ago. Joins Dragons this season.
Long Snapper: 🇪🇸 Pep Tricas comes back for his 3rd season as long snapper specialist.
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