FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — After focusing exclusively on defense with their first three picks, the New England Patriots used the final day of the NFL draft to address their offense and special teams.
The Patriots entered Saturday expecting to be busy with nine draft picks spread over the final four rounds.
They came in as one of two teams to not draft an offensive player during the first two days, but ended up spending multiple picks on offensive linemen and wide receivers.
The possibility of New England featuring rookies at both punter and kicker is in play after it used some of the team’s draft capital to select players from each position.
Shifting to the other two phases of the game after the Patriots stocked up on defenders starting with their first pick — cornerback Christian Gonzalez — on Thursday.
Defense remained the focus on Friday with the additions of edge rusher Keion White and safety-linebacker hybrid Marte Mapu.
On Saturday, New England completed its draft class with center Jake Andrews (fourth round), kicker Chad Ryland (fourth), guard Sidy Sow (fourth), guard Atonio Mafi (fifth), receiver Kayshon Boutte (sixth), punter Bryce Baringer (sixth), receiver Demario Douglas (sixth), cornerback/special teams Ameer Speed (sixth), and defensive back/kick returner Isaiah Bolden (seventh).
“Able to add a lot of different players at a lot of different positions from a lot of different backgrounds,” said Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh in a video call with reporters Saturday night.
“Looking to getting everybody here and getting them into our culture.”
Of the 12 picks made as part of the franchise’s 2023 draft class, none was used to select a quarterback.
With this year’s draft now complete, the Patriots appear to be content with Mac Jones — the 2021 first-round pick who has started the past two season openers — and Bailey Zappe with four-year veteran Trace McSorley rounding out the quarterback depth chart.
In somewhat of a surprise, the Patriots did not select a tight end. They don’t have one under contract beyond the 2023 season. New England didn’t draft a running back but appears a bit more solid with Rhamondre Stevenson coming off a 1,000-yard season and still on his 2021 rookie deal and veteran James Robinson signed to a two-year contract during the offseason.
Asked about not selecting a tight end, Groh noted, “There some guys near the top. There was good depth in the middle of the draft and those guys came off the board fast. Sometimes, a guy goes and it’s an avalanche.”
The Patriots prioritize offensive linemen who are versatile with Andrews, Sow and Mafi checking off that important skill. They’ll be coached by new Patriots O-line coach Adrian Klemm.
“Three good guys who’ll bring a hard-nosed attitude to the offensive line,” Groh said.
The addition of Ryland casts a shadow of doubt over the future of Nick Folk with the Patriots, who is signed for the upcoming season. The 38-year-old Folk had made more than 100 field goals in four seasons with New England but struggled down the stretch last season. The Patriots have a clear need for a punter after waiving Jake Bailey.
A former walk-on who became an All-American at Michigan State, Baringer averaged 49 yards per punt last season.
“To be able to add two of the very top players at their positions in Chad and Bryce to the team was certainly an opportunity that we didn’t want to pass up on,” Groh said.
Bouttie and Douglas are outside wide receiver options but can also play inside. Groh says the abilities that Speed and Bolden have to impact the game both in the secondary and on fourth down help to round what he believes was a productive three days for the organization.
“It’s a diverse group, from the big guys, the beef up the middle, to the speed with these defensive backs and wide receivers,” Groh said.
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