FOXBORO — It was far from an ideal situation last year as only three of nine players drafted by the New England Patriots in 2018 stepped on the field.
First-round pick and offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, cornerback Duke Dawson, linebacker Christian Sam, wide receiver Braxton Berrios and tight end Ryan Izzo did not even make it to the first week of the regular season before being placed on injured reserve. Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley landed on IR just three weeks into his promising start.
But now, as coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots gear up for the 2019 NFL Draft starting on April 25, they can do so knowing they have the 2018 class in the fold as well. Belichick was optimistic about that during his pre-draft press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday.“Obviously, many of our 2018 draft choices had partial seasons or minimal, in some cases. We’re excited to see how those guys will do this year, obviously,” Belichick said. “It’s a hard-working group. Those guys are here on a very consistent basis, and, hopefully, we’ll get a much longer look at the 2018 draft class than we were able to get last year.”
Heading into this year’s draft, the Patriots currently are tied for the most picks (12), including six in the top 101. However, that does not mean they will draft 12 players.
More likely than not, New England will be in the mix of teams packaging picks to move up at various points during the draft, trading this year’s picks for those next year, and so forth.
Belichick said nothing is off the table.
“We have a lot of draft picks as we sit here today,” he said. “I don’t know that that necessarily means that they will or won’t be there on draft weekend. We’ll see how all of that goes. Just evaluate situations as they come up and try to make the best decisions we can for the football team. There’s no set goal in mind as to how many picks to have or what to do with them. We just want to try to make good decisions at every opportunity we can to improve our team in whatever way is possible and that includes everything.”
The media availability on Wednesday was the first time Belichick spoke publicly to reporters since incoming defensive coordinator Greg Schiano unexpectedly resigned. Schiano was never officially offered the position, but was thought to be the replacement for current Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores.
Belichick was asked about the Patriots lacking of defensive coordinator at this point.
“Well, I mean, we’re not talking about an unprecedented event here,” he said. “Yeah, we’ve dealt with changes before. We’ll continue to deal with them.”
He declined to comment on how the Patriots would be replacing the position on the coaching staff.The Patriots officially announced they have re-signed kicker Stephen Gostkowski and signed tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Contract terms were not announced.
Seferian-Jenkins, 26, most recently played for the Jacksonville Jaguars last year, starting the first five games before being placed on IR on October 9. He caught 11 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.
The 6-foot-5, 262-pound Seferian-Jenkins has played five seasons in the NFL with Tampa Bay (2014-16), the N.Y. Jets (2017) and Jacksonville (2018). He was a second-round pick out of Washington.
Overall, Seferian-Jenkins has played in 43 regular-season games with 29 starts and totaled 116 receptions for 1,160 yards and 11 touchdowns. His most productive season was with the Jets in 2017, He posted 50 receptions for 357 yards and three touchdowns.
Seferian-Jenkins will look to help fill the void left by the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and departure of Dwayne Allen this offseason. The Patriots will almost certainly draft a tight end, as well.
The Patriots had a pair of quarterbacks come in for pre-draft visits on Wednesday, according to a report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. Both West Virginia quarterback Will Grier and Duke quarterback Daniel Jones attended.
New England also hosted a pair of free agents including longtime Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and former Jacksonsville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.