The Patriots selected West Virginia offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste with the 101st overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Friday. He was the team’s final pick of day two and the second-to-last pick of the day for the NFL.
New England addressed the offensive line with key spots in question for 2019 and beyond. Starting left guard Joe Thuney is entering the final year of his contract. Uncertainty surrounds the health and fit of sophomore lineman Isaiah Wynn, who lost his entire rookie season to a torn Achilles.
Cajuste reportedly had a pre-draft visit with the Patriots, a harbinger of their interest in selecting him Friday. He put together an excellent redshirt senior season in 2018 with the Mountaineers before declaring for the draft. Cajuste was a First Team All-Big 12 selection after starting 11 games at left tackle for West Virginia, whose offense ranked 10th in the nation with 40.3 points per game.
However, Cajuste underwent quad surgery in March and was considered a relatively unpolished prospect, so he dropped to a compensatory third-round value in the draft. Here’s what NFL.com says about Cajuste in its Draft Profile: “He might end up being more of a positional and stalemate blocker than drive blocker in the run game so he will need to shine in pass pro, which will take work. He has starting tackle talent with the body type for consideration inside.”
Cajuste does have the talent to be a starting tackle in the NFL. He stands at 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds with 34-inch arms and natural athleticism. But scouting reports indicate he’s raw and needs time to develop. There’s no better place for a prospect like Cajuste than Foxborough with Bill Belichick and offensive line maestro Dante Scarnecchia.
It’s interesting that Belichick selected an O-lineman who may not be great in the run game. But if he and Scarnecchia can refine him into a starter, that could mean he eventually plays left tackle and facilitates a move to guard for Wynn. Cajuste’s frame could also help him move inside if he can’t stick as a tackle.
The Patriots’ left tackle situation remains in flux entering 2019 camp, even after the arrival of Cajuste. But a day two draft pick entering the mix eases concerns and adds raw talent to an unresolved depth chart.