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The New England Patriots have had some success drafting prospects in the late rounds. Studs like Mike Onwenu were plucked from the draft in the sixth round, and we all know about the Tom Brady story.
While those success stories get tons of attention in New England, the team hasn’t been as productive when picking prospects on days 1 and 2 of the NFL Draft.
Was there an early Patriots draft pick more disappointing than N’Keal Harry? The answer is yes.
Most current Patriots fans are well aware of the failures of the Patriots’ 2019 first-round selection Harry, but in 2018, Bill Belichick and Co. missed badly on another prospect. That season, the Patriots selected Duke Dawson in the second round out of Florida. To say things didn’t work out is a major understatement.
Dawson made even less of an impact than Harry, which explains Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton tabbing the former as the Patriots’ worst draft pick in the past five years.
Duke Dawson Called the Patriots’ Worst Draft Pick in the Last 5 Years
Moton knows all about Harry’s struggles but still gives the dubious distinction to Dawson.
“Wide receiver N’Keal Harry deserves mention because he hasn’t come close to meeting first-round expectations with 57 receptions for 598 yards and four touchdowns through three seasons,” Moton wrote. “However, as a Day 2 pick out of Florida, Duke Dawson didn’t play a snap with the Patriots. He opened his first season on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury, and New England kept him on the sideline as a healthy scratch for the final two months of the term.”
Many coaches in athletics have said: the best ability is availability. While Harry hasn’t exactly been an iron man for the Patriots, he’s been on the field far more often than Dawson was during his time in Foxborough.
“Before the 2019 season, the Patriots traded Dawson and a seventh-round pick to the Broncos in exchange for a sixth-round pick,” Moton continued. “In Denver, Dawson suited up for 26 contests (starting in four), logging 27 tackles and two pass breakups. He spent nearly half of the 2021 season on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from a torn ACL before the Broncos waived and re-signed him. The 26-year-old is currently a free agent.”
While Dawson is still young, his lack of success in the NFL, injury history and current status as a free agent suggests his NFL career could be over. However, with other pro options out there like the USFL and Fan-Controlled Football, perhaps he could find a spot playing professionally elsewhere.
The Patriots Will Try to Avoid Another Bad Early Selection
The NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 28 and it runs through Saturday, April 30. The Patriots own the 21st pick in the NFL Draft this year and there are rumblings they could trade down to add more draft assets.
If Belichick does choose to do that, he would remove some of the pressure off the first player the team selects in this year’s draft. Players selected later than the first round don’t come in with as much hoopla.
However, because the Patriots fanbase and local media are so plugged into the team’s roster moves, there is no way for the earliest selection to completely escape high expectations. If New England keeps their first-round pick and Belichick looks to bolster the wide receiver group, there will be tons of eyes on the man chosen to join DeVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor.
The addition of Parker after a trade with the Miami Dolphins adds a weapon, but Mac Jones still needs more. New England might also choose a cornerback if they keep their first-round pick. Like Dawson, a lot would be expected of that pick considering the Patriots just lost J.C. Jackson to the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency.
Because the Patriots are a team with multiple holes to fill, signs seem to be pointing to Belichick trading down or completely out of the first round. We’ll find out for sure on Thursday.
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