The New England Patriots spent two decades dominating the AFC East, but now they find themselves playing catch up to every other team in the division. And while there is still plenty of time left in the off-season, the team made some rather odd moves during the 2023 NFL Draft.
Things started off normal enough for New England during the first three rounds. They selected three defensive players with their first picks, including cornerback Christian Gonzalez out of Oregon, and chose a center with their first pick in the fourth round.
Patriots Take Kicker And Punter In Same NFL Draft — First Time Since 2000
Patriots drafted Michigan St punter Bryce Baringer in round six and Maryland kicker Chad Ryland in round four, becoming the first team since the 2000 Raiders – who selected kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler – to pick a kicker and punter in the same draft.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 29, 2023
But then, with 112th pick (4th round, pick 10), the Patriots selected place kicker Chad Ryland from Maryland. It came as a surprise, especially considering that Bill Belichick and company traded up in order to get him, and did so with a division rival.
As if that wasn’t odd enough, New England doubled down on building up their kicking game by selecting punter Bryce Baringer from Michigan State. The move of selecting two special teams players in the same draft hadn’t been done in 23 years, when the Raiders selected both Sabastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler in 2000. (To the Raiders’ credit, that actually worked out pretty well.)
Your first look at #Patriots punter Bryce Baringer. A 68-yard BOMB inside the 5 yard line.
— Mike Kadlick (@mikekadlick) April 29, 2023
That wasn’t the only special teams history that was made during the 2023 NFL Draft. In the 3rd round and with the 99th overall pick, the 49ers selected Michigan kicker Jake Moody. It was the highest that a kicker has been taken since 2016, when the Buccaneers selected Robert Aguayo with the 59th overall pick. Moody becomes the second kicker ever to be drafted in the third round, and had the 5th highest draft spot of any kicker ever.
Perhaps the Patriots felt like they could afford to take the risk. They were one of the richest teams in this year’s NFL Draft, and ended up making 12 total picks over the three days. While they bolstered their defense and added a couple of wide receivers in the late rounds, there will still be lingering questions about the future of Mac Jones at quarterback and the skill position weapons that will surround whoever ends up playing under center in 2023.
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