Sunday 7: A few recent Patriots high draft picks could be potential cuts this summer


1. Part of observing OTA sessions in recent weeks has been taking a look at positional groups when they break off and seeing what kind of depth each position has. Obviously, it’s not a true picture with some players not participating, but it does offer a chance to project how things might look. Part of that projection this spring has shown that some recent high draft picks of the team in recent years could be in danger of not making the 2021 roster. While it’s only the start of the third year for the 2019 class, the two top picks — N’Keal Harry and Joejuan Williams -- are in interesting spots. Harry’s struggles have been well-documented, but now in these spring sessions players like Isaiah Zuber are showing up more than he is. There becomes a point where it’s just not worth trying to make something work with a player, especially when there are better players on the roster. That could where Harry is come the time rosters need to be finalized later this summer. Williams is in a similar position, as he hasn’t shown much in his two years in the league and then there are younger players in the secondary like Kyle Dugger and Myles Bryant who have leaped the Vanderbilt product on the depth chart. While it doesn’t happen often, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see Bill Belichick move on from either of these players after just two seasons. Ideally, they would find a trade partner, but that might be easier said than done. Another player to watch is tight end Dalton Keene, one of the third-round picks last year. It’s a numbers game at the position and Keene certainly feels like a player on the outside looking in. He likely wouldn’t be cut, but since he’s been riding the stationary bike and not a full participant at some of the spring sessions, perhaps he’s a candidate to spend the year on injured reserve.

2. Mandatory minicamp begins Monday and it will be interesting to see if a few players who haven’t been at the voluntary OTAs show up. Some players are injured and have had valid reason not to be on the field, but a few players don’t seem to have any health issues. Those players include Jonnu Smith, Sony Michel and Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore may not show up to send a message regarding his contract, but as for Smith and Michel, they really have no reason not to attend.

3. The passing game is the area many people are saying will see the most improvement from a year ago for the Patriots, but what about the front-seven? With Matt Judon, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Josh Uche and Chase Winovich all in the mix, the unit will be able to show offenses a number of different looks and surely will be better than it was in 2020. While it’s only the spring and practices are in t-shirts and shorts, Uche seems to be primed for a big jump in his second season.

4. Mac Jones spoke to the media for the first time since draft night on Thursday and was quite impressive. He gave off a good vibe and when it comes to battling with Cam Newton, as his answers just felt different than what Jarrett Stidham said about it a year ago. While he downplayed it, Jones acknowledged there’s a healthy competition between all of the quarterbacks. He also acknowledged while he may struggle now, he will learn from his mistakes and continue to get better each and every day.

5. Hightower was on the field for the first time since the 2019 season on Thursday and one thing that stood out was it looked like he had slimmed down. This is something he touched on a few years ago and how it would help with preventing injuries. It also seems to make sense for him to try and play at a lighter weight to be more athletic in the middle of the defense. The team has players who can line up along the edge and take on offensive tackles and tight ends.

6. It sure seems like, at least certainly on a national scale, there’s a lot of hype with the Patriots right now when it comes to how they will do this coming season. Heck, Keyshawn Johnson said on ESPN this week with Cam Newton at quarterback they will be competing with the Chiefs as the top team in the AFC. While they will certainly be better than a year ago, the team may be getting a little too much love from some media members at the moment.

7. Following minicamp this week, the Patriots will be off until training camp in late July. Typically, the entire NFL, including the offices on Park Ave. shut down during the majority of this time so don’t expect much NFL news over this period. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Patriots’ joint practices officially announced this week.

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