Patriots Draft: Pats’ need for speed addressed head on during second night of the NFL Draft

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If there was one line or saying that could sum up the Patriots’ approach to the second night of the NFL Draft on Friday, it would be Ricky Bobby’s “I wanna go fast.”

A night after Bill Belichick, Matt Groh, Matt Patricia and everyone else involved in the New England draft process frustrated fans by trading back in the first round and then selecting a guard, New England addressed the severe need for speed it had with two should-be impact guys in Baylor receiver Tyquan Thornton and Houston cornerback Marcus Jones. The Patriots actually traded up to pick No. 50 for Thornton as well.

“Number one thing is you’ve got to consider what the player does and how the player is going to help you,” said Director of Player Personnel Matt Groh. “You want to get faster. Just like if you want to get tougher, you’d better get tough guys. You want to get faster, you’d better get fast guys. I don’t know how many guys out there are faster than Tyquan. So, we’re really excited to be able to add him and his explosive play making. He is fast.

“To be able to get some toughness and some athleticism on the first night, and I think these other two guys, Tyquan and Marcus Jones, they’re certainly tough guys, too, but at their positions, at the skill positions, they are fast.”

Thornton was legitimately the fastest receiver at the NFL Combine, running a 4.28 40 and he was a second-team All Big-12 selection after he caught 10 TDs, good for second-most in the conference. With both Parker and Thornton on the field together along with Kendrick Bourne, there is suddenly quite a bit of speed defenses need to prepare for.

“So, I was always quite a speedster growing up,” said Thornton. “I mean, I ran track growing up, so at a young age, I was about 12 I would say. In my first year running track, I won the Junior Olympics with like, I am not going to say much training, but I mean, so I was just naturally fast, but I was kind of like a long strider. So when I got to college, I had speed because I was checked out of high school and just adding the weight room to my game, it allowed me to be a lot more explosive.

“So like I said, adding to the process, putting in the weight room and everything into it, and I got more explosive and now my speed went to a different level.”

Not only is Jones a corner, but he’s a versatile one that can play anywhere and he also has game-breaking ability in the kick return and punt return game. Jones had nine career return touchdowns and won the 2021 Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player. Jones was also named an ESPN First team All American as a kick returner, an AP First Team All American defensive back and CBS Sports First Team All American (all purpose). In total, Jones had 18 postseason awards/accolades.

“However I could help the team, I’m definitely down for it. So, wherever they need me to be,” Jones said. “Whenever I’m in New England, wherever they need me to be, it’s the same way with my mindset. So, whether that’s outside or inside or a safety or wherever, I’m definitely down, however I could help the team…In high school, I played a lot of positions, wherever they wanted me at.

“Usually over time, whenever I played, coaches would ask me what I would be down for and however I could help the team, I was always down for (returning). So, whether coach wanted me to be offense, I’d do that to help the team or defense, I’d do that to help the team.”

As is the case with every single draft pick taken this weekend, no one truly knows what they got with their selections until the players are on the field. But, it’s very very clear that the Patriots believe they’ve gotten some guys that can truly change the game with their speed and fill a massive void by doing so. With quite a few picks on Saturday, the influx of that speed may just be getting started too.

“Really excited to have two picks here tonight and add speed to really all three phases of the team. Tyquan on offense and then Marcus on defense and special teams,” Groh added.