Why ESPN ranked this Patriots trade the best of 2022 NFL Draft

The New England Patriots have taken a public shellacking for their 2022 NFL Draft haul. But there’s one move the team made last weekend that drawing high praise.

ESPN’s Seth Walder published his ranking of the top five trades from draft weekend, using a “draft pick value chart” to determine which teams got the most value for swapping picks.

Walder’s ranking doesn’t factor in actual players — just the perceived “value” of the picks themselves. And tied for the No. 1 spot on Walder’s list was New England’s first-round trade with the Kansas City Chiefs.

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That deal saw the Patriots send the No. 21 pick to Kansas City in exchange for the No. 29 pick, the No. 94 pick and the No. 121 pick. According to Walder’s chart, New England came out 2.3 “chart points” ahead on the deal by landing a third- and a fourth-rounder while moving down just eight spots in the first round. (The Houston Texans also added 2.3 chart points in their first-round trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.)

Walder notes in his analysis that there traditionally isn’t much difference between players picked at No. 21 and No. 29, and that the Patriots “absolutely (came) out ahead” in terms of the actual trade itself.

As for what the Patriots did with the No. 29 pick? That’s a different story.

New England’s selection of Chattanooga offensive guard Cole Strange has been widely criticized, as many believe Strange would have been available in the second or even third round. The Patriots had several other pressing needs to address — including cornerback, which Kansas City filled at No. 21 by taking Washington’s Trent McDuffie with New England’s former pick.

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“One of the clearest errors a team can make is selecting a player long before they need to, and that seemed to be the case with Strange,” Walder wrote. “Our Draft Day Predictor indicated there was a 93% chance Strange would be available at the Patriots’ second-round selection.”

The Patriots flipped that No. 94 pick to the Panthers for Carolina’s 2022 fourth-rounder (No. 137) and 2023 third-rounder. So, here’s how the trade has netted out so far:

Patriots receive: No. 29 pick (OL Cole Strange), No. 121 pick (CB Jack Jones), No. 137 pick (QB Bailey Zappe), 2023 third-rounder

Chiefs receive: No. 21 pick (CB Trent McDuffie)

All three of the above picks were questionable for New England. But if Strange becomes a solid starting offensive lineman, Jones breaks into the cornerback rotation and Zappe becomes a capable backup for Mac Jones, you could argue the Patriots made a good move here.

We won’t have those answers for a while, though, and in the meantime, it will pain Patriots fans to see the team follow such a shrewd trade with such a puzzling pick.

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