2022 NFL Draft: Why Mel Kiper ranked Patriots' haul last among 32 teams

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Mel Kiper believes Patriots had worst 2022 draft in NFL; here's why originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots might have the last laugh. But right now, their activity in the 2022 NFL Draft has become the butt of several jokes.

The Patriots made multiple eye-opening picks this weekend, beginning with their first-round selection of Chattanooga offensive guard Cole Strange, who likely would have been available in the later rounds.

NFL Draft Grades: How Patriots, AFC competitors fared through seven rounds

New England then traded up to No. 50 in the second round to take a 183-pound wide receiver -- Baylor's Tyquan Thornton -- who was lower on draft boards than many wideouts still available.

Our Phil Perry and Tom E. Curran have already weighed in on the Patriots' 10-player draft haul, but what do the national draft "experts" think?

Curran: The Patriots' draft decisions are taking a pummeling

Mel Kiper Jr., for one, isn't a fan: The ESPN draft pundit gave New England a C+ draft grade, the lowest among all 32 teams.

Kiper began by taking the Patriots to task for drafting Strange at No. 29.

"I just don't think they got value with their first two picks this year," Kiper wrote. "Cole Strange (29) is a nice guard, but I didn't see a first-round pick on tape. He likely would have been on the board when the Pats picked in the middle of Round 2.

"I know a hole opened up at guard when Shaq Mason was traded to the Bucs, but value matters in the draft, and Strange needs to play at a Pro Bowl level for years to come to justify this selection."

Kiper also noted there were "several" better wideouts available at No. 50 than Thornton, who wasn't on his list of top 25 wideouts.

2022 NFL Draft Highlight: Tyquan Thornton

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"Yes, he has blazing speed -- he ran a 4.28-second 40 at the combine -- but he needs a lot of work on his all-around game," Kiper wrote of Thornton. "Alec Pierce, George Pickens, Skyy Moore and Jalen Tolbert all would have been better picks. It's another selection without value."

Kiper lauded New England's third-round selection, Houston cornerback Marcus Jones, and called fourth-round running back Pierre Strong Jr. his "favorite running back in this class."

But the ESPN draft expert "(didn't) really understand" why the Patriots took a quarterback (Western Kentucky's Bailey Zappe) in the fourth round with Mac Jones on the roster and thought Arizona State cornerback Jack Jones "went about 70 picks too high."

The Patriots filled areas of need at offensive line, wide receiver and cornerback, but Kiper seems to have issue with which players they selected, and where. New England also didn't address its weakness at linebacker, which is cause for concern.

Check out the team's full draft class below: