NFL Rumors: How did teams value Tyquan Thornton before Patriots drafted WR?

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Report: Where other teams had Tyquan Thornton on their draft boards originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton both fill needs for the Patriots and could become productive players in New England.

But the Patriots are taking heat for their first two 2022 NFL Draft picks because of when they selected each player.

New England used a first-round pick (No. 29) on Strange, an offensive guard out of Chattanooga, then traded up from No. 54 to No. 50 in the second round to draft Baylor wide receiver Thornton.

Curran: Patriots' draft decisions are taking a pummeling

Did the Patriots need to trade up to take Thornton -- or could they have drafted him much later? After speaking with other NFL talent evaluators, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer believes it's the latter.

"One area scout assigned to Baylor told me he had a fifth-round grade on Thornton," Breer wrote Monday morning. "Few had more than a fourth-round grade on him. He went in the second round."

Breer also reported that the Patriots overvalued Strange as well, with most teams viewing him as a third-round pick or late second-rounder at best. But our Phil Perry spoke to an AFC executive who saw Thornton in Round 2 as a "bigger (reach)" than Strange in Round 1.

"There were teams who liked Strange, just thought it was early. Fewer teams were high on Thornton," the executive told Perry.

Thornton is an absolute burner whose 4.28-second 40-yard dash was the fastest among wide receivers at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has a very thin frame, though -- 6-foot-2, 181 pounds -- and lacks in lateral quickness, which appeared to hurt his draft stock in the eyes of other teams.

But the Patriots weren't deterred, nabbing Thornton with several other talented wide receivers still on the board -- Alec Pierce, George Pickens and Skyy Moore to name a few. Nearly every NFL Draft expert -- from our Phil Perry to The Athletic's Dane Brugler to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. -- had all three wideouts ranked higher than Thornton, which makes it all the more puzzling why New England traded up to draft the Baylor wide receiver instead of just taking him at 54.

Bill Belichick and the Patriots very well could prove the "experts" wrong if Thornton develops into a productive wide receiver. But at the very least, it seems like New England could have waited to land the Baylor wideout while using its second-rounder on a more pressing need like linebacker -- which it didn't address in the draft.