Patriots don’t select linebacker in 2022 draft, ‘excited’ by current group

Linebacker was widely viewed as one of the Patriots' top needs.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Ja'Whaun Bentley was the Patriots' leading tackler last season.

Entering the 2022 NFL Draft, almost every draft pundit and analyst felt linebacker was a major need for the Patriots, predicting them to select one in the early rounds.

New England felt differently.

Not only did the Patriots not select a linebacker in the early rounds, which almost every mock draft predicted they would, but they also didn’t draft a linebacker at all over the weekend.

And it wasn’t like the Patriots didn’t have a chance to draft one of the top linebackers, either. When they were on the clock with the No. 21 overall pick, not a single linebacker had been selected. However, New England traded down in the first round before selecting guard Cole Strange.


While the Patriots’ decision to ignore the linebacker position over the weekend confused many, Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh shared why the team was comfortable not selecting one.

“Yeah, really excited about that group,” Groh said about his team’s linebackers between Days 2 and 3 of the draft. “Excited to see Cam McGrone was able to get on the field a little bit last year, excited to see him be in an expanded role. He’s kind of an additional draft pick.

“You can kind of put him along there with the three guys that we’ve been able to add here today along with some of the other guys from last year. That all kind of counts to getting younger, getting faster, being a tough team.

“So being able to add Mack Wilson, I know a lot was going on in free agency, and it was a trade and not a signing, but I think that was a really important part of adding some depth to the linebacking corps along with being able to get Ja’Whaun Bentley back. Really excited to have him and his experience, as well.  I think we’ve got a lot of names there and a lot of experience, and mix in some youth, so I think it’s a good group.”


As Groh mentioned, they do have some new faces set to enter the mix at linebacker this season. McGrone, who the Patriots drafted in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, didn’t play last season due to a torn ACL he suffered in 2020 playing at Michigan. The talent’s certainly there for McGrone. He was a top 25 recruit in his high school class and in his one full season as a starter in Ann Arbor, he recorded 65 total tackles (9.5 for loss) with 2.5 sacks.

They’re also set to get Raekwon McMillan, who signed with the team prior to the 2021 season, back, too. The Patriots reportedly viewed the linebacker highly before he tore his ACL during training camp last season. The 26-year-old recorded a 105-tackle season with the Dolphins in 2018, so the Patriots might have something there, too.

Wilson’s the only linebacker they’ve added externally so far this offseason. The former fifth-round pick struggled to make an impact in Cleveland though, seeing less playing time in each of his three seasons before getting traded for Chase Winovich. Wilson did show promise as a rookie though, recording 82 total tackles (four for loss) that season.

New England also brought back its leading tackler from last season in Bentley, re-signing him to a two-year deal. However, longtime Patriot Dont’a Hightower remains unsigned nearly two months into free agency. New England not re-signing the 32-year-old could be a sign that it’s turning the page at linebacker, even if it didn’t draft one.


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