South Dakota State running back Pierre Strong Jr. is one of the speedsters the Patriots selected in the draft. Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

Add more playmakers. Inject more speed. Land players who will make the Patriots more competitive with the Buffalo Bills, as well as the rest of the division.

More than anything, that was the Patriots’ offseason mission and mantra. And, during the past three days, it was the primary objective for the 2022 draft.

The Patriots needed to acquire more impact players on both sides of the ball. Mostly, they needed to add a few plug-and-play players, preferably in positions of need.

Whether it was cornerback, offensive line, linebacker or wide receiver, those were the primary areas to target, but adding help on the defensive line and at running back also factored in.

Listening to personnel head Matt Groh during his press briefings, the Patriots wanted to add toughness in addition to speed. That was another objective, and a good one, considering the Patriots got pushed around at times last year.

Let’s just say, given all the holes currently on the Patriots’ roster, there was no way this draft could serve as a cure-all for their many issues. But it could certainly provide a lift, especially if they pieced together a similar draft to last year’s model, landing several players who could step in and help right away.

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Did Bill Belichick & Co. accomplish the mission?

On some levels, they did. On other fronts, not so much. Where’s the stud linebacker with wheels?

None of the players chosen adequately addressed that need.

The Patriots treated the draft as if linebacker wasn’t a need, even though assistant coach Jerod Mayo told the media in February his unit had to get faster and more explosive.

Apparently, Belichick likes what he has in-house. The Patriots are basically going to count on two injured players who didn’t play last year, Raekwon McMillan and Cameron McGrone, along with newly acquired Mack Wilson, to help their glacially slow outfit.

Well, we’ll see where that takes them.

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As for speed in general, the Patriots did upgrade. The better question is whether they took the right speed guys.

They landed the fastest wide receiver at the combine with Baylor’s Tyquan Thornton, who ran a sizzling 4.28.

They also secured the fastest running back, South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong Jr., who was timed in 4.37 at the combine. Strong was the first of two running backs (South Carolina’s Kevin Harris was the other) selected by the Patriots. Both have a chance to make the team, especially with James White attempting to return from a major hip injury.

“(If) you want to get faster, you better get fast guys,” Groh said Friday, “and I don’t know how many guys out there are faster than Tyquan.”

True. But just to play devil’s advocate, getting fast guys is one thing. Getting fast guys who can play and succeed in the NFL is another. See Bethel Johnson and Chad Jackson for details.

As it is, the Patriots reached for Thornton, taking the 6-2, 181-pound receiver in the second round, two rounds ahead of his projection. Given his slender frame, he’ll be hard-pressed to dazzle with that speed if he can’t handle press coverage at the line.

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In other words, if his vertical explosiveness doesn’t translate, it’s a wasted pick. It’s also important to note they left Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore on the board, not to mention South Alabama’s Jalen Tolbert.

On the plus side, they added much-needed depth to the offensive line, which was vital in terms of keeping Mac Jones safe. Guard Cole Strange brings some nastiness and toughness, even if he was a complete reach in the first round. The good news with Strange is he should be able to contribute right away. Seventh-round tackle Anthony Stueber, a mammoth 6-7, 325-pound tackle, also brings a toughness component if he gets on the field.

Meanwhile, the Patriots checked off the cornerback box, adding a pair of defenders. The first, Houston’s Marcus Jones, could be a home run pick. He has a ton of versatility in the defensive backfield and pops as a return man and part-time offensive weapon.

At the very least, he’ll give their return game a huge boost. And while he doesn’t have the kind of size the Patriots typically draft at the cornerback spot – Jones is 5-8 – he looks to have elite speed. He might actually prove a surprise as a corner.

Jones’ athleticism and change-of-direction ability allowed him to hold his own against bigger receivers. He also plays tough – there’s that word again – despite his frame. When facing teams like Miami, who now have speed demons Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, adding him to the mix with Jonathan Jones should help combat that duo, and others like them.

Arizona State’s Jack Jones, meanwhile, is a different story. The Patriots are taking a chance on him, given his pedigree as a former five-star recruit.

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Yes, he’s a strong man-coverage corner with great ball skills, but off-field issues are a concern. He was dismissed from USC after being arrested for allegedly breaking into a Panda Express in 2019. After eventually working his way back to the Pac-12, hooking on with Arizona State, he was suspended for fighting in 2020.

Instead of having to roll the dice on Jones in the fourth round, the Patriots could have had a few potential No. 1 corners much earlier. Just as they passed on top linebackers, they could have had Washington’s Trent McDuffie if they didn’t trade down from their original spot in the first round. But he’s now with the Kansas City Chiefs. They also could have also taken Kaiir Elam, who landed with the Bills.

So that’s also a bit baffling.

Groh claimed Friday night the Patriots were “in consensus” on all of their picks.

Ultimately, they seemed to have a plan. And for the most part, they had the right idea in terms of bringing in more speed and toughness with the 10 players chosen. But their execution was questionable, reaching for several players, which in turn, left some better prospects on the board.


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