O’Sullivan: First-round picks for Patriots should make Brady a happy man

  • New England Patriots first-round NFL football draft picks, offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, left, and running back Sony Michel, both out of the University of Georgia, laugh during a media availability, Friday, April 27, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes) Bill Sikes

  • New England Patriots NFL football team owner Robert Kraft, left, and his son, team president Jonathan Kraft, right, pose with first-round NFL draft picks, offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn second from left, and running back Sony Michel, second from right, both out of the University of Georgia, Friday, April 27, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes) Bill Sikes

  • Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) celebrates with offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn (77) after running for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Missouri on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 53-28. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore—AP

  • Georgia offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn (77) and Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) celebrate after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Auburn, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. Georgia won 28-7. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore—AP

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Speculating about Tom Brady’s feelings is trending these days.

Is he committed to playing for the Patriots next season? Is “committing to play” when you’re under contract even a thing? Is Brady mad at Bill Belichick for benching Malcolm Butler and banning Alex Guerrero? Is Rob Gronkwoski getting Brady more riled up about these things? Is Brady upset enough, or worried enough about his health, to shy away from his “I’m playing until I’m 45” stance?

Since everyone is doing it, let’s add some more Brady speculation to the gossip pile – the quarterback has to be happy with New England’s two draft picks on Thursday. Throw in the trade the team made on Friday before the second and third rounds of the draft even began, and Brady has to be smiling, right?

The Patriots could have done plenty in this draft to make Brady unhappy. They could have packaged some of their high picks and moved up to take one of the available heralded quarterbacks as Brady’s sooner-rather-than-later replacement. They could have used their two first-round picks on defensive players. They could have traded out of the first round for future considerations. They could have taken Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who had been linked to New England by some, at either No. 23 or No. 31 (he was picked No. 32 by Baltimore).

But instead of drafting an heir for Brady, the Patriots drafted help for Brady – Georgia offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn at No. 23 and Georgia running back Sony Michel at No. 31. They brought in more help on Friday by trading the No. 95 pick to San Francisco for tackle Trent Brown, all 6-foot-8 and 355 pounds of him, and the No. 143 selection.

Seems like the team is committed to keeping Brady protected … and happy. Let’s hope the feeling is mutual.

After losing left tackle Nate Solder in free agency, it seemed clear New England needed help at the position. It’s risky enough going into a season with a quarterback who will turn 41 on Aug. 3, but relying on LaAdrian Waddle to protect the 41-year-old’s blind side would have turned that risk into negligence. Enter Wynn and Brown.

Wynn was a three-year starter for the Bulldogs and a captain last year as a senior. He moved all over the line, played through a torn labrum through the final month of last season and faced the toughest competition in college football in the SEC. Add it all up and Wynn looks like a guy who can step in this season and immediately help the Patriots protect Brady.

“Isaiah has a lot of experience. He started for three years. He’s played both guard and tackle, he’s played multiple spots. He’s been productive in both of those areas, so he’s a good player. He’s got good traits. He’s been in a good program,” New England director of player personnel Nick Caserio said late Thursday night. “He had to block a lot of good people in that conference, as you all know, you guys who all watch SEC football know there’s a lot of good football players down there, a lot of them got drafted tonight.”

Wynn probably isn’t aware of all the speculation, but of course he knows who he’ll be protecting for the Patriots.

“I mean it’s awesome. I think as a lineman that’s kind of every lineman’s dream, to have a quarterback like Tom Brady back there,” Wynn said during his introductory press conference with the New England media. “I’m just looking forward to, like I said before, just helping contribute any way I can.”

Considering the hole at left tackle, it made sense that Wynn would be asked to contribute there. But even though he’s massive for a normal human at 6-3, 313 pounds, Brown is shorter than most NFL left tackles. His long arms, solid technique, quick feet and physicality could all make up for that lack of height and allow him to play tackle. But just in case they don’t, the Patriots picked up Brown, who is more than big enough and performed well in 10 starts for the 49ers last year.

Wynn and Brown give Brady protections. Michel gives him a new weapon.

The 5-11, 214-pound Michel is a big-play threat – he averaged a staggering 7.9 yards per carry last season (1,277 yards on 156 carries). He’s also physical (3.83 yards after contact last year, according to Pro Football Focus) and understands the passing game (64 career receptions for 621 yards and last year allowed only two hurries on 48 pass-block snaps, according to PFF).

The Patriots haven’t taken a running back in the first round since they drafted Laurence Maroney in 2006. And there are concerns about a history of knee trouble with Michel. But the potential apparently outweighed any reservations.

“Our responsibility is just to pick good football players. That’s the most important thing. We think he’s a good football player so we picked the player,” Caserio said of Michel. “He’s got pretty good skills. He’s athletic. He’s good in space. He’s a strong runner for his size, 210-215 pounds, whatever he is. Our thing is to pick good football players who have good traits. However they get here, they get here.”

There’s already a crowd at running back in New England with Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill, Mike Gillislee, James White and Brandon Bolden on the roster. But competing for time and playing nicely with others won’t be new to Michel, who shared carries at Georgia with Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb.

“I’m excited to be a part of an organization that has great running backs, guys I can learn from, and I’m excited just to see what they have to offer. What can they teach me? How much can they teach me? I’m just so eager to know what can they teach me and I’m just excited to have other guys there that I know I can go in there and learn from; words can’t describe.”

Here’s a word he might try – happy. The same one that should describe Brady’s current mood.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341, tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)