FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Sony Michel pretty much carried the banner for the New England Patriots’ 2018 draft class last season, with a bit of help from Keion Crossen.

Michel, the second of two first-round picks, had a very good year as the lead running back, particularly during the playoffs.

Most of the rest of the 2018 class either spent all or much of the season on injured reserve (Isaiah Wynn, Duke Dawson, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Christian Sam, Braxton Berrios, Ryan Izzo) or the practice squad (Danny Etling), or were unable to crack the lineup (Dawson) when finally healthy and activated from IR.

But heading into the 2019 season, several members of last year’s cast have a chance to really put the 2018 class on the map.

Berrios, for one, made the play of the day on the first day of minicamp Tuesday – a diving catch on a 45-yard bomb from Brian Hoyer. Sure, he’s in a fight to make the receiver group and 53-man roster, but he’s off to a good start. And with a year under his belt studying the system, Berrios could become a factor as a second slot receiver. He also returns punts and kickoffs.

While he hasn’t spent much quality time with Tom Brady yet, he’s done well with his opportunities to this point, largely with Hoyer.


During the three-day minicamp, the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Berrios displayed quickness on routes over the middle. The catch on the long bomb revealed a bit of speed, too.

“There’s a little bit of an experience factor, and a base knowledge, just being around and learning all last year,” Berrios said, “but at the end of the day, I’m taking this like a Day One mentality.”

The former University of Miami receiver was compared to just about every Patriots slot receiver of note, including Julian Edelman, heading into last year’s camp, but injuries hobbled him throughout and he wound up on IR before the first week of the season. He could provide valuable depth at the position, not to mention an asset on special teams.

“I’m just trying to help this football team any way I can,” said Berrios. “We’ll see where the chips fall.”

Bentley, meanwhile, is returning from the torn biceps he suffered in Week 3 against the Detroit Lions. That injury shelved him for the remainder of the year, including the playoffs.

He looked good in minicamp, resuming his role with the starting group at linebacker. He took reps over Elandon Roberts. On the first day of camp, he picked off a Hoyer pass that was tipped by Kyle Van Noy.


The Patriots seemed to have a lot of faith in Bentley last year, as he went from an unheralded fifth-round draft pick out of Purdue to the club’s top middle linebacker and defensive signal caller.

He appears to be headed in that direction once again, as the player who will wear the “green dot” as the communicator.

“I like doing anything they ask me to do,” Bentley said. “If they need me to do it, I’ll do it.”

Unlike several of New England’s other injured players, Bentley remained connected with the team throughout the 2018 season, even to the point of traveling to road games.

On Wednesday, he said he was feeling good and happy to be back as an active participant with his teammates.

There have been some comparisons made between Bentley and his new linebackers coach, Jerod Mayo. During minicamp, the two were often seen chatting on the sideline after plays.


“We have a lot of brains to pick out there,” Bentley said, when asked about Mayo. “You go to different people, players and coaches who have been in certain situations. Everybody has their hand in the pot, I don’t want to single anyone out. Everyone adds to the puzzle.”

As for Wynn, all eyes will be on him during training camp, if he’s a full participant a little more than a month down the road. He’s been present for minicamp but was kept out of team periods, although he did do some blocking drills and was moving fine. He’s expected to take over at left tackle for Trent Brown, who left in free agency.

Wynn, a first-round pick out of Georgia, tore his Achilles during the preseason last year. Protecting Brady’s blindside is a huge responsibility. It’ll be interesting to see if Wynn is able to handle that job, coming back from injury.

There were high expectations for Wynn last year. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia raved about him and his makeup.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Wynn said Wednesday when asked about his health. “I’m still learning with the mental reps. It’s all good. I’m out here.”

Asked specifically about the foot, Wynn said it was coming along just fine. He also said his mindset wasn’t about proving his worth as a first-round pick, it was simply geared toward helping the team.


“I’m doing good,” he said. “I’m working to get out here and contribute to the team any way I can.”

Wynn was open to playing any position, be it tackle or guard.

Right now, with Jared Veldheer retiring after a week, rookie Yodny Cajuste rehabbing from March surgery on his quad, and Joe Thuney moved over from guard to take starter reps at left tackle, the position where Wynn is most needed is tackle. That’s where he’s going to have the most impact this season if he’s physically able to play. If he can solve that problem, that would eliminate a huge concern.

Besides Bentley, another player who could help defensively is Dawson, if he makes the team. Both Sam and Izzo are longshots at this point.

Dawson, a second-round pick last season, began the year on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury and was later activated off of IR in November, but he didn’t see any game action as a rookie.

He projects as a slot corner. The Patriots added to that position in this year’s draft with Williams (second round) and Ken Webster (seventh round) and are loaded at the position.

Dawson is in a fight for a spot, but if he turns into the player the Patriots thought they were getting, it will make things very interesting in the defensive backfield. You can never have enough good players.

If Dawson doesn’t deliver, Coach Bill Belichick certainly won’t be shy about moving on from a highly-drafted player if it’s obvious that player isn’t going to cut it.

Dawson was active during minicamp. He stood out among the defenders and competed hard. He had pass breakups each day of camp, so at least he’s on the right road. He’ll need to do more of the same in training camp to give himself a chance.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.