Patriots address their most pressing need by picking Isaiah Wynn
FOXBOROUGH — Like most days, Isaiah Wynn spent Thursday grinning as he waited for his phone to ring to find out where his NFL journey would begin.
The grins turned into full-fledged smiles when he saw a 508 area code pop up on his phone around 10:35 p.m., and he was soon chatting with the Patriots brass, informing the Georgia offensive lineman he was the team’s pick at No. 23 overall.
“I was shocked . . . My heart dropped of course because at the moment, you’re nervous,’’ said Wynn. “But as soon as I started talking to Coach [Bill] Belichick and Mr. Kraft it went good. I was just excited and my family couldn’t contain themselves, either.’’
The Patriots addressed their most pressing need – protecting Tom Brady’s blindside — with their first pick, plucking the versatile lineman, who started 15 games at left tackle in 2017 after starting 12 of 13 games at left guard in 2016.
Wynn was announced by commissioner Roger Goodell as a tackle, perhaps indicating where the Patriots are projecting him, though he said the team hasn’t discussed where he’d play.
“I’m pretty confident this coaching staff will put me in the position where I need to be at,’’ said Wynn, who met with offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia at the NFL Combine in February.
When asked at the Combine if he was guard or a tackle, Wynn simply said, “lineman.’’
The 6-foot-3-inch, 313-pound Wynn immediately joins a group of players vying to succeed left tackle Nate Solder, who left via free agency.
“We’ll put him in the mix and see how it goes,’’ said Patriots director of personnel Nick Caserio.
Wynn is a bit short by tackle standards but has excellent pop, strength, and athleticism.
“I believe my arm length and my feet and my technique make up for it,’’ Wynn said when asked about his comparative lack of height.
Wynn is a relentless worker with good mirror skills who works hard to ride his block out and away from the pocket.
He is a bull in the run game and will absolutely blow defenders off the line and pound them into submission. He has the ability to stun his initial guy before destroying guys on the second level.
He helped create big holes to spring the Bulldog 1-2 punch of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel – New England’s second pick in the first round and the 31st overall — the last four seasons. Both backs rumbled for more than 1,000 yards in 2017.
“He’s very powerful, very strong. He’s low to the ground and he can get inside of you,’’ Chubb said. “He’s athletic, he can pretty much do it all. You talk about his size, but that’s not a factor at all. He’s the best O-lineman I’ve ever been around.”
Wynn played left guard most his junior year but kicked outside as a senior and was outstanding, earning first-team all SEC and second-team All-America honors. He said the positions have “similarities” but the key to the successful transition was hard work.
“Just through practice. Being at the University of Georgia and especially in the SEC, I faced the quickest guys at practice,’’ said Wynn. “Having that for spring, up until season, fall camp, I was going against the best of the best pass rushers.’’
Caserio pointed to durability and his battle-tested tenure in the nation’s toughest conference as some of the reasons he was so attractive.
“Isaiah has a lot of experience — he started for three years,’’ said Caserio. “He’s played multiple spots and been productive in both of those areas. He’s a good player. Good traits. Been in a good program. He had to block a lot of good people in that conference.’’
Though the Patriots had a presence at the Georgia’s Pro Day, Wynn didn’t meet with Belichick then, nor did he do any drills as he recovered from shoulder surgery.
Wynn tore his labrum early in the season against Kentucky but just “harnessed it up” and continued to play through the season. He had surgery in January and said he’s right on course to participate in minicamp.
At Georgia, Wynn was teamed with David Andrews, New England’s starting center, on the offensive line and is close with receiver Malcolm Mitchell.
“I’m actually very close with David. Coming in as a freshman at Georgia he was like a big brother to me and kind of took me under his wing,’’ Wynn said. “I just learned a lot from him.’’
Wynn, who described himself as a “lovable guy that people will notice is always smiling’’ called it “awesome” to be drafted by the Patriots.
“I mean, who wouldn’t want to get a phone call from them?’’ he said with a belly laugh.
He’s also pretty excited to be working with Brady.
“That’s every lineman’s dream to have a quarterback like Tom Brady back there,’’ he said. “I’m just looking forward to contributing any way I can.’’