Sony Michel-led Patriots draft class hit hard by injuries

Sony Michel, the second of the Patriots' two first-round picks last April, rushed for 931 yards in 13 games. CJ Gunther/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

When five draft picks miss the entire season on injured reserve and a sixth spends half the season on IR and then doesn't make it into a game upon his return, there isn't much to say. This sums up the New England Patriots' 2018 draft class so far.

There's a chance that there could be promising returns once some of the players return to full health. There's also a chance that the health obstacles these players experienced in their first seasons foreshadow more struggles ahead.

Here's a look at the Patriots' 2018 draft class:

Grade: Average

Best rookie: Running back Sony Michel (No. 31 overall) led the team with 931 rushing yards on 209 carries (4.5 average) and had six touchdowns. Michel played in 13 games, as he dealt with a knee injury from training camp (missing the opener) and sustained a knee injury early in an Oct. 21 game at Chicago that sidelined him for two additional games. In addition to Michel's on-field production, he has made an impression on veteran teammates with his humble approach. The future looks bright for him.

Most improved rookie: Seventh-round cornerback Keion Crossen is the choice, and the reason is twofold: 1. There isn't another healthy draft pick on the roster (beside Michel) who has consistently played in games. 2. He probably came the furthest of anyone, considering he played in college at Western Carolina in the Football Championship Subdivision. While his primary contributions have come on special teams, he earned some meaningful defensive snaps in substitution packages late in the season, which was a sign of progress. Seventh-round quarterback Danny Etling, who spent the season on the practice squad, deserves an honorable mention.

Jury is still out on ...: Left tackle Isaiah Wynn (No. 23 overall, Achilles), second-round cornerback Duke Dawson (hamstring), fifth-round linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley (biceps), sixth-round linebacker Christian Sam (undisclosed), sixth-round wide receiver Braxton Berrios (hamstring) and seventh-round tight end Ryan Izzo (ankle) each landed on IR. Wynn projects as the left tackle of the future, and offensive-line coach Dante Scarnecchia recently said that the team is still high on him. Bentley also flashed potential and leadership beyond his years before his injury at the end of a Week 3 loss in Detroit.

Undrafted rookie evaluation: Cornerback J.C. Jackson has been a real find. The Maryland product has elevated to a starting role opposite All-Pro Stephon Gilmore, and the moment hasn't seemed too big for him. He played 38 percent of the defensive snaps in the regular season and finished with 24 tackles, three interceptions and six passes defended. Some of his best work came in a Week 15 loss to the Steelers, in which he matched up with Pro Bowl receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and limited him to four receptions for 40 yards on 10 targets.