Interesting is the word I would use to describe how the Patriots 2020 draft went. Belichick and Caserio filled some spots that needed filling, just not with the players we all thought he would.
Am I surprised they didn’t take a quarterback early? Not particularly. Other than Burrow, Tua, and Herbert, I didn’t think the rest of the quarterback class would be an upgrade over Stidham. Let’s not forget, Stidham was a first-round prospect heading into his 2018 season before most of his offensive weapons left for the NFL Draft, and he subsequently had a down year. I would have taken a shot on Hurts if he was there in the 3rd round, simply because he provides a different kind of quarterback than Stidham, but he went higher than expected.
My biggest gripe with this draft was not addressing the wide receiver position at all. This was a very deep receiver draft, and I was stunned they didn’t go after one in the mid-rounds. That might come back to bite them if guys like Harry and Meyers don’t take leaps this year.
Prior to the draft, my biggest needs for the Patriots were tight end, wide receiver, linebacker, and kicker. They ended up taking three out of four and signed Marquise Lee prior to the draft, so I think they did a sufficient job on the surface level.
Let’s take a look at all the picks (as well as notable UDFAs) and give a quick summary:
2nd Round 37th Overall – Kyle Dugger, Safety, Lenoir-Ryne
The most puzzling pick of the entire class, Dugger seemingly came out of nowhere to become the Pat’s first pick of 2020 after trading back with the Chargers. Make no mistake about it though, Dugger isn’t Jordan Richards or Tavon Wilson 2.0, this guy is legit. A freak athlete and tackling machine, Dugger should have an immediate role as a kick and punt returner in 2020. His ideal spot is at strong safety, and with Chung having a down year in 2019, and at 33 years old, Dugger might be able to steal some snaps in 2020 and eventually take his spot in 2021.
2nd Round 60th Overall – Josh Uche, Linebacker, Michigan
My favorite pick in this draft, Uche is a perfect linebacker for the Patriots defense. He’s an excellent athlete, and can both rush the passer and cover in space. The former Wolverine is a bit undersized at 6’1″ 241 lbs, which is why I didn’t have him in my Patriots Fits column, but Uche can be used all over the place and could be a day one starter as an off the ball linebacker on early downs, and pass rusher on third down. His play reminds me of Jaime Collins, but a bit leaner and faster.
3rd Round 87th Overall – Anfernee Jennings, Edge Rusher, Alabama
Another player I really like, Jennings is simply an all-around good football player. I identified him as one of my Patriots fits prior to the draft here. Coming from Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, Jennings is as NFL ready as it’s going to get, and should challenge John Simon for the strong-side linebacker role. He has ideal size and strength to hold the edge in the run game and provide good power-rushing on passing downs. He isn’t super flashy, but Jennings gets the job done, and rarely makes mistakes.
3rd Round 91st Overall – Devin Asiasi, Tight End, UCLA
Asiasi is an uber-athletic, downfield tight end that thrives on vertical routes. He is a solid route runner and can get down the seam in a hurry. The former Bruin can be the field-stretching tight end the Patriots were lacking in 2019 after the departure of Rob Gronkowski. Asiasi will undoubtedly come into camp as the most skilled tight end on the roster, but it will be up to him to win the starting job.
3rd Round 101st Overall – Dalton Keene, Tight End, Virginia Tech
Keene wasn’t projected to go as high as he did, but it seems like the Patriots were extremely intrigued by his talents, given the fact that they dealt multiple picks to the Jets of all teams to move up in the 3rd round. Keene is a unique talent and can be moved all over the field like a swiss army knife. He is excellent with the ball in his hands and is a decent in-line blocker. I would imagine Keene is going to be used like the Patriots used Aaron Hernandez back in his day as an H-back.
5th Round, 159th Overall – Justin Rohrwasser, Kicker, Marshall
The Pats replaced Stephen Gostkowski here in the 5th round with the addition of Rohrwasser. He has a massive leg and more importantly has experience kicking in inclement weather. In his career, he was 14 for 14 on kicks in the 4th quarter or overtime, something that Belichick clearly valued highly. It might have been a reach drafting him so high, but if he makes his kicks, no one is going to be complaining.
5th Round, 182nd Overall – Michael Onwenu, Guard, Michigan
The Pats took another Wolverine here in Onwenu. They may have gotten a steal, as scouts have raved about his power and athleticism. He was a three-year starter in Ann Arbor and has experience playing against very good competition. He should challenge for the top backup spot on the interior in 2020.
6th Round, 195th Overall – Justin Herron, Tackle, Wake Forest
Herron will provide tackle depth on a team in need of it. Besides the obvious starters, the Pats have only Yodny Cajuste, a third-round pick last year, who hasn’t even practiced in the NFL as a real backup. Herron will have a shot to win a spot in camp.
6th Round, 204th Overall – Cassh Maluia, Linebacker, Wyoming
Maluia is an undersized linebacker with excellent sideline-to-sideline speed. His best shot to make the roster will be to make an impact on special teams. He seems to fit the mold of the type of player the Pats like as a special teams ace but he will have to earn his role.
7th Round, 250th Overall – Dustin Woodard, Memphis
Woodward was so out of nowhere that it’s hard to find any information on the guy. He’s an undersized center at 285 lbs, but it should be mentioned that David Andrews is well under 300 lbs, plus he was undrafted. Never say never on late-round Pats picks.
Undrafted – De’Jon “Scoota” Harris, Linebacker, Arkansas
I really liked Harris coming out of Arkansas, and even identified him as a Patriots fit in the later rounds here. He’s a mean, big-hitting linebacker in the mold of an Elandon Roberts type. The Pats gave him $150,000 guaranteed, which shows that they expect him to have a good shot at earning a roster spot.
Undrafted – Will Hastings, Wide Receiver, Auburn
Hastings was Jarett Stidham’s slot receiver and security blanket while at Auburn. He was often injured, and didn’t flash his true potential in college, but has a chance to succeed with his former quarterback at the NFL level.
Undrafted – Brian Lewerke, Quarterback, Michigan State
Lewerke should be an interesting camp arm for the Patriots in 2020. He had a big problem with turnovers in college but has good arm strength and accuracy. He’s a project but could turn into something with the right coaching.
Undrafted – Jeff Thomas, Wide Receiver, Miami
Thomas has the most upside of any of the undrafted free agents, but that’s due to a myriad of off-field issues. On the field, he’s extremely explosive and can create big plays in a hurry. He should be an interesting guy to watch in camp and the preseason.