Dawson will be thrown into the cornerback competition, alongside Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, and Jonathan Jones, and will likely have a season or two before he’s asked to be a starter.
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio spoke at length of why the team was interested in adding Dawson and revealed that he was their second round target all along.
“Just a little bit about Duke, [he was] recruited by Coach [Will] Muschamp back when Will was the head coach there at Florida,” Caserio said. “And when you really look at the Florida defensive backfield – so at the same time that Duke was there, so [Vernon] Hargreaves, [Teez] Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Marcus Maye, Keanu Neal, which all of those guys are in the league. They’re all playing. Some of them are playing a little bit more than others.
“[Dawson] has experience essentially playing three positions. He’s played safety, he’s played corner, he’s played slot corner, so a pretty versatile player. He played in the kicking game a little bit, so he has a lot of experience doing multiple things. We’ll put him in the mix with everybody else in the secondary and see how it goes.”
“This was a player who actually thought about declaring as an underclassmen last year, so we’ve been tracking him or doing work on him for the past few years,” Caserio added.
Dawson comes from a great line of Florida defensive backs and a lot of them are currently stars in the NFL. The hope is that Dawson can be the next one and that his versatility will be nice complement to Stephon Gilmore in the secondary.
The Patriots have been doing their homework on Dawson for a while, too.
Caserio went on to compare Dawson’s versatility and potential role in the NFL to Devin McCourty’s changing role over the years and Patrick Chung’s continuous development and growth in his skill set. If Dawson can contribute at the same level as those two veterans- and both Dawson and Caserio agree to let the rookie practice at every position to find his best fit- the Patriots will have made an excellent selection.
And the Patriots were actually willing to make this selection much earlier in the second round.
“[Dawson’s] a player that we theoretically were going to talk about at No. 43, so if you can get the same player at a later time and pick up an extra pick or two along the way, it makes some decent sense to do that,” Caserio said about navigating up and down the draft board. “You never know what’s going to happen, but we thought, look, we like the player so instead of sitting and waiting, this is an opportunity for us that we thought made sense, so that’s why we went ahead and did it just to secure the player.”
The Patriots were willing to take Dawson at 43rd, but instead moved down the board to gain an extra fourth round pick. The Patriots also combined some of the gained capital with the 63rd overall pick to gain what is likely to be an early 2019 second round pick.
Whatever you feel about the value of those trades, the Patriots got the player they wanted the entire day and picked up a mid-round pick. If Caserio is happy with the outcome, then that’s good enough for me.