It was clear all summer long that Duke Dawson, drafted with the 56th overall selection just one year earlier, was far from the roster lock a former second-round pick should be at this stage in his career. Too inconsistent were his performances during training camp and preseason, too deep the New England Patriots at the cornerback position for him to carve out a steady role within the secondary.
On Friday, therefore, the team decided to pull the plug before Dawson even entered his sophomore season in the NFL: the Patriots traded the 23-year-old and a seventh-round draft pick to the Denver Broncos for a sixth-round selection. New England did get something for the Florida product instead of just cutting him, which is good, but the return on the investment just never materialized like one would expect.
This, in turn, makes Dawson the latest defensive back selected by the club in round two of the draft to see his Patriots tenure come to a disappointing end. A look at the list of cornerbacks and safeties picked in this area makes this painfully clear:
2019: 2-45 CB Joejuan Williams
2018: 2-56 CB Duke Dawson
2016: 2-60 CB Cyrus Jones
2015: 2-64 SS Jordan Richards
2012: 2-48 SS Tavon Wilson
2011: 2-33 CB Ras-I Dowling
2009: 2-41 CB Darius Butler
2009: 2-34 SS Patrick Chung
2008: 2-62 CB Terrence Wheatley
2003: 2-36 FS Eugene Wilson
Despite Patrick Chung turning into one of the best strong safeties in franchise history and a cornerstone player on three Super Bowl-winning teams, the list as a whole is rather underwhelming. Sure, Eugene Wilson was solid and Joejuan Williams brings considerable potential to the table, but the overall list is a collection of untapped potential and head-scratching busts.
Some struggled to stay healthy (Ras-I Dowling, Cyrus Jones), others failed to adapt to the system (Darius Butler, Duke Dawson), others were just unfit to play defensive back at an NFL level (Terrence Wheatley, Tavon Wilson, Jordan Richards). Whatever the reasons, the Patriots failed to get them going at the pro level and at the end were left to part ways ways.
In Dawson’s case, inconsistent performances in combination with one of the deepest cornerback groups in all of football sealed his fate. Despite his trade, however, the Patriots’ 2018 rookie class produced some contributors: undrafted rookie J.C. Jackson is a promising perimeter cornerback coming off an outstanding rookie campaign; seventh-round pick Ken Webster is on his way to become a core special teamer.