While the New England Patriots were comparatively inactive during the first round of the NFL’s 2020 draft — their only move on Thursday was trading the 23rd overall selection to the Los Angeles Chargers — they did enter the second day with a league-leading 13 picks at their disposal, five of which in rounds two and three. It was therefore little surprise to see the Patriots be among the most active clubs on Friday: the team traded up the board three times and when all was said and done had picked five players.
Please click here for a full pick-by-pick recap of Friday’s action and the moves New England made. In the meantime, let’s clean out the notebook from what happened over the course of the 74 selections between rounds two and three.
Kyle Dugger is not your typical Patriots second-round defensive back
The Patriots have had their fair share of issues in the past when it comes to selecting defensive backs in the second round, but Dugger was not a reach like the Jordan Richards or Tavon Wilsons of the world: he was one of the better safety prospects available in this year’s draft and considered a second-round talent on the Big Board. Despite other attractive options available, New England did not reach for him with the 37th overall selection.
Why is that? Dugger offers an intriguing skillset after all: he has the length to play the safety/linebacker-hybrid role in New England’s defense currently held by 32-year-old Patrick Chung, and also has the impressive athleticism to make an impact right away — be it as a nickel defender or in the kicking game. A look at his Relative Athletic Score as calculated by Pride of Detroit’s Kent Lee Platte illustrates just how good of an athlete he ist:
Kyle Dugger is a FS prospect in the 2020 draft class out of Lenoir-Rhyne.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 2, 2020
He posted an elite #RAS with great size, great speed, elite explosiveness, at the FS position.https://t.co/Z1ovg8ALXG pic.twitter.com/RM6d5rW1vc
As can be seen, Dugger has a combination of size and explosiveness that should translate well to the next level. The only knack on his game, really, might be his small-school background: the 24-year-old spent his college career at Division II’s Lenoir-Rhyne. Had he went to the SEC or another prominent division, chances are New England may not have been in a position to pick him up early on Day Two.
The tight end position finally gets addressed
The tight end position was arguably the worst on New England’s roster in 2019: following the (temporary) retirement of Rob Gronkowski, the team failed to field proper replacement options and had to watch the group struggle to make an impact. And yet, the Patriots did not add to their current position depth chart so far in free agency. That all changed in the third round when New England traded up not once but twice to pick Devin Asiasi out of UCLA (3-91) and Dalton Keene out of Virginia Tech (3-101).
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said the following about the two during his media conference call shortly after the conclusion of Round Three:
Asiasi: “Good size [6-foot-3, 257 pounds], runs well for his size. Is pretty tough. He has some technique things that he can certainly work on [as an] on-the-line-of-scrimmage blocker.”
Keene: “Kind of an interesting guy. Really played from Day One. Couple things that stood out were some of his catch-and-run type plays. Good size [6-foot-4, 253]. Fairly athletic. Tough kid. Smart kid. Asked to do a number of different things.”
The Patriots have not drafted a quarterback in one of the first two days of the draft since picking Gronkowski in Round Two back in 2010. While it is unrealistic to expect Asiasi or Keene to have a similar impact on New England’s offense as the future Hall of Famer did, they should serve as upgrades or at least high-upside complementary pieces to the returning players at the position (Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo).
Heading into the third day of the daft, Asiasi and Keene are two of just five tight ends off the board: The consensus top option, Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet, was drafted 43rd overall by the Chicago Bears; Cincinnati’s Josiah Deguara was drafted with pick No. 94 by the Green Bay Packers; Dayton’s Adam Trautman was picked 105th overall by the New Orleans Saints.
Expect Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer to get company soon
New England entered the draft with questions atop its quarterback position but did not opt to address it during the first two days of the event. Potential first-round targets such Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert were long gone before the Patriots were on the clock, while Jordan Love was apparently not as attractive in Round One as a trade-down. On Day Two, meanwhile, only one passer was taken: Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts went to the Philadelphia Eagles as the 53rd overall selection.
The Patriots, meanwhile, are heading into Friday with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer as the only two passers under contract. That said, the two are expected to get some company soon if Nick Caserio is to be believed: “We’re going to have a third quarterback paired up with Jarrett and Brian. Where he comes from and how he gets here is yet to be determined. There are a few guys we like and feel comfortable with, now it’s just a matter how we get them on the team.”
Regardless of who the team adds to its QB room, one thing seems certain after the last two days: Jarrett Stidham will enter training camp as the clear-cut favorite to earn the starting role.
Some projected Patriots fits find new homes elsewhere
On our 50 best remaining players analysis from yesterday, we noted that the board fell favorably in Round One from the Patriots’ perspective at one position in particular: defensive edge. Despite fringe first-rounders Yetur Gross-Matos, A.J. Epenesa and Zack Baun still available on Day Two, however, New England opted to sit still and rather go with Dugger as well as Michigan outside linebacker Josh Uche and Alabama’s Anfernee Jennings. Gross-Matos (38th overall to the Carolina Panthers), Epenesa (54th overall to the Buffalo Bills) and Baun (74th overall to the Saints) will therefore all play elsewhere in 2020.
Meanwhile, players such as Alabama safety Xavier McKinney or the top wide receivers available — Denzel Mims (Baylor), Tee Higgins (Clemson), Laviska Shenault Jr. (Colorado), Michael Pittman Jr. (USC), K.J. Hamler (Penn State) — also joined other teams while New England played the value game to bolster its safety corps, defensive front seven and tight end position.
New England uses its capital aggressively
Entering the second round, the Patriots had one of the most valuable draft capitals in the league to operate with (according to the draft value chart by colleague Rich Hill, New England’s 410.58 value points trailed only the Indianapolis Colts’ 412.29). They mused it rather aggressively: New England, as noted above, moved up the board on three different occasions:
- New England acquires 2-60 and 4-129 from Baltimore for 3-71 and 3-98
- New England acquires 3-91 and 5-159 from Las Vegas for 3-100, 4-139 and 5-172
- New England acquired 3-101 from New York for 4-125, 4-129 and 2021 6th-round pick
Even though the Patriots used their mid- and late-round selections rather actively, they still received fair value at all times. According to the chart, and not accounting for the sixth-round pick in 2021, New England received a total of 196.31 value points while giving up 203.98. Considering that all three moves were up the board, the 7.67-point difference — roughly equivalent of the 170th overall selection — can be negated.
With the Patriots owning six more selections heading into Day Three, but currently not scheduled to be on the clock until midway through the fifth round, expect more moves to take place.