All offseason I’ve been telling you that you needed to trust in Bill Belichick. That he had a plan and that fans had to believe that his plan would work. The second day of the draft is going to test that trust once again.
The Patriots went into Friday night with five picks, and everyone assumed they would never make all five picks, but, after making three trades, they did. They filled some huge needs at safety, linebacker, and tight end. It is not the needs, however, but rather the players that will require some trust.
First, after trading out of the first round, the Patriots selected safety Kyle Dugger out of Division-II Lenoir-Rhyne. If you haven’t been paying attention to the draft, you might not know who is he, but he put on a show at both the scouting combine and the Senior Bowl. Playing against inferior competition means that the learning curve for him will most likely be steep, but the athletic upside on him is ridiculous.
Then, the Patriots used picks No. 71 and No. 98 to move up to the 60th overall selection to take Josh Uche from Michigan. Uche is a bendy, explosive player who can get after the passer. He’s a DE/OLB who is going to add some explosiveness to the defense. He doesn’t have a ton of experience, and barely saw the field until his senior season. With that being said, there’s some real upside for Uche.
New England held onto No. 87, and took Anfernee “Penny” Jennings from Alabama. In fairness, I don’t know if that’s really his nickname, but it should be. Jennings is another OLB/EDGE player, who is stout against the run and plays with a ton of physicality. Sounds similar to a player the team just lost in free agency: Kyle Van Noy. If he can set the edge against the run, and occasionally get after the passer, he’ll help out the Pats quite a bit.
Then come the two tight ends. If I had told you the Patriots took two tight ends, and during both picks Adam Trautman was available, I’m sure you would have assumed Trautman would be a Patriot by now, but he is not. Instead, they moved picks 100, 139, and 172 for 91 (and 159) to take Devin Asiasi. Asiasi is a guy who didn’t have a ton of production at the TE spot until late in his final season at UCLA, but he has the potential to develop into a “do-it-all” tight end. He has the frame to be a solid blocker, and his run-after-the-catch ability is very good.
Then, when it seemed like the Patriots were done for the night, they traded back into the third round, giving up picks 125 (the last remnant of the Jimmy Garoppolo trade), 129, and a 2021 sixth-rounder for the 101st overall choice. There, they selected Dalton Keene, another tight end. There’s a lot to like about the Virginia Tech product, but there’s more questions then answers. Almost all his touches were manufactured by the offense, and he simply didn’t create separation and get open based on his route running ability. He has a ton of positional flexibility, and the athleticism to be successful, but we’ve never really seen him be successful as an actual tight end.
To sum it up, the Patriots drafted five guys who all have a ton of potential. They are good football players that fit needs for the Patriots, but they are all risky picks in their own right. Belichick is banking on the upside of these players, and hoping that their athleticism will help them contribute this year and into the future. Whether or not you like this draft class comes back to one simple question, though: How much faith do you have in Bill Belichick?
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
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