The NFL’s 2020 draft is over, and it ended with the New England Patriots making a slew of selections before turning their attention to free agency. A total of five players was added to the roster, mostly with the intention of bolstering the depth at some critical positions. New England may not have made any “big” moves, but it still found some developmental talent on Day Three — and a potential long-term solution at kicker.
Please click here for a full pick-by-pick recap of Saturday’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 149 selections between rounds four and seven.
New England goes with the under-the-radar option at kicker...
When the Patriots’ fifth-round selection of kicker Justin Rohrwasser out of Marshall was announced, the reflexive reaction was simple: Who? Rohrwasser, after all, flew under the radar entering the draft. He was nowhere to be found on the big boards — neither The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, The Draft Network, Pro Football Focus, or kicking expert Chuck Zodda had him listed among the top kicker options, with CBS ranking him as just the 530th best prospect this year.
And yet, New England decided to go Rohrwasser as opposed to supposedly higher-profile place kickers such as Rodrigo Blankenship out of Georgia or Southern Georgia’s Tyler Bass. That said, the selection does make a lot of sense from the team’s perspective when looking a bit deeper into it: Rohrwasser entered the draft listed at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds — making him the biggest place kicker to enter this year’s draft. Considering that he will have to kick in cold and windy conditions, getting a big and strong players seems like a smart decision.
Time will tell whether or not Rohrwasser can successfully step into the shoes of Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski one day, but his frame and college career do make him an intriguing candidate.
...while AFC East invests in special teams
When the Patriots drafted Rohrwasser 159th overall, they became the first time to bring a true specialist on board in the draft. They did not remain the only one, though, as a combined total of six place kickers, punters and long snappers heard their names called on Saturday. What stands out is that four of them found their way to the AFC East:
- 5-159 K Justin Rohrwasser (Marshall), New England Patriots
- 6-185 LS Blake Ferguson (LSU), Miami Dolphins
- 6-188 K Tyler Bass (Georgia Southern), Buffalo Bills
- 6-191 P Braden Mann (Texas A&M), New York Jets
After the Patriots kicked things off in the fifth round, their three division rivals followed suit in the sixth: the Dolphins added a long snapper, the Bills a place kicker as well, and the Jets finally a punter. Within 32 picks of each other, the face of the AFC East’s special teams units was completely remade on Saturday.
Patriots bolster their offensive line depth
New England entered the draft with questions along its offensive line, but it waited until the third day to address them. They were, however, addressed quite prominently as a total of three players at the interior spots were drafted on Saturday: New England first traded up to acquire guard Michael Onwenu out of Michigan with the 182nd overall selection in Round Six, before going back to the position seven picks later by bringing in Justin Herron. With the 230th selection in the seventh round, meanwhile, Dustin Woodard was added.
While there is some variation to the players picked — Onwenu is a guard-only player, Herron capable of playing inside and outside, Woodard can fill the center and guard positions — they will all get a chance to compete against the present talent on the Patriots’ roster. As things currently stand, the starting interior lineup of center David Andrews and guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason will return intact in 2020, but the depth behind them will be a theater to watch over the summer.
New England goes a familiar route at linebacker
The Patriots’ off-the-ball linebacker position suffered a loss in free agency when depth option and team captain Elandon Roberts decided to sign with the Dolphins. With Roberts gone, New England went a familiar route — the one traveled when it first brought Roberts on board back in 2016: the Patriots selected an undersized player in the sixth round, whose strengths lie in the downhill game and run defense. Whether or not Cassh Maluia out of Wyoming will eventually fill Roberts’ spot on the team remains to be seen, but he does fit the same mold.
Wide receivers continue to be a hot commodity
The 2020 wide receiver class was seen as one of the deepest in recent memory, and the numbers reflect this: a total of 35 players were drafted at the position, with 19 of them being selected in one of the final four rounds. Wideouts continued to be a hot commodity throughout the event as 22 of the NFLs 32 teams selected at least one. The Patriots, of course, are a notable exception despite the position’s struggles during the 2019 season. Bill Belichick expressed his confidence in the returning group after the draft, but the unit still faces some questions heading into the new season.
Quarterbacks generate limited hype
After losing future Hall of Famer Tom Brady in unrestricted free agency, the Patriots were thought to be in the market for a quarterback in the draft — while not necessarily early, then at least with one of their later-round selections. However, they did not go after a passer as others started to come off the board: whether it was Jacob Eason going to Indianapolis in the fourth round, Jake Fromm to Buffalo in the fifth, or Cole McDonald being picked by the Tennessee Titans in the seventh, New England sat this draft out at the position.
In general, the quarterback spot generated limited hype this year in the middle rounds. While four came off the board on Thursday, only one quarterback was drafted between Jordan Love (1-26) and Jacob Eason (4-122). The eventual board therefore reflects the pre-draft belief that there is a steep drop-off behind the top options and the developmental or lower-upside second and third tiers.