The New England Patriots made a total of 10 selections during the 2020 NFL draft and bolstered the depth of its roster at some key positions, but the immediate reaction to the haul was more up-and-down: the Patriots addressed some of their needs and also invested in some high-upside developmental players. But what does the Pats Pulpit staff, the readers, and the general consensus say about the additions? Glad you asked!
Bernd Buchmasser: B
The Patriots entered the draft with a long list of needs, and did their best to address some of them: they completely overhauled their tight end depth chart of Day Two by investing third-round picks in Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keane, they bolstered their front seven with three selections — two of which, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings, being locks to make the 53-man roster this year — and they found their potential kicker of the future in Round Five. That said, some questions still remain heading into the summer of 2020.
After all, Bill Belichick and company did not investing in one of the deepest wide receiver classes in recent memory and also opted to spend their first selection (2-37) on a Division-II safety: Kyle Dugger has impressive athletic skills but a) may not project to play a prominent role this year on a deep safety depth chart, and b) comes with questions about his adaptation process from Lenoir-Rhyne to the NFL-level. His ceiling, however, is a high one — making him a perfect face of this year’s draft.
The Patriots, after all, invested in plenty of versatility on the defensive side of the ball and also in players who may not make that big an impact this year but project well further down the line. If anything, though, this draft shows that New England may not worry too much about some of its perceived needs: not picking a wide receiver in one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory, and waiting until undrafted free agency to add a quarterback, shows that the Patriots seem content with both positions. Whether that is a good sign or not remains to be seen, though.
Brian Phillips: C
While “Bill being Bill” can be fun for a lot of folks, the selection of a Division-II safety who won’t start until 2021 (at the earliest) with their first selection, and a kicker in the fifth round, is the type of approach you’d expect with Tom Brady still under center and a roster primed for another Super Bowl run. But, as it stands right now, they still have no offensive personnel that defenses are truly concerned with. Like in ‘19, it’s still “bracket Edelman and it’s over”. This was the draft to address that, and they didn’t. With that said, the Uche pick was a home run, and it was nice to see the tight end position addressed.
Michael McDermott: B
Not a fan of grading this early in the process, but I’ll say B.
I wrote in February they needed to improve at the LOS and nine of their 10 picks addressed that. Of their Day Two picks, all were designed to improve run defense and add some versatility at the second level. Dugger will be playing in the box a lot (Patriots will draft a safety in the McCourty mold in the first two rounds next year). Uche will play on and off the ball, he’s capable of being an effective A and B gap blitzer from the second level. Jennings and Keene were two players I was almost 100% sure would be drafted by New England, the only issue was if another NE-esque team like Miami, Tennessee, or Detroit would get to them first (probably why BB gave up so much value to grab Keene at 101). Asiasi’s body type and skill set is a lot like Daniel Graham, although lesser of a run blocker but could be more impactful as a receiver.
Day Three went as expected, I was expecting they’d draft a kicker and at least one interior OL. They took one we never saw coming, but after doing some research on his football skills (people are going to get hung up on his tattoos and not even think about his football skill set), he fits to an overall degree. He has the leg to kick in cold weather, kicking in West Virginia has less of a projection than kicking in Georgia. The Patriots took two guards with completely opposite skillsets, although I think Herron (who will move from tackle to guard) has a better chance than Onwenu since he has a higher ceiling due to having the ideal athleticism the Patriots like having in their guards. Their last two picks are purely depth, Maluia could develop at a similar rate to Elandon Roberts and Woodard is a similar prospect to David Andrews was. Andrews proved to be more NFL-ready than we thought as a rookie, although I’m not sure Woodard will develop that fast.
Matthew Rewinski: C+
The trade out from Pick #23 that nobody will even remember belonging to the Patriots was hands down the best move the Patriots made to restock the post-Brady roster. The rest, well, that’s why we’re here.
There’s gotta be an heir to Patrick Chung and/or DMac at some point, regardless of how long both of them keep making 30 look like the new 25, so while I’ll admit I’m entirely unfamiliar with Dugger, it scratches an itch. And given his special teams experience, anything to take Jules off return-man duty goes down smooth.
The tight end double-dip was sorely needed (shoutout 2019), and New England stuck to their guns of needing edge guys that are big enough to hold up in the run game and bend to rush the passer. The first Uche/Wino tag-team sack is going to be a great day this fall (I’m posting this into existence now). Day Three offensive trench guys are a wash for me cause at least historically, Bill’s found most of his O-line talent in the early and middle rounds (with C David Andrews being a notable recent exception). Like everyone else though, passing on wideouts altogether after last season seems like being at a BBQ fest and ignoring the brisket.
As always, I look forward to Bill proving this take laughably wrong in 6-8 months.
Ryan Spagnoli: B+
The Patriots completely controlled Day Two of the draft by making five selections. They got much faster and more athletic at some spots on the roster in which they needed it. Dugger, Uche and Jennings may not step in and contribute immediately, however, they have the opportunity to learn and develop at some veteran heavy positional groups. Asiasi and Keene show the Patriots are going all in at the tight end position and have two, unique playmakers at the position. Asiasi gives them a seam runner and somebody who can get open in the middle of the field while Keene brings a ton of versatility to the position. I feel like this is a class will look back on in a year or two and be pretty happy with the results.
Pat Lane: B-
The Patriots strayed from what they’ve normally done, and went with super athletic players on day 2 of the draft. I love the upside of the guys they drafted, but I have concerns with Dugger, and serious concerns about Keene. Day 3 was about filling in depth, and Michael Onwenu might have been their best pick, based on where he was taken. Also, very high marks for Uche, Jennings, and Asiasi. Overall, they filled what I perceived to be their biggest needs heading into the draft: LB, TE, and OL. If they are able to develop the players they drafted, this has the potential to be their best draft in years.
Ryan Keiran: B
Dugger was a reach, but of the Belichick Round Two defensive back reaches I’m more okay with one on a freak athlete than the minimal talent waterboys of the past. Asiasi was my favorite tight end past Kmet and I was a big fan of Keene as well. Uche was a great pick, and Jennings likely won’t be anything great but fills a need. Day Three was a borderline complete waste, but what they Did on day Two was worth semi-celebrating.
Brian Hines: B
After trading out of pick No. 32, the Patriots were super busy on day two with five picks. They used their first three picks on a trio of versatile and athletic defenders, which is what they needed defensively. While Uche and Jennings could step in right away and contribute, Dugger might not take on a full-time role until 2021. Pair that with the fact he played Division-II, concerns are definitely there. It was also nice to see them address the TE position with Asiasi and Keene. Both have high upside in the passing game that could allow their offense to create some unique packages.
Day Three was about adding depth at offensive line, where they made my favorite pick of the draft with guard Michael Onwenu. He won’t be on the field immediately, but the 350-pound former Wolverine was a pass blocking beast throughout his collegiate career. While they did not address the wide receiver position, the hope is significant growth from N’Keal Harry and improvement from the now healthy Mohamed Sanu after a full offseason in Foxboro. If that fails, the 2021 wide receiver draft class projects to be even more talented than this years.
Pats Pulpit readers
After the draft, we asked Pats Pulpit’s readers to grade the Patriots’ haul. Considering that more close to 4,000 people participated, you could say that this is a rather representative assessment of how the draft class is viewed around New England:
As is the case with our staff poll, the Patriots earned middle-of-the-pack grades for their performance over draft weekend: 46% of participants gave them a B-grade, with 31% opting to go with a C.
After every draft, René Bugner publishes a round-up of all the different evaluations on Twitter. This year’s includes 13 sources and looks as follows:
As can be seen, the Patriots find themselves in the lower third in terms of GPA. Their draft was mostly graded in the B and C range that the Pats Pulpit staff and readers also moved in, with Rotoworld’s Thor Nystrom being a notable exception by handing New England a failing grade.