The New England Patriots made a total of 10 selections in the 2020 NFL draft, significantly bolstering the depth of their current roster while adding both starting talent and developmental upside to the team. Every one of the players picked by the team does bring a specific set of skills and strengths to the table, and here are 10 statistics — compiled for in part through the Pro Football Focus 2020 NFL Draft Guide — that help illustrate them.
2-37 S Kyle Dugger: 13.9
While the Patriots’ second-round selection is primarily projected to serve as a rotational safety behind starters Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung early on in his career (before later taking over for one of the two veterans), he could make a noticeable impact right away on special teams. After all, the 24-year-old was a standout in this area at Lenoir-Rhyne, especially when it came to running back punts.
All in all, Dugger returned 67 of them during his five years in the program for a combined 929 yards and six touchdowns. His average of 13.9 yards per punt return is certainly impressive, despite coming against Division-II opposition. Nevertheless, if Dugger can build on his experience in the game’s third phase he could very much challenge fellow returnmen Gunner Olszewski and Mohamed Sanu to take over as New England’s punt returner in 2020.
2-60 LB Josh Uche: 23.3
New England traded up on Day Two of the draft to add Josh Uche to a defensive front that lost starters Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins in free agency. Both Van Noy and Collins were big for the Patriots as pass rushers in 2020 — Van Noy led the team with 51.5 quarterback pressures; Collins ranked third with 30 of them — and this is an area where Uche is projected to have a major impact as well during his rookie season.
After all, he was one of the most disruptive pass rushers in college football last year. While he registered “only” 7.5 sacks, his 45.5 combined disruptions are more reflective of his skills as a disrupter. The number that stands out the most, however, is 23.3: Uche won 23.3% of his pass rush attempts in 2019, which ranked him second among all edge rushers in the FBS.
3-87 LB Anfernee Jennings: 11
Rushing the passer is a more nuanced art than just chasing the opposing team’s quarterback with the goal of taking him to the ground. Pass rushers also need the necessary vision and feel for the game to impact it even when not getting into the backfield right away. Anfernee Jennings has shown just that during his time at Alabama — especially when it comes to batted passes at the line of scrimmage: 11 times over the last two seasons, he was able to get his hands up to knock a pass incomplete.
3-91 TE Devin Asiasi: 121.2
The first of two tight end selections by the Patriots stands out in large part due to his ability to serve as an all-around option: Devin Asiasi has shown that he can successfully serve as an in-line blocker and also attack down the field as a receiver. He is especially productive in the intermediate area as his passer rating of 121.2 between 10 and 19 yards from the line of scrimmage shows. Asiasi was targeted 25 times when running underneath routes, catching 16 of them and registering three touchdowns. He could turn into a reliable chain-mover for the Patriots.
3-101 TE Dalton Keene: 9
Three-fourths of Dalton Keene’s receiving yardage at Virginia Tech came after the catch as he has shown an ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. While he posted rather pedestrian receiving numbers during his three seasons with the Hokies — he had 59 catches for 748 yards and eight touchdowns in 39 games — he proved himself a capable player after the catch. In total, Keene registered nine broken tackle attempts despite his fairly limited receiving opportunities.
5-159 K Justin Rohrwasser: 62
When the Patriots lost Stephen Gostkowski to a season-ending injury last year, they also lost their kickoff specialist and had to turn the role over to then-rookie punter Jake Bailey. Bailey performed admirably, but it would not be surprising if the role went back to the place kicker in 2020. After all, the Patriots’ fifth-round selection — Justin Rohrwasser — brings considerable experience performing kickoffs to the equation from his time at Marshall: he kicked off 62 times in 2019 alone, and had just one of them go out of bounds with 33 touchbacks.
6-182 G Michael Onwenu: 0
Starting at right guard for Michigan, Michael Onwenu was impressive as a pass protector during his 2019 senior season. In fact, he surrendered not a single sack despite being asked to pass-block at total of 496 times. The Patriots’ sixth-round draft selection, who was weighed at 344 pounds at the scouting combine, was also able to limit other impact on his quarterbacks: he gave up only three additional hits as well as six more hurries.
6-195 G Justin Herron: 51
Wake Forest introduced its football program back in 1888, but no player since has started more games for the Demon Deacons than Justin Herron: playing exclusively at left tackle, he started a total of 51 games for the school. Herron’s experience is outstanding, even though he may have to get used to playing a different position at the next level considering that he projects better as a guard than a tackle when going against NFL-caliber talent.
6-204 LB Cassh Maluia: 7.0
New England added to its linebacker position when it selected Cassh Maluia with the 204th overall selection on Saturday. While he plays a different role than Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings — both of which saw most of their snaps on the edge in college — he can still have an impact as a defender on early downs. His ability to successfully diagnose plays and attack downhill is reflected by the number of tackles for loss he had in 2019: seven times he made a stop behind the line of scrimmage.
7-230 C Dustin Woodard: 92.4
The aforementioned Justin Herron is not the only offensive lineman drafted by the Patriots to show some impressive durability during his time in college — the team’s final selection in the seventh round did as well: Dustin Woodard played 3,627 of a possible 3,925 snaps during his time in Memphis, being on the field for 92.4% of the time. In total, he played every snap in 36 of his 54 games for the Tigers.