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2020 NFL draft: Searching for the biggest steals and reaches of the Patriots’ draft class

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Related: Breaking down the trades made by the Patriots on draft weekend

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 08 Western Michigan at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots made a total of 10 selections in this year’s NFL draft, but the general consensus is that the haul has its ups and downs. That is not surprising: while the team did address some of its biggest needs, it also investing considerable resources in developmental options. But are those feelings about the Patriots’ haul entirely justified, at least when looking to pre-draft evaluations of the players in question?

To find that out, we looked at 16 big boards and compared their rankings to how the Patriots actually drafted. Of course, not every player was present on every one of the boards — only New England’s top two selections were, in fact. Nevertheless, the comparison should give you a bit of a feel as to why the Patriots’ draft is often viewed as a successful one and which players are seen as the biggest steals and reaches.

2-37 S Kyle Dugger

After trading out of the first round, the Patriots invested in safety Kyle Dugger with the 37th overall selection as their highest pick. Despite spending his college career at Division-II’s Lenoir-Rhyne, the 24-year-old is one of the most intriguing safeties in this year’s draft and a possible Day One impact player not just on defense but in the kicking game as well.

  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 215 players): 42
  • Drafttek (500 players): 44
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 300 players): 45
  • Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire, 300 players): 46
  • Jordan Reid (The Draft Network, 200 players): 49
  • Mike Renner (Pro Football Focus, 250 players): 52
  • Kevin Hanson (Sports Illustrated, 255 players): 52
  • Pro Football Network (300 players): 54
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 58
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 300 players): 65
  • CBS Sports (750 players): 66
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 68
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 250 players): 69
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): 72
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 150 players): 74
  • Brad Kelly (Pro Football Network, 150 players): 79

Average: 58.4 (+21.4 from the Patriots’ actual selection)
Median: 56 (+19 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

As can be seen, nine of the big boards we looked at had Dugger evaluated in the second-round rage. The overall rankings range from as high as 42 (Benjamin Solak) to as low as 79 (Brad Kelly), but they are all somewhat close to where the Patriots eventually drafted him. That said, not one big board had him higher than New England’s apparently had him.

2-60 LB Josh Uche

New England moved up in the second round to pick Michigan’s Josh Uche with the 60th overall selection. A versatile edge defender, who has considerable experience lining up off the ball as well, Uche projects to help the Patriots fill the void created by the free agency departures of Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.

  • Pro Football Network (300 players): 41
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 300 players): 42
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 250 players): 43
  • CBS Sports (750 players): 53
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 56
  • Jordan Reid (The Draft Network, 200 players): 56
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 150 players): 58
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 59
  • Kevin Hanson (Sports Illustrated, 255 players): 61
  • Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire, 300 players): 65
  • Mike Renner (Pro Football Focus, 250 players): 66
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): 75
  • Drafttek (500 players): 77
  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 215 players): 84
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 300 players): 95
  • Brad Kelly (Pro Football Network, 150 players): 99

Average: 64.4 (+4.4 from the Patriots’ actual selection)
Median: 60 (+/- 0 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

From a pure numbers perspective, Uche comes as close to a steal as any other player in the Patriots’ draft this year — the team drafted him only 4.4 spots higher than anticipated, on average. As was the case with Dugger, nine of the big boards had him in the second round area.

3-87 LB Anfernee Jennings

New England went back to its defensive front seven with the 87th overall selection: Anfernee Jennings lined up primarily on the edge at Alabama, but could be turned into a stand-up edge linebacker in the mold of the aforementioned Van Noy and Collins as well at the next level.

  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 250 players): 108
  • Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire, 300 players): 110
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 111
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 300 players): 112
  • Drafttek (500 players): 122
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 126
  • Mike Renner (Pro Football Focus, 250 players): 129
  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 215 players): 134
  • CBS Sports (750 players): 152
  • Jordan Reid (The Draft Network, 200 players): 155
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 300 players): 177
  • Pro Football Network (300 players): 178
  • Kevin Hanson (Sports Illustrated, 255 players): 188
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 150 players): --
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): --
  • Brad Kelly (Pro Football Network, 150 players): --

Average: 138.6 (+51.6 from the Patriots’ actual selection)
Median: 129 (+42 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

The first player not to make every big board, the Patriots took Jennings higher than any of the experts had him ranked. Joe Marino came closest with his 108-ranking, but he was still 21 slots off. As a result of this, and relative to his draft position, the 22-year-old can be classified as one of the bigger reaches in this year’s Patriots draft class.

3-91 TE Devin Asiasi

The Patriots needed to add depth and developmental upside to their tight end position in the draft, and they did just that when they traded up in the third round to select Devin Asiasi. The UCLA product has the skillset to succeed as both an in-line blocker and a flexed-out receiver.

  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 300 players): 97
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 300 players): 109
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 150 players): 121
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 250 players): 122
  • Pro Football Network (300 players): 132
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 133
  • Kevin Hanson (Sports Illustrated, 255 players): 133
  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 215 players): 138
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): 139
  • Mike Renner (Pro Football Focus, 250 players): 165
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 180
  • CBS Sports (750 players): 181
  • Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire, 300 players): 188
  • Drafttek (500 players): 320
  • Jordan Reid (The Draft Network, 200 players): --
  • Brad Kelly (Pro Football Network, 150 players): --

Average: 154.1 (+63.1 from the Patriots’ actual selection)
Median: 135.5 (+44.5 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

Experts had mixed opinions on the Patriots’ first tight end selections. While Kyle Crabbs had him as high as 97th on his big board, others had him noticeably lower. All in all, he too was seen as an overdraft when compared to the boards.

3-101 TE Dalton Keene

While Devin Asiasi is more of an all-around tight end, fellow third-round draft pick Dalton Keene falls more in the category of move/H-back player. He may not have posted the most impressive receiving numbers at Virginia Tech, but his skillset makes him a potential chess piece for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to work with.

  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 150 players): 128
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 250 players): 136
  • Drafttek (500 players): 158
  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 215 players): 161
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 300 players): 164
  • Mike Renner (Pro Football Focus, 250 players): 179
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 184
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 184
  • Kevin Hanson (Sports Illustrated, 255 players): 188
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 300 players): 216
  • Pro Football Network (300 players): 220
  • Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire, 300 players): 254
  • CBS Sports (750 players): 264
  • Jordan Reid (The Draft Network, 200 players): --
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): --
  • Brad Kelly (Pro Football Network, 150 players): --

Average: 187.4 (+86.4 from the Patriots’ actual selection)
Median: 184 (+83 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

Daniel Jeremiah came closest to Keene’s eventual draft position, but he still went off the board 27 picks higher than the former NFL scout had him evaluated. As was the case with Asiasi 10 selections earlier, trading up to pick the Virginia Tech product that high can be seen as somewhat of a gamble when compared to conventions set in media circles.

5-159 K Justin Rohrwasser

After releasing long-time place kicker Stephen Gostkowksi earlier this offseason, the Patriots were in dire need for help at the position. They found it in the form of Rohrwasser: the Marshall brings an impressively strong leg to the table that should help him find success in New England’s oftentimes difficult conditions.

  • CBS Sports (750 players): 530
  • Drafttek (500 players): --
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): --
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): --
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 300 players): --
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 300 players): --
  • Pro Football Network (300 players): --
  • Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire, 300 players): --
  • Kevin Hanson (Sports Illustrated, 255 players): --
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 250 players): --
  • Mike Renner (Pro Football Focus, 250 players): --
  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 215 players): --
  • Jordan Reid (The Draft Network, 200 players): --
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 150 players): --
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): --
  • Brad Kelly (Pro Football Network, 150 players): --

Average: +371 (+371 from the Patriots’ actual selection)
Median: +371 (+371 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

Rohrwasser coming off the board as the first kicker in the draft was considered a surprise, in part because he made only one of the big boards we looked at: CBS had him ranked as the 530th overall prospect in this year’s class. Does this classify him as a reach? From a pure numbers perspective, it does, considering that he went 371 spots earlier than that. The Patriots apparently do feel strongly about him, however, while the kicker position in itself oftentimes tends to be undervalued in the pre-draft cycle.

6-182 G Michael Onwenu

New England bolstered its offensive line depth in the sixth round by trading up for Michael Onwenu. The big-bodied Michigan product has been impressive as a pass protector and should get a chance to carve out a backup role at guard behind Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason.

  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 215 players): 122
  • Mike Renner (Pro Football Focus, 250 players): 127
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 300 players): 137
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 250 players): 147
  • Pro Football Network (300 players): 166
  • Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire, 300 players): 180
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 193
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 300 players): 213
  • Kevin Hanson (Sports Illustrated, 255 players): 223
  • Drafttek (500 players): 227
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): 246
  • CBS Sports (750 players): 248
  • Jordan Reid (The Draft Network, 200 players): --
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): --
  • Brad Kelly (Pro Football Network, 150 players): --
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 150 players): --

Average: 185.8 (+3.8 from the Patriots’ actual selection)
Median: 186.5 (+4.5 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

The Patriots are notorious from sticking to their board, and oftentimes that board looks a lot different than that of experts. In the case of Onwenu, however, all parties seem to have a similar opinion: on average, New England was just 3.8 positions off compared to the 12 big boards that had him listed.

6-195 G Justin Herron

Even though Justin Herron played exclusively at left tackle at Wake Forest — starting a school-record 51 games along the way — he projects best on the inside. If he indeed moves to guard, the 24-year-old will compete against Onwenu and the other backup guards for a roster spot.

  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 215 players): 110
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 250 players): 193
  • Jordan Reid (The Draft Network, 200 players): 193
  • CBS Sports (750 players): 196
  • Pro Football Network (300 players): 203
  • Drafttek (500 players): 204
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 300 players): 212
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): 233
  • Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire, 300 players): 267
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 300 players): 286
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): --
  • Kevin Hanson (Sports Illustrated, 255 players): --
  • Mike Renner (Pro Football Focus, 250 players): --
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 150 players): --
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): --
  • Brad Kelly (Pro Football Network, 150 players): --

Average: 209.7 (+14.7 from the Patriots’ actual selection)
Median: 203.5 (+8.5 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

As was the case with Onwenu 13 selections earlier, the Patriots also were in the general vicinity of the experts’ rankings with Herron. He was taken earlier than the consensus had him listed, but only a few positions.

6-204 LB Cassh Maluia

New England’s linebacker position did not just suffer from the departures of starters Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, but also saw rotational option Elandon Roberts leave in free agency. Enter Cassh Maluia, who brings a similar skillset to the table and could help as an early-down defender with strengths against the run.

  • CBS Sports (750 players): --
  • Drafttek (500 players): --
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): --
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): --
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 300 players): --
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 300 players): --
  • Pro Football Network (300 players): --
  • Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire, 300 players): --
  • Kevin Hanson (Sports Illustrated, 255 players): --
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 250 players): --
  • Mike Renner (Pro Football Focus, 250 players): --
  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 215 players): --
  • Jordan Reid (The Draft Network, 200 players): --
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 150 players): --
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): --
  • Brad Kelly (Pro Football Network, 150 players): --

Average: N/A
Median: N/A

Despite CBS and Drafttek having 750 and 500 players on their respective big boards, even they did not have Maluia listed. In this sense, he may be the Patriots’ biggest reach of the draft. The last sixth round is essentially priority free agent territory, though, which makes this selection less questionable than it looks like on the surface. New England obviously feels good about the Wyoming product.

7-230 C Dustin Woodard

With their tenth and final overall pick, the Patriots decided to invest in a de facto priority free agent: Memphis center Dustin Woodard, who adds experience and an emergency option in case David Andrews needs additional time to get up to speed.

  • CBS Sports (750 players): 354
  • Drafttek (500 players): --
  • Arif Hasan (The Athletic, 300 players): --
  • Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, 300 players): --
  • Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, 300 players): --
  • Dane Brugler (The Athletic, 300 players): --
  • Pro Football Network (300 players): --
  • Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire, 300 players): --
  • Kevin Hanson (Sports Illustrated, 255 players): --
  • Joe Marino (The Draft Network, 250 players): --
  • Mike Renner (Pro Football Focus, 250 players): --
  • Benjamin Solak (The Draft Network, 215 players): --
  • Jordan Reid (The Draft Network, 200 players): --
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com, 150 players): --
  • Gil Brandt (NFL.com, 150 players): --
  • Brad Kelly (Pro Football Network, 150 players): --

Average: 354 (+124 from the Patriots’ actual selection)
Median: 354 (+124 from the Patriots’ actual selection)

The Patriots’ final selection of the draft was listed on just one big board — CBS Sports’ — and therefore taken 124 spots before anyone had him listed. That said, Woodard is also not necessarily a reach in the classical sense given his draft position.

All in all, we can see that only a handful of big boards had the Patriots’ selections rated higher than when they were eventually made — an explanation why feedback to the team’s draft class was rather lukewarm at times. Nevertheless, New England’s process has proven successful more often than not, so it would not be a surprise if the players perceived as reaches such as Anfernee Jennings or the tight ends will make an impact right away.