The New England Patriots selected 10 players during the 2020 NFL draft, and if there is one common trait that most of them have in common it is their ability to line up in numerous spots at their respective positions. Whether it is second-round choices Kyle Dugger or Josh Uche, who were among the most versatile defenders in the draft, or some of the team’s late round selections, they all bring a considerable level of versatility to the table.
The Patriots’ final pick on Day Three is no exception: Dustin Woodard, who was selected with the 230th overall pick, has starting experience in all three spots along the interior offensive line. After beginning his career at Memphis primarily as the team’s left guard, he moved to the right guard position ahead of his 2018 junior season. The following year, Woodard moved again to end his college career as the Tigers’ starting center.
As a result of his moving around the formation on a somewhat regular basis, Woodard has played more than 900 in-game snaps at every single one of the three inside positions — and a combined 3,627 overall during his four years at Memphis. As he mentioned during his introductory media conference call shortly after getting selected by the Patriots in the seventh round, playing more position was a welcome challenge for him.
“At first, I started two years at left guard,” Woodard said about his usage in college. “Then my junior year, I started at right guard for a year. Then senior year, they needed me to move over at center and I was more than happy and started a full season at center this past year. So, I was pretty versatile. I played every interior position on the offensive line and I was pretty excited about it.”
As for his role entering the NFL, he appears to be open for anything.
“I’m just ready to get to work and do what’s best for the team. I’ve always been a team player and wherever they need me, whatever I need to do, what kind of work I have to put in, I’m ready for it. I’m ready to step up at bat and do what I can to the best of my ability to help the team and help everybody” the 6-foot-1, 295-pound offensive lineman said. “I’m looking forward to starting the new era and getting ready to work.”
The era Woodard was talking about will not just be new for him because he will get to face off against NFL talent, but also because he will experience a different level of attention as a member of the Patriots. In 2019, according to Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, he was playing in front of an average home crowd of 24,107 people at Memphis. The Patriots, of course, have had training camp practices rivaling the Tigers’ attendance records.
That said, Woodard does feel like his is well-prepared for the brighter spotlight based on the fact that he and his team played in four bowl games during his four seasons and three conference championships.
“I definitely think it would help,” he said. “We had been very close to a championship my first three years at Memphis. We went to the championship three times in my four years out there. Two of the times, we just couldn’t finish, and I think this past year, everything changed. We grew as a team and we grew individually, as well. I thought it just worked out for the best. Overall, I do think it will help.”
Woodard was one of three offensive linemen drafted by the Patriots in April alongside sixth-rounders Michael Onwenu and Justin Herron. He will compete against his fellow rookies as well as veteran depth options Hjalte Froholdt, Jermaine Eluemunor and Najee Toran for the backup spots along New England’s interior line. While his status as a seventh-round selection seems to hurt his cause, his experience and versatility could just help Woodard carve out a role on New England’s roster or practice squad.