Patriots choose depth over splash in the 2020 NFL Draft

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The New England Patriots’ Brady-Belichick dynasty is over. Six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady has left to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots, as they like to do a lot throughout the last 20 years, trade down from their last first-round pick. They traded down from their 23rd pick with the Chargers to acquire multiple mid-round picks. Let’s see how the Patriots did in their first draft in the post-Tom Brady era.

No. 37 overall pick: Kyle Duggar, S, Lenoir-Rhyne

This pick is one of those classic Belichick picks that came out of nowhere. Duggar is a safety that came from a school very few have heard of, Division II college Lenoir-Rhyne. While he did not face as stiff of competition as many other draftees, Duggar has the potential to be a good safety in this scheme. He is like long-time safety Patrick Chung and can take his place as Chung’s career is entering its twilight. This pick bolsters a secondary that was second against the pass and joins free agent acquisition Adrian Phillips as solid depth for an already elite secondary.

Grade: B+

No. 60 overall pick: Josh Uche, Edge, Michigan

A 6’1” edge rusher certainly does not fit the typical profile one would expect from a player of his position. While he showed great athleticism at Michigan, he will need development to really excel at that position. But with the Patriots thin at linebacker after losing Elandon Roberts and Jamie Collins during free agency, they need all the depth they can get, and Uche is a developmental project that the Patriots can use to fill holes everywhere in their linebacking corp. As it is the theme with the Patriots’ entire draft, they are filling depth all over their roster.

Grade: B

No. 87 overall pick: Anfernee Jennings, Edge, Alabama

The Patriots continue to draft defense as they grab a steal. Jennings was a player that always stood out to me while watching Alabama games the last couple seasons, and it is surprising to me that he fell to the Patriots in the middle of the third round. He was an edge rusher that impacted many games he played in and he was one of the toughest players on Alabama’s defense. While John Simon and Chase Winovich are the projected starters at outside linebacker, I expect Jennings to make an immediate impact on the Patriots and perhaps be the full-time starter by his second season.

Grade: A

No. 91 overall pick: Devin Asiasi, TE, UCLA

One reason Tom Brady was able to thrive so well in New England was he had solid tight end options to throw to. Early in his career, he had Christian Fauria, Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson. The second half, he had the great Rob Gronkowski. Tight ends have always been important for the Patriots, and last season, the Patriots had one of the worst tight end corps in the NFL and badly needs new talent there. Enter Asiasi, a raw but promising tight end prospect out of UCLA. The Patriots traded picks in the third, fourth and fifth round to move up 10 picks and select him. He has solid speed and has proven to be a good run-blocker. Since he only started one season at UCLA, he will be another project, but he has potential to be a deadly weapon once he develops. Executives across the league love this pick as do I.

Grade: A-

No. 101 overall pick: Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech

Considering how bad the Patriots’ tight end corp was a season ago, it is no surprise that the Patriots decided to take another tight end only 10 picks after taking one. Keene was an excellent run-blocking tight end at Virginia Tach and the Patriots needed a blocker like him. The Patriots last season regressed from the fifth-ranked rushing game in 2018 to the 18th in 2019. That was one big reason why the Patriots failed to get an offensive rhythm along with their lack of weapons through the air. The Patriots still have a good running back corp and they are hoping Keene can be a solid run blocker for the team as they look to get back on track on the ground this season.

Grade: A-

No. 159 overall pick: Justin Rohrwasser, K, Marshall

The Patriots needed a kicker in this draft and got one in the placekicker from Marshall. He is a good kicker with experience kicking in conditions as he started his college career at Rhode Island before transferring to Marshall. He has a strong leg and has the possibility to be reliable as he was 17th in all of college football in field goal percentage. However, the pick garnered attention for external reasons. A picture of him with a tattoo on his right arm linking him to a white supremacist group went viral and that negative attention has affected him. It will be interesting to see if that affects his career and if his experience in kicking in conditions will translate to the NFL. I think the Patriots drafted him too high and could have gotten him with a later pick.

Grade: C-

No. 182 overall pick: Michael Onwenu, G, Michigan

The Patriots select their second player from Michigan. He is a 6’2”, 344-lb lineman and while the Patriots don’t usually draft or acquire big lineman like him, his size allows him to be coached into a good lineman. The Patriots are accustomed to drafting lineman with mid-round picks and this is no exception. With guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason having huge contracts and futures uncertain, this pick gives them a potential backup plan at the guard position long-term. He is a project and will need time to develop.

Grade: C+

No. 195 overall pick: Justin Herron, OT, Wake Forest

Continuing with the selection of lineman, the Patriots select another, this time a tackle. They select Herron, who has the Wake Forest record with 51 games started. He in some ways resembles former offensive tackle Trent Brown, a big and physical tackle with long reach. The Patriots needed to boost depth at the offensive tackle position as their starting left tackle, 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn, has missed 75 percent of his regular season games in his first two years in the NFL. This is a high-floor kind of selection as I think he will be durable and decent when needed.

Grade: B

No. 204 overall pick: Cassh Maluia, LB, Wyoming

Maluia is an undersized 5’11” linebacker who has some speed as he ran a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash. Sometimes when you see a player with a similar description, you think that they can start out on special teams. While he was solid at his position in college, he doesn’t seem to fit in the NFL as a full-time linebacker. The Patriots are good at turning players with speed into special team assets as they turned 2008 fifth-round pick, wide receiver Matthew Slater, into a five-time first team All-Pro as a special teams weapon.

Grade: C

No. 230 overall pick: Dustin Woodard, C, Memphis

For a seventh-round pick, there is a lot of value here. Like Herron, he’s also experienced as he started 52 games in college, and he can be a nice developmental project. Center David Andrews will return to play this season after missing last season with blood clots and this pick solidifies his backup for this upcoming season. Another solid depth piece for the offensive line.

Grade: B-

Overall, the Patriots, like most drafts, did not make any splashy or sexy moves. They chose to bolster their depth and get younger at a bunch of different position across their team. One may notice that despite losing Brady, the Patriots did not take a quarterback and are looking to go into this season with second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham. It is possible that this draft was more for the long-term than the short term as they are content with their starting roster for this season. They may be looking to tank for Trevor Lawrence or another potential franchise quarterback and decided to just add young pieces across their roster this draft. It was a solid draft but unlike some other teams, the Patriots, as of right now, did not improve much with their selections.

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