The draft, which was scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, is instead being done virtually from the homes of coaches, general managers and other front-office staff because of the coronavirus pandemic. The draft continues Saturday (noon ET) on ABC, ESPN, ESPN App and NFL Network.
Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how each player New England has selected will fit.
Round 2, No. 37 overall: Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
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My take: This pick is going to be tough for Patriots fans to digest, given some of the struggles Bill Belichick has had with defensive backs in the second round, a group including CB Terrence Wheatley (2008), CB Darius Butler (2009), CB Ras-I Dowling (2011), S Tavon Wilson (2012), S Jordan Richards (2015), CB Cyrus Jones (2016) and CB Duke Dawson (2018).
But in fairness to Dugger, who is a great story of overcoming long odds to become a high draft pick out of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne, he should be judged on his own merits. At just shy of 6-foot-1 and 217 pounds, he is a box safety and linebacker type in the mold of Patrick Chung, who fills a valuable role on the Patriots’ defense. With Chung closer to the end of his career, Dugger is a potential future replacement and should be an immediate contributor on special teams.
In the AFC, facing athletic quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson means the Patriots will be in sub packages and looking for defenders who run well. Dugger (4.47 time in the 40) fits the profile of defenders who will be tapped in those types of game plans.
Round 2, No. 60 overall: Josh Uche, DE, Michigan
Check out some of the highlights of former Michigan defensive end Josh Uche.
My take: At 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, Uche is an interesting prospect who fits a similar profile to that of Tedy Bruschi coming out of the University of Arizona in 1996. Like Bruschi in college, Uche gets after the quarterback with hard-to-miss athleticism (16.5 career sacks), but his size makes him a challenging projection for full-time work on the edge of an NFL defense.
That’s why he could make a move like Bruschi’s to more off-the-line linebacker duties. That’s a spot where the Patriots are thin after losing Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts in free agency. They have Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Terez Hall on the depth chart. Uche also projects to help on special teams, as he runs well for a player his size (4.75 time in the 40). One area of note is Uche’s lack of playing time in college: He was used sparingly on defense his first three seasons before he played about half of Michigan’s defensive snaps last season.
Round 3, No. 87 overall: Anfernee Jennings, OLB, Alabama
Catch some standout moments of former Alabama outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings’ career with the Crimson Tide.
My take: The 6-foot-2, 256-pound Jennings is a physical, edge-setting outside linebacker who played under coach Nick Saban, which means this pick likely comes with a strong recommendation from someone Patriots coach Bill Belichick says he respects as much as anyone in football.
Whereas New England’s Chase Winovich is a more sudden player at the position, Jennings plays a more rugged style, and his long arms help create some disruptive plays (20 pass breakups). He was viewed as a tough, durable player at Alabama, and he might have some position flexibility to factor as a downhill blitzer similar to Elandon Roberts in recent years. The OLB position had quantity entering the draft, with John Simon, Winovich, Derek Rivers, Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland, Keionta Davis and Tashawn Bower on the depth chart. Jennings should also factor into the special-teams mix.
Round 3, No. 91 overall: Devin Asiasi, TE, UCLA
Check out highlights of UCLA’s versatile tight end Devin Asiasi.
My take: Tight end was one of the top needs for the Patriots entering the draft, and though scouts didn’t view this as a great overall class, it’s clear that the Patriots had Asiasi as one of their targets because he was only the second tight end selected in the draft. The Patriots traded third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks to move up 10 spots to select him (while acquiring a fifth-rounder in the deal). Asiasi is 6-foot-3 and 257 pounds, and while he runs well (4.73 in the 40), he has the frame to be a factor as an inline blocker. He also should factor into the special-teams mix. Because Asiasi was a one-year starter in college (44 catches, 641 yards, 14.6 avg. last season), his fit in the NFL is more of a projection than that of some others with more experience.
Round 3, No. 101 overall: Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech
My take: Just 10 picks after selecting Asiasi, the Patriots double-dipped at the position by trading back into the third round for the 6-foot-4, 253-pound Keene. A former running back, Keene showed a knack for making plays after the catch and was durable, appearing in 38 career games and aligning in various spots. It was clear that the Patriots had to add to their tight end position entering the draft, as they had only Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo on the depth chart, and they quickly doubled their personnel — and gave up volume in draft capital to do so. It was an aggressive finish to the second day of the draft.
What’s next: The Patriots have picks in the fifth round (159), sixth round (195, 204, 212, 213) and seventh round (230). One of those could go to a kicker, as they don’t have one on the roster. Also, there’s a third quarterback spot to be filled.