Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-26 and AFC East notes this week.
The draft weekend is now complete and now the teams will roll out their first batch of undrafted free agents.
Being an NFL fan on Day 1 of the draft is super exciting unless of course, you’re a fan of the Patriots. Then it is like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” who is reaching for those beautiful jewels only to have Bill Belichick/Richard Gere slam the jewelry box shut on you
Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL:
Bill Belichick: Unlike nearly every other head of football operations for the 32 teams, Bill wasn’t having any of that, “you’re now on Candid Camera” shenanigans with a sneak peek into the Belichick manse in Nantucket. Bill knew when he was going to be on camera and stepped away, leaving his dog in his chair staring at his computer screen. One has to wonder what it was on there to keep the dog riveted. Hopefully, the pooch didn’t make any deals for him while he was away.
Draft Day Trades: So much for the worry about the coronavirus impacting trades. The Patriots, as always were very active
New Uniforms Unveiled: In a word… Yuck. Nuff said.
4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. This week we’ll do a draft recap podcast, so be sure to check that out soon.
So, let’s look at the Patriots Draft Picks…
Day 1-2, Surprise, Surprise, Surprise:
We had to drop that Gomer Pyle reference in there since he was supposed to be from North Carolina. And that was exactly what their first selection was, but we’ll get to that in just a moment.
Day 1: So, with the draft board unfolding much as we anticipated, when the Patriots came up at #23, there was a slew of impact players waiting for them (offensive and defensive) that could help the team on the opening weekend of the season. And the Patriots were ready to make a selection…then the Chargers called. Nick Caserio said in his post Day 1 presser, “we certainly were ready to pick. We had a handful of players we were discussing and the opportunity came up with the Chargers that we thought made sense.”
Trader Bill will never turn down an opportunity to move around the board, so the team traded out of Round 1 so that they could get into Round 2. And the Chargers pounced right on LB Kenneth Murray, from Oklahoma.
Day 2: When the Patriots number came up, once again there were several players available to them, but they have traditionally liked to take calculated risks in Round 2. Some have hit and paid huge dividends (Rob Gronkowski), others have missed and missed badly (Ras-I Dowling, Jordan Richards). This was no exception.
Round 2, Pick 5 (37 overall): Kyle Dugger, DB – Lenoir-Rhyne – so immediately after the selection, Google nearly melted down with 1000s of New Englanders trying to find out where the hell Lenoir-Rhyne was. I was fortunate that having lived in NC for many years, I’d see their scores on Saturday Night Football roundup on NC television.
Dugger is an absolute beast physically, of that there is absolutely no issue with. He is also a punt returner with multiple return TDs. He mostly projects to being a backup for Pat Chung and his ultimate replacement at strong safety. But they have a boatload of strong safety types already on the roster. Could they envision him playing deep safety and taking on the Duron Harmon role?
To say Lenoir-Rhyne is a small school is kind of like saying the Titanic had a bit of an ice problem. At their homecoming game last year, they had about 7000 people in attendance. I’ve covered high school games with more people. What does that matter? The talent level in that level of D2 football is suspect. It’s fair to say that he didn’t play against any player that was or will be drafted. He’s making a big, big, jump in talent that he’ll be playing against.
Dugger is 24 years old and is still raw. While no one doubts his physical skills, the Patriots traded out of the 1st round to make this young man, their top draft choice. And he is a project. The same people gushing about how smart Belichick was to draft this player, will turn on him in a NY second if he struggles.
And the bottom line is, he could turn into a Rodney Harrison or Tavon Wilson. That’s not the kind of uncertainty you want in your first pick. His attitude is outstanding and he has the work ethic to be the former rather than the latter.
Dugger is another Bill Belichick 2nd round risk. The ceiling is really, really high as evidenced by his week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. But it is far from a given.
Round 2, Pick 28 (60 overall): Josh Uche, LB – Michigan: Uche is another physical stud and his athletic talents stand out. Super fast and explosive off the edge. Only 6’1 but has long arms and is strong for someone only 245 pounds.
Uche wasn’t a starter until 2019 and only started nine of 13 games last year, playing in just 52 percent of the Wolverines’ snaps on defense but was very productive as a pass rusher. Ranked second in FBS in pressure rate last season, per @PFF.
However, Uche doesn’t have the instincts and size to be a full-time edge player. He’ll be a situational pass rusher only until he gets more polished, although he has flashed at times in Michigan. He could become a moveable chess piece for the defense in Year 2 or 3 but he’ll be subpackage guy until he gets a little beefier. Good potential.
Round 3, Pick 23 (87 overall): Anfernee Jennings, DE/OLB – Alabama: Jennings is the prototypical strong-side (SAM) linebacker that the Patriots have traditionally coveted. He played for Belichick’s best bud Nick Saban at Alabama. He has the length and size (6’3, 259) and looks the part of a SAM Linebacker. We spoke about him on the podcast as a guy who would be a great fit.
First-team All-SEC and led the team in tackles for loss and sacks. Jennings was highly productive on a very good Alabama defense. Strong at the point of attack. He is a guy who can set the edge and has the burst to penetrate and disrupt plays in the backfield.
He is a perfect fit for the Patriots 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker. He doesn’t have the bendability of Uche but is much better at setting the edge. Excellent fit. He is a Rob Ninkovich/John Simon type of player.
Round 3, Pick 27 (91 overall): Devin Asiasi, TE – UCLA: We identified him throughout the draft process as a perfect fit for the Patriots offense. Our draft profile on Asiasi can be found here. Asiasi has the combination of size, (6’3, 257) and speed, running a 4.73 in the 40-yard dash.
The Patriots traded up to #91 to nab Asiasi who can attack the seams of the defense and make contested catches in traffic. Asiasi is a guy who can immediately get after it and is improving as a blocker. Great attitude and has the chance to immediately step and play on Day 1 as a rookie.
Athletic for a big man (hurdled a would-be tackler) and a beast to bring down in the open field. He also possesses excellent, soft hands. Another excellent fit.
Round 3, Pick 37 (101 overall): Dalton Keene, TE – Virginia Tech: Last year, I didn’t know who Keene was until I watched VT play Miami, and then he was all over the place catching three touchdowns and gashing the Canes defense. But when I looked him up, his production in that game was something of an outlier. However, at the NFL Combine, Keene tested extremely well running a 4.71 in the 40.
While his route tree is limited and his blocking needs work, he’s not afraid of mixing it up in the running game and is as versatile as can be. He can play H-back, fullback, or be the flex “move” tight end.
Keene isn’t going to a “Y” or traditional in-line tight end but he has soft hands, can find the soft spots on the defense, and has the potential to be a nice addition to the offense. It will be intriguing to see how well he can assimilate into the Patriots offense. But with Adam Trautman on the board, they chose Keene.
Day 3: If you thought to take Dugger with their first pick was intriguing then the Patriots first pick on Saturday was an absolute head-scratcher. After that, it was about building depth and checking the blocks for the best player available. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the 2020 draft? That the Patriots didn’t select a QB or a WR in this year’s draft. But they did draft three offensive linemen.
Round 5, Pick 14 (159 overall): Justin Rohrwasser, K – Marshall: Wow, talk about a shocker! With Stephen Gostkowski gone the Patriots were needing a kicker to begin the season for the first time since the Parcells regime. With the top two kickers in the country available, Rodrigo Blankenship and Tyler Bass sitting there, Belichick tossed everyone who thought either kicker was a shoo-in a poop sandwich. And they selected Rohrwasser with their 5th round pick.
Draft expert Dane Brugler didn’t even have Rohrwasser in his top 10 available kickers. Drafttek had him as the #12 best kicker. But the Patriots made him the first kicker off the board.
Rohrwasser was the Conference USA special teams’ player of the year in 2019. He also handled the kickoff duties for the Herd. he was 18-21 on his field-goal attempts last year and 35-36 on his extra-point attempts. This one was a real shocker.
Round 6, Pick 3 (182 overall): Michael Onwenu, OL – Michigan: Onwenu is a little bit of a steal for the Patriots in Round 6. He’s a huge (6’3, 344) guard who is a road grader in the running game. He started 34 games for the Wolverines in his college career.
As you can imagine for someone his size, he’s not the most athletically gifted offensive lineman out there. Speed rushers will give him some trouble but he’s a good project in round 6 and has the experience that he got in the Michigan progam.
Round 6, Pick 16 (195 overall): Justin Herron, OL – Wake Forest: The Patriots selected another offensive lineman with the long-time starter for the Demon Deacons. Herron is 6’3, 308, and moves well for a big man with good agility. He played tackle in college but projects to be a guard in the NFL.
Herron needs to improve his play strength and his hand usage. Herron is a guy who could stick as a backup with a chance to compete for a roster spot in 2020.
Round 6, Pick 25 (204 overall): Cassh Maluia, LB – Wyoming: The Patriots took another three-year starting linebacker with Maluia. He moves well and has very good agility. He can pursue ball carriers down the line and ran a 4.53 in the 40.
At 6’0, 248, he has good size and decent coverage skills, but Maluia’s path to a roster spot is probably tied to earning a spot on the kickoff coverage units.
Round 7, Pick 16 (230 overall): Dustin Woodard, OL – Memphis: With the final pick in the draft, the Patriots went for another interior offensive lineman and picked up center Dustin Woodard in the 7th round of the draft. Pro Football Focus had Woodard with the highest run-blocking grade for all of the centers in the draft this year.
Slightly undersized at 6’2, 285, Woodard is an intriguing prospect and will have a chance to compete for a roster spot, especially since center David Andrews is coming off of blood clots that robbed him of his 2019 season. Backup Ted Karras is now in Miami.
We’ll learn about the Patriots undrafted free agents later today and we’ll hit on the rest of the AFC East later…
“As far as the process is concerned, we talked a little bit about this last night. Honestly, knock on wood, it’s gone fairly smoothly. The communication with the other clubs, as long as they know who to contact, trying to get the information disseminated to all the necessary parties, we’re able to do that. We’re able to replicate what we normally do in the draft room. As an example, if we have multiple trade scenarios that come up, I would say tonight that was definitely the case, we can put them on a screen and we can all look at them so we kind of see what are the options, what are we looking at, is one trade better than the other, what does it look like in terms of the actual overall composition of the trade. The teams we’ve worked with have been good to work with. The communication has been pretty clean. We’ve been able to make timely decisions. Couple of these kind of came down to the wire, three minutes, two minutes left. We had a plan of what we wanted to get done. As soon as we were on the clock we were able to get the pick submitted. Monte on his team got the pick sent in. Everybody has an important role. I hate to go back to everybody has a job to do, it’s kind of a do your job. This is the ultimate I would say do your job draft from the standpoint you have to rely on a lot of people around you. It’s not one person. We’re very blessed and fortunate to have a lot of good people that understand their role and put the team first, try to do the best thing for the organization. So far so good. I don’t know how many trades we’ve done, four trades, five trades. Probably done as many as anybody any in the league at this point. I would say from that perspective our execution has been okay and we’ve been able to get done the things we wanted to get done.” Nick Caserio after being asked on what the process has been like communication-wise, talking to teams about trades and how the process has that worked out logistically.
“So, how was your week?”
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Posted Under: 2020 NFL Draft
Tags: Anfernee Jennings Bill Belichick Josh Uche Kyle Dugger Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL NFL Draft 2020 Nick Caserio Patriots