With the NFL draft coming to a close the Patriots have once again bewildered draft analysts and fans with their classic style of drafting. While some in the media are flaming Belichick’s and Caserio’s decisions, that is due to their lack of knowledge of the talented prospects that were selected. Here is each player drafted by the Patriots, with a grade based on positional need, potential, and NFL readiness.
37 – Kyle Dugger (S): B+
The Patriots took Dugger earlier than he was expected to go, while also taking a safety earlier than expected. They probably would’ve benefitted more from taking a linebacker earlier, but Kyle is a solid pick nonetheless. He has freak athleticism, and can add impressive run support in addition to his skill in coverage. Dugger is a bit raw of a prospect, but if he reaches his potential he would be a perfect replacement for the aging safety pairing of Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty.
60 – Josh Uche (OLB): A
Uche has exactly what the Patriots need after losing Van Noy and Collins in free agency. He’s a hard-hitting, explosive player who can get to the quarterback with relative ease. They certainly needed to target an NFL ready EDGE guy in the draft, and with this selection they get that AND the added bonus of superstar potential. The Patriots also selected him at the right time, with most calling him as a top 50 selection.
87 – Anfernee Jennings (OLB): A-
Jennings was definitely taken much earlier than expected, but the Alabama product seems to be the perfect fit. He can tackle like Van Noy, attack the QB as good if not better than Uche, AND fill passing lanes to deflect or intercept passes. Anfernee fits very well in the Patriots system, as he is a big linebacker who can do it all. The Patriots might have just formed a Pro Bowl partnership with players within 30 selections of one another.
91 – Devin Asiasi (TE): A-
What seems to have become a trend, the Patriots once again selected their guy at least one round before they were expected to get drafted. Could Asiasi be the next Gronk? Well, they certainly have their share of similarities. They are relatively similar in size – Gronk has a height advantage, and Asiasi has a weight advantage. They are both tremendous blockers, which is what Belichick always seems to look for in a tight end.
They both had roughly 650 receiving yards in their last year in college, as well as the same yards per reception (14). The only thing Gronk appeared more distinguished at was in the red zone, with 10 touchdown passes in his final season compared to Asiasi’s four. While it’s always hard to draft a good tight end, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a star down the line.
101 – Dalton Keene (TE): C+
Keene was a very strange selection for me here, especially after just drafting a tight end 10 picks earlier. While later in the article I’ll go into more of what they could’ve done here, there were at least a few options that would’ve seemed smarter. But to focus on the player specifically, Keene is definitely not your average joe. Dalton was not a large receiving option in the Virginia Tech offense, but he was a very versatile player and superb blocker and red zone target. He is an interesting player who hopefully can develop a better receiving game, but not a surprising pick by Bill.
159 – Justin Rohrwasser (K): B+
After the release of Gostkowski, drafting a kicker was inevitable. While some may say it was too early to take a kicker, and that Rohrwasser wasn’t a draftable kicker regardless, there are definitely things to like about the choice. For starters, this is around the range that I expected the Pats would take a kicker. Remember, Gostkowski was taken in the fourth round.
Justin also was a very accurate kicker in college, and shows a clear drive to improve his game. Something that many people miss is the importance of the kicker being accustomed to the weather of New England. I don’t think any other kicker in the draft is as familiar with Northeast weather as Rohrwasser. He grew up in New York and even started his college career at the University of Rhode Island. Bill wasn’t looking for a good kicker in warm weather, he was looking for a consistent kicker regardless of the conditions. A smart choice in my book.
182 – Michael Onwenu (OG): B+
An interesting choice, Onwenu brings solid all-around game with the potential to be a solid starter down the line. He should be dominant in the run game, and a stable unit in the pass game. Due to how heavy is, weighing in at around 344 pounds, he isn’t the fastest or quickest in the world. But that shouldn’t be a problem, especially with the great coaching staff that the Patriots always boast. Perhaps the Patriots chose Onwenu with the expectation that he would take over for Thuney in the near future.
195 – Justin Herron (OT): C+
Herron has great length, clocking in at 6′ 4″, and is very light on his feet. But his power is a bit of a concern, and probably could benefit more from adding more meat to his bones. He could be a decent backup at tackle, or maybe even transitions to guard, but is probably a long shot for a spot on the 53-man squad.
204 – Cassh Maliua (ILB): C
As we get later in the draft there is much less to be said about the Patriots draft selections. Maliua is the third linebacker selected by the Pats, the first of which is an inside guy. He is a good tackler, and great at reading the QB, but is a bit undersized compared to the average Pats linebacker. The most likely role for Maliua will be as a special teamer, potentially to replace Nate Ebner after he followed Joe Judge to the Giants.
230 – Dustin Woodard (C): B-
Woodard is talented enough, but his lack of height and weight is a big problem, especially for a center. He does have amazing potential, but is a long-term project for the Patriots and their new offensive line coach. Perhaps Scarnecchia helps out with his development, because Woodard has a shot, certainly a small one, to be a great starter for the Pats.
The Patriots had an overall solid draft, filling both current needs and some future needs as well. To grade the draft as a whole, I would give it a B/B+. But with that said, there were roughly three questionable choices made by the Patriots in the draft in my opinion. For starters, why draft two tight ends in the third round? Were there no other needs you wanted to address that early on? Even the selection itself was strange, as the player is less of a tight end and more of a fullback. He has the potential to be a great tight end, but why select him that early when you could’ve filled a different roster hole?
One of those holes that seemed to need filling, for example, was quarterback. It’s obviously fine that they didn’t draft one, but it shows that they must have a lot of trust in Stidham to get the job done next season. Especially when the previously mentioned second tight end could’ve instead been Jacob Eason or Jake Fromm, who were both still on the draft board. On one hand, its slightly reassuring that they have so much trust in Stidham, but it’s also a bit strange to not see them draft a QB anywhere in the draft.
The biggest and last question mark was why did they not select any defensive linemen. Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and John Simon all will be free agents next year, meaning that if they all leave the Pats would need two new starting defensive tackles and a defensive end for 2021. They could’ve grabbed one or two potential replacements ahead of time in the middle of the draft, somewhere around the fourth round, yet the Patriots didn’t.
While the Patriots drafted pretty well, there is definitely a chance that this could come back and bite them down the road. But that’s how it always is in the NFL, and luckily we have the best front office in the league, with the capabilities to solve most issues if and when they appear.