By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The 2020 NFL Draft is in the books. And for the second straight year, Bill Belichick came away with an even 10 total selections.
In all, the Patriots have now made 29 draft picks in the past three seasons. Four members of the 2018 draft class remain on the 2020 roster, with only one player from the 2019 class no longer on the team. Some members of the Patriots’ 2020 draft class have a chance to stick around for a while.
After trading out of the first round on draft night for the third time since 2009, Belichick stood pat at No. 37 on day 2 and kicked off the 2020 draft class with safety Kyle Dugger out of Division-II Lenoir-Rhyne University. He gets a freak athlete with a chance to develop into a long-term replacement for Patrick Chung as a starting safety.
Interestingly enough, none of the Patriots’ 10 picks included a quarterback. They may dip into the undrafted free agent pool for their third QB. So much for spending a “premium” pick on a QB and all that “interest” they had, though. Funny how that works out.
The Patriots were, however, very interested in taking tight ends this year. After going several years without taking a TE higher than the fifth round, all of a sudden Belichick traded up on consecutive picks to take Devin Asiasi out of UCLA and Dalton Keene out of Virginia Tech. Finally, the Patriots have some long-term offensive upside at tight end after two trying years.
Anyway, there’s more on all of the Patriots’ 2020 draft picks below. Get familiarized with the big picture for them as players and what to expect in their rookie seasons.
Second Round, No. 37: S Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne
Uh-oh. Bill picked another defensive back in the second round. Everybody in your bunkers. Dugger, however, shouldn’t be compared to Tavon Wilson just because most of us didn’t know Lenoir-Rhyne University. Wilson wasn’t on a lot of people’s draft boards. Dugger was one of the highest-rated prospects at safety entering the 2020 draft and the Patriots are smart to start looking toward the future at the position. Dugger will be the Patriots’ only safety under contract for the 2022 season once he signs. Despite Division-II competition, Dugger’s athleticism still stood out enough to make him a legitimate NFL-caliber prospect. Belichick has a chance to develop him into a future starting safety.
Second Round, No. 60: LB Josh Uche, Michigan
Another athletic, versatile player for Belichick’s defense. Uche mainly rushed the passer off the edge at Michigan and was productive, leading the team with 8.5 sacks his senior year. But he could be rangy enough to develop into a more well-rounded linebacker who can play off the ball and in coverage. Mike Reiss compared him as a draft prospect to Patriots Hall of Famer Tedy Bruschi (and got his balls busted over it). If Uche can approach even a fraction of the accomplishments in Bruschi’s career … a triumph of a pick.
Third round, No. 87: LB Anfernee Jennings, Alabama
It’s Bill Belichick, drafting a linebacker, from Alabama. That’s really all you need to know to have confidence in this selection. Jennings projects as the kind of player the Patriots defense could use right away, an edge-setting linebacker in 3-4 looks that can be stout at the point of attack and stop the run. He may never turn into a great pass-rusher, but his Alabama experience should make him a polished pro and someone Belichick will maximize. Of all their picks, Jennings has one of the best chances to be a real contributor as a rookie.
Third round, No. 91: TE Devin Asiasi, UCLA
This had to feel good for a lot of people. It’s been an agonizing grind to this moment at the tight end position, starting with Rob Gronkowski’s decline and retirement followed by a disastrous 2019 season for everyone on the depth chart. Belichick had ignored tight ends early in the draft for nearly a decade until Friday, when he took the plunge with Devin Asiasi out of UCLA. The exciting part is that Asiasi’s ceiling is that of an excellent receiving tight end. But the Pats needed pass-catching upside at tight end more than they needed just about anything else on the roster, and Asiasi certainly brings that.
Third round, No. 101: TE Dalton Keene, Virginia Tech
Most of what was said about Asiasi applies here. Keene didn’t rate particularly highly as a prospect because he lacks the traditional size and strength of an every-down tight end who can play in-line consistently. But the tape reveals an explosive and outrageously versatile chess piece who, if he can get open and catch the ball consistently, could become a real weapon for the Patriots. Belichick will line him up at tight end, fullback, H-back, slot, positions he hasn’t invented yet. Just like Asiasi, there’s cause for excitement about this pick.
Fifth round, No. 159: K Justin Rohrwasser, Marshall
It had to be done at some point. It turns out Belichick wanted to pay the highest price possible for a new kicker, which was to spend a draft pick on his guy. So he made Rohrwasser the first kicker off the board in the 2020 draft. Rohrwasser had a strong senior year at Marshall, peaking with a 53-yard game-winning field goal to beat Western Kentucky. He’s a large man for a kicker at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds. His presence should make the Patriots’ transitions in the 2020 season that much more fascinating. This is certainly a more compelling story than bringing back Nick Folk.
Sixth round, No. 182: OG Michael Onwenu, Michigan
The Patriots reportedly met Onwenu before the draft, so score one for the list of meetings. He’s just a supervolcano of a man at 6-foot-3 and 344 pounds. He’s really built more like a nose tackle, no? Onwnenu’s size and strength far outpace his athleticism, which made him a day 3 pick and a projected backup lineman at the NFL level. Gotta have faith that Belichick can mold him into something greater.
Sixth round, No. 195: OT Justin Herron, Wake Forest
Herron is sort of the opposite kind of prospect from Onwenu. He has NFL-caliber athleticism but his strength is suspect and needs to develop his techniques. He may have landed in the best possible spot with Belichick coaching him up.
Sixth round, No. 204: LB Cassh Maluia, Wyoming
Maluia earned honorable mention All-Mountain West Conference honors as a senior. He started all 13 games and made 61 tackles (seven for loss) and two interceptions. The problem is Maluia rarely showed the kind of play recognition and ability to shed blockers to play a regular role on defense at the NFL level. With the Patriots, he may have a chance to develop into the next Nate Ebner type, an athletic special teams cornerstone.
Seventh round, No. 230: C Dustin Woodard, Memphis
Any pick at center is an intriguing one, even if it’s in the seventh round. Presumptive 2020 starter David Andrews went undrafted and it’s become obvious that he deserved to get drafted. Andrews is cleared to play for 2020 after blood clots derailed his 2019 season before it started. But it’s a fair proposition for Belichick to give himself depth at the position, especially with Ted Karras gone to Miami. Woodard will compete with Froholdt for the No. 2 center spot.
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Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.