The first draft of the post-Tom Brady era is in the books.
The absence of the greatest quarterback ever notwithstanding, things were business as usual for the Patriots when it came to the 2020 NFL Draft.
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Trading out of the first round? Check. Reaching on a defensive back in the second round because of his special teams prowess? Check. Not addressing several (assumed) positions of need? You betcha.
Of course a 24-year-old safety from an NCAA Division II school was the first draft pick of this new age in Foxboro. Lenoir-Rhyne's Kyle Dugger (he has a name) may develop into a fine player for the Patriots. Maybe he'll be like Darrell Green, Walter Payton or Gene Upshaw, Division II players now enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, or maybe he'll be the latest in the Tavon Wilson/Ras-I Dowling/Cyrus Jones/Jordan Richards relay of defensive backs selected in the second round by Bill Belichick to flop spectacularly.
No one is denying Dugger's physical gifts (6-foot-1, 217 pounds, 4.49 40-yard dash time, 42-inch vertical leap), nor is anyone denying that the Patriots have a need at safety -- long term.
Short term, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, each of whom will be 33 by opening day, are still playing at a high level. Adrian Phillips and Terrence Brooks are also on the roster.
For a team that had countless other areas of need on the roster to maintain its edge over the improving AFC East, taking a guy who projects to barely see the field in 2020 that's also nearly two years older than your typical college senior is a real head-scratcher.
Maybe that's not a bad thing. Just when you expect Belichick to zag, he continues to zig. Brady is gone, Rob Gronkowski is gone, the world is dealing with its largest health crisis in a century, yet here's Belichick, still doing things his own way.
Here are a few other takeaways from the Patriots draft, the 21st completed by Belichick:
Jarrett Stidham is The Guy
Not only were earlier reports that the Patriots would use a "premium pick" on a quarterback exaggerated, they wound up being downright false. New England didn't use any of its 10 draft picks over the weekend on a passer, simply stunning given the fact it had taken a quarterback 10 times since 2002, even with the presence of Tom Brady on the roster in those days.
The Patriots reportedly signed two quarterbacks as undrafted free agents over the weekend, but in eschewing a quarterback through the early rounds of the draft in particular, New England made clear its confidence level in Jarrett Stidham. Barring a change of heart, Stidham and Brian Hoyer will be the lone quarterbacks with NFL experience on the Patriots' roster come training camp.
"I like both those players," Belichick said after the draft. "We've had Brian a couple times. I think he certainly gives us a very solid level of play. We have a lot of confidence in him. And Jarrett had a good year last year. He improved a lot. We'll see where that takes him."
Stidham, New England's fourth-round pick in 2019, attempted only four passes as a rookie, one of which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The lack of action in free agency, when numerous established veteran passers were available, coupled with inactivity in the draft, however, makes it clear that Stidham is held in high regard within the organization.
Tight Ends on Notice
Ben Watson led New England's tight ends in receptions in 2019, with 17, tied for 45th in the NFL at the position.
With Watson retired and Matt LaCosse (13 catches, 131 yards in 2019) and Ryan Izzo (six catches, 114 yards) coming off unproductive campaigns, Belichick selected a pair of tight ends in the third round of the draft in Devin Asiasi (UCLA) and Dalton Keene (Virginia Tech).
It's easy to draw comparisons to the last time New England selected two tight ends in the same draft -- strictly from an on-field standpoint -- when it took Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in 2010.
What this truly is, though, is an acknowledgement that the Patriots were borderline negligent in replacing Gronkowski following his retirement last off-season. Brady or not, New England wasn't going to make the mistake of leaving its quarterback without a qualified security blanket in the passing game again. Throw in the reported signing of former BC tight end Jake Burt, a Lynnfield, Massachusetts native, for $80,000, and it's not crazy to see a scenario in which there's 100% turnover in the tight ends room at Gillette Stadium.
Young Receivers Get Second Shot
Thirty-six wide receivers were drafted over the weekend, including a record 13 in the first two rounds.
Naturally, the Patriots passed entirely on what was heralded as one of the deepest receivers classes ever. Which means that youngsters N'Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski have the inside track on taking on bigger roles as sophomores in 2020.
"I'm sure all our young players will improve in year two," Belichick said.
Harry, New England's first-round pick in 2019, was going to get a chance regardless given his pedigree. Meyers and Olszewski, each UDFAs last season, were assured nothing and that may still be the case. Until we actually see what this year's group of UDFA receivers brings to the table in training camp, though, the darlings of last August remain secure in their status on the depth chart.
Plan Executed at Linebacker
When the Patriots allowed linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins to leave via free agency, you could understand the logic given their age and contract demands.
Their departures now make perfect sense, following New England's selection of Michigan's Josh Uche and Alabama's Anfernee Jennings with its second and third picks of the draft, respectively. NFL.com's draft profile even named Van Noy as Jennings' pro comparison.
Both players will have a chance to start right away in Foxboro, particularly if the Patriots stick with a 3-4 base defense in 2020. Uche projects as more of an inside linebacker in the NFL, meaning he could be the heir apparent for 30-year-old Dont'a Hightower when the time comes.
Choice Made at Kicker
The drafting of Justin Rohrwasser in the fifth round of the draft all but ends speculation as to who'd be New England's placekicker following the release of the franchise's all-time leading scorer, Stephen Gostkowski.
Rohrwasser, who played at URI and Marshall, was the first kicker off the board at No. 159 overall, or 41 spots later than where Gostkowski went in 2006. Rohrwasser already created a bit of controversy over the weekend due to one of his tattoos, but it's hard to imagine the Patriots running it back with Nick Folk or another veteran now.
"He's got a good leg, kicks the ball straight, has good hang time on the kickoffs, gets it up on the field goals," Belichick said of Rohrwasser. "We'll see how all that goes now in a little different environment here. But I think there's a lot to like with him."
Say this for Belichick: he's never drafted a bad kicker. Gostkowski was his only selection.