If the Patriots were quiet when the 2020 NFL Draft opened on Thursday, they made up for it on Friday. From their respective remote locations around New England, Patriots coaches and scouts got off to an early start, keeping busy making trades and taking players with their handful of selections in Rounds 2 and 3.
Shortly after midnight, once the second of three trading days ended, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio took questions from reporters via video conference.
"Busy day, pretty active," he observed during his opening remarks. "The expectation was there probably would be some degree of movement today… We started the day with five picks, ended the day with five picks, but got there in a sort of indirect way."
With the fifth pick of Round 2 (37th overall), which the Patriots acquired in a trade with the L.A. Chargers Thursday night, New England bolstered its defensive backfield by selecting Kyle Dugger (6-0, 215) a Division II safety and punt returner from Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina.
With his performance during Senior Bowl week back in January, Dugger opened eyes and gained confidence, he told reporters on a conference call shortly after his selection.
"It gave me an opportunity to solidify what I already knew – that I could play at this level." During his pre-draft meetings with the Patriots, Dugger revealed that they discussed his personality and how he learns and sees the game. "They were talking about football very detailed. I definitely liked that," added Dugger.
That was originally the only Patriots pick in Round 2, until New England swung a trade with Baltimore to acquire the Ravens' 60th overall choice, as well as Baltimore's fourth-round selection, 129 overall. In exchange, the Patriots sent the Ravens the 71st overall choice at the top of Round 3, plus one of New England's compensatory picks, the 98th overall, at the bottom of Round 3.
With that newly-acquired 60th pick, the Patriots grabbed Josh Uche, a relatively undersized outside linebacker (6-1, 245) from the University of Michigan. Uche didn't start a game for the Wolverines until his senior season. However, like Dugger before him, Uche used his invitation to the Senior Bowl to grab NFL teams' attention.
"When my opportunity came," Uche remarked during his media conference call Friday night, "I made sure I was ready and executed and kept making plays so I could keep getting more chances. I just took every play, every snap like it was my last, and that's what got me to the point I'm at today.
"I feel like the Patriots are going to maximize everything that I have to offer and they a run a tight ship… it's a good fit for me because I'm a hard-ass worker and the Patriots work their asses off."
"We basically had three guys," Caserio explained, "that we wrote down and said, 'If we can get these three guys, we would be somewhat happy. [Dugger] was one of them. Uche was another.
"With Dugger, obviously, small school, but pretty explosive player. Big, tough, fast. Has some four-down elements, return [capabilities]. Uche… moved around the front [seven] a little bit, played the perimeter, they used him some at [middle] linebacker. He's been asked to do a number of different things. He has a variety of different things that it looks like he can do."
When New England finally made a selection in Round 3, it came from a familiar place. The Patriots chose outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings, a four-year player at the University of Alabama, with the 87th overall pick. And they weren't done trading, sending overall picks 100, 139, and 172 to the Las Vegas Raiders in order to move up in the third round. New England received overall pick 91, as well as 159, a fifth-round choice, from the Raiders.
With that Round 3 choice, the Patriots finally went with an offensive player, UCLA tight end Devin Asiasi. It appeared at that point that New England's night was over, but they pulled off a late, surprise trade with their AFC East rivals, the New York Jets. The Patriots climbed up to 101 overall at the bottom of Round 3, surrendering picks 125, 129, and a sixth-round pick in next year's draft to get up there and select another tight end. Virginia Tech's Dalton Keene (6-4, 255) was the choice.
"They're a little bit different," Caserio said of the team's two new tight ends. "Kind of dealt well with the position there. Two young players that we'll get the opportunity to work with."
The 2020 NFL Draft will conclude with Rounds 4-7 on Saturday, starting at noon. For now, the Patriots have six choices remaining, one each in the fifth and seventh rounds, four in the sixth round, and none in Round 4. That of course could change at any moment if New England can pull off any more trades.
"So, with five picks, we've added some youth and depth to the roster," Caserio concluded about Friday's action. "And we'll go back at it tomorrow."