After picking a pair of Georgia Bulldogs on Thursday night, New England had a chance to double their draft haul on Friday with a pair of second-round choices. Earlier in the day, the Patriots, who started the day with three picks, completed a trade with San Francisco for 25-year-old offensive tackle Trent Brown. New England sent the 49ers the Patriots' third-round choice as part of the deal, but also received a fifth-rounder from San Fran.
Thus, the Patriots entered Round 2 Friday night with overall selections 43 and 63 and no picks in Round 3. Once the picking resumed, however, New England traded with Detroit, swapping second-round picks (43 for 51 overall) and acquiring the Lions' fourth-round choice at 117 overall.
Player personnel director Nick Caserio later told reporters that New England's front office fielded a number of offers for that 43rd overall selection before deciding to make the transaction with their former colleagues who are now in the Motor City (Lions GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia).
"There was quite a bit of action on the pick," Caserio revealed. "We looked at everything and thought, 'All right, seems to make some sense if we move back a few spots. Maybe we get the same player or group of players [available later],' but that was a pick that, for whatever reason, was in demand."
Head coach Bill Belichick and his scouting team then phoned the Bears to deal that 51st overall selection to Chicago for the 105th overall choice this year (Round 4) and a 2019 second-round selection.
New England then turned the tide, trading back up to Tampa Bay's 56th overall position to grab cornerback Duke Dawson (5-11, 200) of the University of Florida. They gave the Bucs their 63rd and 117th overall choices in exchange. Dawson was reportedly the only cornerback prospect who paid an official pre-draft visit to Gillette this year.
"He has experience essentially playing three [defensive backfield] positions," added Caserio. "Pretty versatile player, played in the kicking game a little bit. He has a lot of experience doing multiple things. He's played everywhere: safety, slot corner, perimeter corner. What's the best position [here]? We'll see."
In addition to Dawson's versatility, Caserio cited his competitiveness and tackling as features that stood out when the Patriots were evaluating Dawson up close recently and over the past couple of years they've been monitoring his college game tape.
With regard to Brown, who mostly played right tackle in San Francisco, Caserio described him as a good, experienced player whose role – either on the left or right side of New England's offensive line – has yet to be determined. The Patriots have a significant vacancy to fill at left tackle after Nate Solder signed with the Giants as a free agent this offseason.
"Maybe one side is better for the player than the other," Caserio observed about Brown's potential future, "but we're not going to make a determination on that right now."
After Friday's flurry of activity, New England currently has five remaining choices that it can either make or use as bargaining chips over the final four rounds.
"It just gives us an opportunity," explained Caserio, "to pick maybe a few players you like or that maybe you would have had to compete for in rookie free agency. Instead, maybe you just pick the player to avoid that. And/or if you wanted to move a little bit… Still some work for us to do."
That work will continue overnight and into Saturday morning, with the Patriots re-examining their prospect board, before the drafting resumes at noontime.