Armed with five selections throughout Rounds 2 and 3, New England entered the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft with plenty of options either to stay put and collect players, package them to move up, or trade down. They wound up doing all three.
Two-and-a-half months after defeating the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, the reigning Super Bowl champs started the night by trading with Los Angeles to move up in Round 2. New England climbed from 56 overall to L.A.’s choice at 45 and selected cornerback Joejuan Williams (6-4, 211) from Vanderbilt. The Patriots gave the Rams their 101st overall selection in Round 3 as part of that deal.
With the draft taking place in Nashville, where both Vanderbilt is located and Williams grew up, the player was on-hand when the pick was made and spoke to NFL Network moments later. A short time later, he phoned Foxborough to take part in a conference call with local media, during which he recalled his two pre-draft private workouts with the Patriots.
“It was a good. We watched film and just went through some drills and we talked a lot of ball… [Head coach Bill Belichick] said he saw me as a corner, but at the end of the day, I’ll play wherever he sees me to fit and I trust in the system. I trust in him and I trust in the system and I just want to contribute to the team… I feel like I have the complete package. I can run, cover and hit… I watch film like I watch Game of Thrones. That’s just who I am. Football runs in my blood. That’s definitely how I work.”
“Where he’s going to play, it’s too early to determine that,” Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio told reporters at Gillette Stadium following Round 3. “As a player, he’s got some unique attributes that not a lot of players at that position have. How that necessarily translates into our system, we’ll find out. But he’s a tremendously impressive kid. Very mature. He’s a great person, which is important.”
New England then swung a deal with the Seattle Seahawks, another foe against whom they won a Super Bowl. The Patriots this time traded down from their 64th overall spot in Round 2 to acquire Seattle’s 77th (Round 3) and 118th (Round 4) overall choices.
The Patriots then shipped the first of their third-round choices, number 73 overall and sixth-round choice 205 overall, to Chicago for three Bears picks: the 87th and 162nd overall, plus a 2020 fourth round pick.
With the pick acquired from Seattle (77) in Round 3, New England chose Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich (6-3, 256).
“[He] has some value hopefully not only defensively, but in the kicking game as well,” Caserio remarked of Winovich. “Pretty good combination of size, speed, toughness, instinctiveness.”
“I’ve always prided myself on being a football player,” Winovich said during a post-draft conference call, “so, wherever the coaches want to put me, ultimately. If you look at my history, I’ve played a lot of different position and that’s where the coaches are going to decide where I fit best, so that’s their choice not mine. I’m happy to play anywhere. I just want to get on the field and contribute and work hard.”
Ten picks later, at 87 overall, the Patriots went back on the offensive, taking Alabama running back Damien Harris (5-10, 218). The champs finished Friday night by trading a second time with the Rams. New England sent the 97th and 162nd overall to Los Angeles in exchange for that original 101 that the Patriots dealt earlier in the night, plus the 133rd overall choice in Round 4. The returned 101st overall choice was spent by New England on West Virginia offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste (6-5, 312), a former basketball player.
“Obviously a lot of movement,” Caserio acknowledged about all the trading of picks New England did on Friday. “[We] kind of moved up and down, side-to-side. Where we ended up is picking four what we think are quality football players that have played against good competition and been productive at a fairly consistent level.”
As the 2019 NFL Draft wraps up, the Patriots will begin the day with three picks in Round 4, none in the fifth or sixth rounds, and four in Round 7. Of course, that could change once business resumes Saturday afternoon.
“We have a long runway in front of us. We’ll just continue to the next phase,” added Caserio. “In the interim, we’ll just take it step-by-step, day-by-day and try to pick players that fit us the best.”