Barely 12 hours after wrapping up the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft, the league’s 32 teams resumed selecting rookies on this Saturday, the third and final day of the 84thAnnual Player Selection Meeting, as the event is officially known.
It didn’t take long for the reigning Super Bowl Champion Patriots’ turn to come back around, as New England was on the clock during the first hour of Round 4, which got going at noon Eastern.
With that pick (the 118thoverall), New England selected Arkansas offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt (6-5, 306), a native of Denmark who seems to be more of an interior fit.
“My first two years [at Arkansas], I started at left guard all of the games, and I played at some center and some right guard last year. But I feel pretty comfortable with all of them,” Froholdt told reporters on a conference call shortly after his name was announced. “I’ll play wherever Coach [Dante Scarnecchia] will put me and I’m excited to get to work with him and see where this goes.
“I started playing football back in Denmark when I was 12. When I came to the States as an exchange student when I was a sophomore in high school… It was a tough transition but it ended up going pretty well.It's been a dream of mine for a long time, one that really came to reality a couple of years ago when I thought I could do this. But I’m so excited and thankful for this opportunity. It still hasn't really hit me yet.”
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio mentioned to reporters at Gillette Stadium after the draft that Bret Bielema, the former Arkansas head coach and now a member of the Patriots staff, was excited to learn that he’s being reunited with his one-time college recruit.
“He’s smart, he’s got good size,” Caserio added about Froholdt. “He’s played multiple positions inside there.”
Later in the round, the Patriots chose Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham (6-2, 218) at 133 overall.
“Smart player, takes care of the football, pretty good arm strength,” was Caserio’s initial public assessment of the rookie QB.
Stidham revealed that he’d come to Foxborough earlier this month as one of New England’s league-sanctioned 30 pre-draft prospect visits.
“I went up there for a day, was able to sit down obviously with Coach Belichick, Coach [Josh] McDaniels and other people throughout the organization. It was a really great visit,” Stidham declared. “I enjoyed getting up there and getting to know them and allowing them to get to know me a little bit and what I’m all about. It was a great visit, and like I said, I couldn’t be more fired up to be a Patriot.”
For the second time in as many days, the Patriots and Rams traded with one another to swap picks that they’d dealt to one another earlier in the draft. New England was scheduled to make back-to-back picks, but elected to send the 134th overall and one of their four seventh-round picks (243rd overall) to Los Angeles for a pair of Rams selections – the 162nd overall (which New England originally traded to L.A. on Friday night) and 167th overall.
Minnesota became New England’s next trading partner when the Patriots sent overall picks162 and 239 to the Vikings in exchange for pick 159, which New England then used to select a defensive tackle from Maryland, Byron Cowart (6-3, 300).
"I’m just happy to have a dream, and to be able to accomplish that is a relief," admitted Cowart. "A lot of people have dreams and they’re not able to achieve them. So, for this to be one of my dreams, and one of my highest dreams – I’m in an organization that I always wanted to be in... they’re going to throw it at me, I believe, and give me the opportunity to show them where do I need to be within the defense."
The Patriots traded up from 167 overall to Philadelphia’s spot at 163 overall by giving up the 167th pick and a third seventh-round choice, the 246th.Stanford punter Jake Bailey (6-1, 200) was the choice, and it sounds like he’ll have every opportunity to unseat veteran incumbent Ryan Allen, who re-signed as a free agent this offseason.
“Pretty athletic kid,” Caserio remarked about Bailey. “Great traits: smart, mature. It’s really nothing more than a competition [with Allen]. We’ll see how it goes.”
Bailey, during his conference call, provided a moment of levity when asked by a reporter if he watched Super Bowl LIII and took note of all the punts between New England and Los Angeles that night.
“Oh, it got me fired up,” Bailey maintained. “I remember watching the game and all of my friends were kind of like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ and I was glued to the TV. It was one of my favorite football games of all time to watch.”
The Super Bowl Champions closed out the 2019 NFL Draft by selecting Mississippi cornerback Ken Webster (5-11, 203) with their 10thand final pick, the 252ndoverall in Round 7. Caserio compared Webster to Keion Crossen, an athletic, speedy 2018 Patriots draft choice who played considerable minutes as a rookie last season.
Now that the draft portion of draft weekend is over, the Patriots still must fill out the remainder of their 90-man roster by signing rookies who went undrafted over the past three days. In the coming days, the rookie class will arrive as a group to go through orientation before later participating in their first practice sessions as members of the Patriots.
“The biggest thing for [the rookies] will be to get here, just assimilate our program, and establish a routine for themselves,” Caserio noted. "There’ll be some work here to be done, there’ll be some moving parts, and then we’ll transition to the next phase of the offseason program, and we’ll continue the team-building process throughout the spring… so that we can have a competitive situation come [training camp in] August.”