With four rounds remaining in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Patriots came back to Gillette Stadium Saturday equipped with five selections (one in each round, plus an extra sixth-round choice). However, after a busy Friday that saw the team execute trades with four different teams, it remained to be seen if New England would make all five picks. The team wound up making almost as many trades as draft picks on Saturday.
When he met with reporters following Saturday's session, player personnel director Nick Caserio joked, "Had to bring a sheet this time to keep everything straight."
Shortly after noontime, the Patriots found themselves on the clock with the draft's 105th overall selection (fifth pick of Round 4), though not for long. New England gave Cleveland that pick in exchange for the Browns' fourth- (114 overall) and sixth-rounders (178). Not long thereafter, when 114 came up, the Patriots traded that one, too. For the second time in this draft, Caserio and head coach Bill Belichick rang up their old friends who are now with Detroit and sent them No. 114 for a Lions third-round choice in 2019.
When Round 5 rolled around, New England finally made a pick, taking Purdue linebacker Ja'whaun Bentley (6-2, 260) at 143 overall.
"I would describe myself as a thumper – definitely a physical football player," Bentley told reporters via conference call a short time later. "At Purdue I was playing a lot of off-the-ball linebacker and a little bit on the line of scrimmage. At the Senior Bowl [all-star game this past January], I was almost exclusively on the line of scrimmage, so it was kind of different for me, and I feel like I did well."
"This guy's an awesome kid," Caserio said of Bentley. "Four-year starter, three-time captain – not a lot of people can say that. Pretty impressive… very smart, signal-caller [who] ran the defense at Purdue for a couple of different coaching staffs. We brought him in for a visit here in Foxborough and he was really, really impressive, someone we felt comfortable with."
The Patriots stayed at the linebacker position at the start of Round 6 when they selected Arizona State's Christian Sam (6-2, 245) with the 178th overall choice. Like Bentley, Sam emphasized his ability to play on and off the line of scrimmage, even though Caserio described the two new 'backers as different in style.
"He actually was a defensive back, played safety in high school," added Caserio.
"I feel like [the Patriots] were comfortable with that versatility in me," Sam asserted, "and they took a chance on me and that's my job to go in there, and be coachable and show them that I can do what they saw in me.
"I'm a high-character guy. You can always count on me to get the job done. I'm never going to be in the wrong place doing the wrong thing. I'm a guy who's going to take care of his business and help the people around him."
When New England's next pick in Round 6 (198 overall) arrived, the Patriots dealt it to Kansas City for two Chiefs picks in the seventh round (233 and 243 overall). Belichick and Caserio then went back on the offensive with picks 210 (Round 6) and 219 (Round 7), by plucking slot wide receiver and punt returner Braxton Berrios (5-9, 185) from the University of Miami, and LSU quarterback Danny Etling (6-3, 222).
The Patriots never used that 233rd overall pick they received from Kansas City, instead choosing to ship it to Philadelphia for the Eagles' pick at 250, plus a 2019 seventh-round selection. At 243 in Round 7, Western Carolina defensive back Keion Crossen (5-10, 180) was the choice, followed at 250 by Florida State tight end Ryan Izzo (6-5, 255) – the final pick of the day by New England.
Also of note: New England's eight draft weekend trades were the most in franchise history, surpassing the seven made in both 2009 and '10.
With the 2018 draft complete, the Patriots now turn their attention to completing their 90-man roster with any undrafted rookies of interest. With all the new additions drafted over the past three days, New England now has only about a half-dozen or so spots available to fill.
"That'll come to fruition here," Caserio predicted, "probably by Monday, Tuesday. We'll continue to turn over every stone, trying to create as much competition as we can on the team.
"Busy weekend. A lot of effort from a lot of people. The whole scouting department was awesome."
All the members of the rookie class will gather in Foxborough starting on May 10, according to Caserio, for orientation and integration into the spring practices that begin next month and continue into June.