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Rebuilding process underway in Foxborough

The Patriots rebuilding process is underway with some draft picks for the future.

Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan
Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan

As is typically the case, the Patriots did their share of moving around the board during draft weekend. It started with a trade down on Thursday night, and continued with a move up on Friday.

With the first two days now in the books, the best conclusion that can be drawn from the weekend is your New England Patriots are in full rebuild mode.

Of course, that should come as no surprise after Tom Brady kicked off the offseason by departing to Tampa via free agency. Obviously moving on from the greatest quarterback of all time inherently involves a major transition. Whether veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer or youngster Jarrett Stidham earns the right to replace Brady, the 2020 Patriots aren't likely to contend for another trip to the Super Bowl.

With that in mind, the roster is badly in need of some youth and athleticism. The Patriots selected two such players in the second round, grabbing safety Kyle Dugger and outside linebacker Josh Uche. While both offer intriguing skills, the problem with such players is they aren't usually positioned to make an immediate impact.

And that's why it's hard not feel as if Bill Belichick has made the decision to rebuild. Dugger is a 6-2, 220-pound athlete who has the versatility to perform as an in-the-box safety and possibly as a linebacker as well. But coming out of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne means he will have a steep learning curve, and the current situation regarding COVID-19 and the subsequent possibility that the entire offseason program will not happen won't make that hill any easier to climb.

Dugger does have dynamic punt returning skills – he took six back for touchdowns in his college days – so it's certainly plausible that he finds a role on special teams as a rookie. But envisioning him earning a significant role on defense in a safety rotation with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and free agent newcomer Adrian Phillips is difficult. It's possible Chung could be expendable, as was the case earlier this offseason when Duron Harmon was dealt, but assuming that is not the case, Dugger doesn't figure to factor into the immediate plans.

With Uche the Patriots get some badly needed speed on the edge. He projects to fill a role similar to departed free agents Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy. But even though he comes from an elite program at Michigan, he didn't really see much action in Ann Arbor until his senior season. He played sporadically prior to 2019 and all together saw fewer than 700 total snaps on the Wolverines defense. So, like Dugger, it will likely take some time for Uche to settle in as he gains experience.

Both could very well be part of the rebuild and represent the future. Athletically they absolutely fit the mold. For 2020, though, they may not be a huge part of the defense.

The Patriots trading continued later in the evening as Belichick moved up from No. 100 to 91 to select tight end Devin Asiasi out of UCLA after taking Alabama outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings at 87. Jennings is a tough run-stopper who is capable of setting the edge and could be a nice complement to Uche, who is known as more of a pass rusher.

Another trade, this one with the Jets, added another tight end. Virginia Tech's Dalton Keene was tabbed at 101 overall as Belichick dealt a pair of fourth-rounders plus a 2021 sixth-round pick to make the move up. Keene joins Asiasi at a position of major need on offense. Both offer some promise as receivers.

Of the five players Belichick selected, Asiasi figures to have the best chance to contribute quickly. With a tight end depth chart that includes Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse, he should get every opportunity to carve out a role given his ability to serve as an in-line blocker and solid resume as a pass catcher. Keene has a different skill set but his ability to move around the formation may give him some opportunities as well.

Otherwise, the Patriots added some athleticism and versatility, but likely not players who will make a huge difference in 2020. With Brady gone, we all should have seen it coming.

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