The Patriots began Day 2 of the NFL Draft with two choices -- No. 43 and No. 63 -- but they ended up with just one player.
After trading down twice and up once in the second round, Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio settled at pick No. 56 to take Florida defensive back Duke Dawson.
PATRIOTS DRAFT: DAY 2
Dawson was an easy choice for our Prototypical Patriots series at cornerback. He tackles well. He was durable at the University of Florida, playing in 48 games during his time with the Gators. He was a coaches selection as a first-team all-conference player in the SEC last season. He's versatile, having shown the ability to play inside, outside and at safety as a collegian.
Check, check, check and check.
Physically, Dawson (5-11, 197) doesn't tick off every marker of other top-100 selections Belichick has made at corner since 2000. For instance, his three-cone (7.02 seconds) and short-shuttle times (4.39 seconds) weren't other-worldly. His 40-time (4.49 seconds), however, was solid.
Add it all up, and the Patriots felt Dawson was worthy of a second-round pick. Not just worthy of one, but worthy of a trade up from No. 63 (costing them a fourth-round pick) to ensure they got him.
"He has experience essentially playing three positions," Nick Caserio said Friday. "He’s played safety, he’s played corner, he’s played slot corner, so a pretty versatile player. He played in the kicking game a little bit, so he has a lot of experience doing multiple things. We’ll put him in the mix with everybody else in the secondary and see how it goes."
Caserio said the Patriots liked Dawson's game enough that they actually thought about taking him at No. 43. The Patriots have scouted him since last year when he contemplated entering the draft early, and so they've seen him play multiple spots against other talented players in conference. By moving down, picking up a fourth-round pick, and still getting one of their top players, they felt happy with their night.
How will Dawson fill in with the Patriots? Time will tell. But Caserio referenced the arcs of the careers of two of the best defensive backs the team has had in recent years when talking about how Dawson's flexibility may help him in New England.
"I mean, Devin [McCourty] played corner his first year and he went to the Pro Bowl as a corner," Caserio said. "Now, he’s been one of our most dependable players as a free safety for however many years as he’s been here. So how’s that going to go? We’ll see. I’d say, it’s not like the offensive line, but similar in that we’re trying to get as many of our best people out there and we’ll allocate him accordingly positionally. Maybe it’s package based. Maybe it’s week-to-week based on who we’re playing.
PATRIOTS DRAFT: DAY 3
"[Patrick] Chung played safety at Oregon. He really didn’t play in the slot, but now Patrick has played as much in the slot or as close to the line of scrimmage as any of our players and he’s been as good as any player we’ve had or throughout the league in that role. So [Dawson] has experience in all those spots. What’s his best position? I don’t know. His performance will determine what his role is and what his best position is for him within the composition of the entire defense."
Here are five quick takeaways from the Dawson selection . . .
1. Patriots must not have loved the second tier of this quarterbacks class. They passed on Lamar Jackson twice in the first round. They passed on the next tier of passers multiple times by trading back from No. 43 and then from No. 51. Only one quarterback was taken on Day 2 of the draft, Mason Rudolph, so the league's consensus was that the bulk of the remaining passers were not exactly franchise-caliber. We'll see if Bill Belichick and Caserio take a flier on a quarterback on the final day of the draft, but any pick made in the fourth round or later probably can't be considered Tom Brady's heir apparent the way Jimmy Garoppolo was following the second round in 2014.
2. The Patriots must not have loved the remaining consensus top players at receiver, tight end, safety, linebacker or edge -- even though many were Patriots "prototypes." By trading down, in the end going from 43 to 56, the Patriots missed on wideouts Dante Pettis, Anthony Miller (both Prototypical Patriots) and Christian Kirk. They missed on tight end Dallas Goedert (Prototypical Patriot), who went to the reigning Super Bowl champs. They missed on linebackers Uchenna Nwosu (Prototypical Patriot) and Kemoko Turay. When they took Dawson at No. 63, they passed on the chance to draft linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Fred Warner (Prototypical Patriots), safeties Justin Reid (Prototypical Patriot) and Ronnie Harrison and defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Rasheem Green (Prototypical Patriots).
3. Having a go-to slot corner has significant value. In the modern-day NFL, where sub packages are now base packages, being able to defend the slot is a critical element to any successful defense. Some third corners play starter-level snaps, and so having a player who may be the slot of the future in Dawson should put Belichick and Brian Flores at ease. It's critical to have a defender on the inside to help takeaway those pass-catchers in the middle of the field who help their offenses move the chains with short-to-intermediate gains. How critical? Pro Football Focus put together an interesting piece earlier this offseason on the value of the slot defender, which is as important as ever. So even if Dawson is "just a slot corner" -- and he may be more than that -- he'd still carry plenty of value. The Patriots tried both Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones in the slot last season, and it was Chung who had duties on the interior during the Super Bowl.
4. Defensive back didn't look like an immediate need in New England, but it could become one relatively quickly. The McCourtys and Patrick Chung are 30. Eric Rowe is in a contract year. Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones are scheduled to hit free agency after the 2019 season, and both Joneses are coming off of season-ending surgeries. Right now? They seem set. Maybe that'll afford Dawson some time to grow into his role. But -- in the same way drafting Isaiah Wynn may someday help the Patriots absorb the potential blow of losing Shaq Mason to free agency -- this could end up looking like a prescient selection next offseason.
5. In his own words: "I'm a very humble guy," Dawson said. "I just come in and do what is said. I've never been a guy that came in conceited, cocky. I've just always been humble and mellow. I'm just a laid back guy. When it's time to turn up and do the things that I like to do, that's when things start to get even better for me. I just like to come in and help in any way that I could. It really don't matter where I get put. I just want to come in and help this team in any way I can."