Re-Grading the Patriots' 2020 Draft Class

Despite a tumultuous and disappointing 2020 season, the New England Patriots' 2020 draft class showed signs of promise
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While the New England Patriots' 2020 season was cut disappointingly short, their draft class showed quite a bit of promise. While recent years have seen head coach and general manager Bill Belichick as the subject of a lot of criticism for subpar draft classes, it seems that Belichick's 2020 class is shaping up to be fairly successful. 

Let's revisit the picks.

Round 2, Pick 37: Kyle Dugger, Safety, Lenoir-Rhyne University 

Grade: A-

While the decision to draft another second-round defensive back instinctively gave me vicious Jordan Richards/Duke Dawson/Cyrus Jones/*insert bust here* flashbacks, Dugger quickly grew on me. 

Dugger was known for his versatility in college, and it's clear that this trait translated into the league. He made a name for himself in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks, a game in which he saw snaps as both linebacker and safety. Dugger made his way into the starting lineup and has made an immediate impact for the Patriots defense.

While Dugger's man-to-man coverage ability wasn't perfect, he's still effective and will only continue to improve. 

As a whole, Dugger has been an immediate contributor who has shown pro bowl potential. For once, Belichick has hit on a second-round defensive back.

Round 2, Pick 60: Josh Uche, Edge/Outside Linebacker, Michigan 

Grade: A

Coming into the draft, Uche was my dream pick for New England. Uche's best trait, like Dugger, was his versatility. In college, Uche would be bull-rushing a tackle on one play and covering a slot receiver 30 yards downfield on the next. 

Uche fell in the draft due to his limited snap count at Michigan, but Belichick clearly noticed his potential. While Uche's rookie campaign was also marred by injuries, he almost always seemed to make an eye-popping play each week.

Uche's first career sack came against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 10, a poetic start to his career considering the Ravens traded away the pick that the Patriots used to select him.

Despite his seemingly great play, Uche's snap count was lackluster -- yet he will likely continue to develop into a premiere defender against increasingly speedy NFL offenses.

Round 3, Pick 87: Anfernee Jennings, Edge, Alabama 

Grade: B

Jennings made a virtually immediate contribution to the New England defense, seeing high snap counts week in and week out. He was primarily looked to as a run-stopping edge defender, and he was able to maintain his role fairly decently.

After watching his tape after the draft, I felt that Jennings had the tools to become a great Rob Ninkovich-style edge player -- Jennings showed off a violent style of pass rush and run defense that I projected would allow him to develop into a potential three-down edge defender.

While Jennings, unlike Uche, didn't make too many incredible plays, he was a dependable linebacker who simply has more to learn against the more complex offenses present in the NFL. 

Round 3, Pick 91: Devin Asiasi, Tight End, UCLA 

Grade: C

UCLA tight end Devin Asiasi was perhaps the most anticipated rookie of the class for Patriots fans -- and boy did he disappoint.

While rookie tight ends are notorious for putting up lackluster seasons, it felt that the New England offense did very little to get Asiasi involved in any capacity. Belichick has attributed the limited rookie tight end involvement in the offense to the modified offseason, so it likely isn't fair to judge Asiasi off a single season.

Round 3, Pick 101: Dalton Keene, Tight End, Virginia Tech 

Grade: B-

Keene struggled in the offense for the same reasons that Asiasi did. However, I am more bullish on Keene than most; in college, Keene was criminally underused despite his aggressive blocking style, speed, dependable hands, and versatility. In fact, Keene lined up at virtually every skill position: inline tight end, wing tight end, fullback, runningback (where he actually took handoffs), slot wide receiver, and outside wide receiver. 

While Keene's blocking form in college wasn't great, his aggressiveness and willingness to play in the trenches reminded me a lot of George Kittle as a college prospect. 

Keene spent most of the year as either a healthy scratch or buried on the depth chart. It would not surprise me if he shows signs of breaking out in 2021.

Round 5, Pick 159: Justin Rohrwasser, Kicker, Marshal 

Grade: D-

This was perhaps the worst pick of the draft for Belichick. While the team certainly needed a kicker, Rohrwasser was definitely not a prospect on many peoples' radars.

In college Rohrwasser was an 86 percent field goal kicker. He additionally made 97 percent of his extra points, meaning he only missed three percent. 

While it may have made sense to fill the role of kicker, it did not make sense to do so when receiver prospects such as K.J. Hill and Darnell Mooney were still on the board. It made even less sense to pick Rohrwasser over a more name-brand prospect like Rodrigo Blankenship out of Georgia. 

While Rohrwasser is on the future signing list for the Patriots heading into the 2021 season, his future seems quite murky, and this may be nothing more than sunk-cost fallacy in full display.

Round 5, Pick 182: Michael Onwenu, Guard, Michigan 

Grade: A+

Onwenu is arguably the steal of the draft, plain and simple. If he wasn't playing such an "unglamorous" position, he'd likely be in the offensive rookie of the year conversation.

As poor as New England is at drafting early-round receivers, they are phenomenal at developing late-round offensive line prospects. In a shortened offseason without the help of coach Dante Scarnecchia, Onwenu was able to immediately flourish, earning a starting role on the line by Week 3 against the Las Vegas Raiders. 

Throughout the season, Onwenu displayed incredible versatility, playing virtually every position except center. The team is fortunate to have found a true franchise offensive lineman, and Onwenu will continue to be a key piece in the rebuild to come.

Round 6, Pick 195: Justin Herron, Tackle, Wake Forest 

Grade: B

I didn't love the Herron pick, especially with a few receiver prospects still on the board -- but Herron has shown incredible growth over the course of the season.

Herron has become a dependable plug-and-play lineman for the Patriots, and will only continue to develop into a better player as he continues to learn the playbook. His physical tools and especially his power are incredible and will likely allow him to burgeon into a pro bowl level player at some point.

Round 6, Pick 204: Cassh Maluia, Outside Linebacker, Wyoming 

Grade: C

Maluia was likely drafted as a special teams body with some defensive upside, and he fulfilled that role decently during his tenure with the team.

Maluia did not get many snaps with the team and will likely stay as a camp body moving forward, barring some incredible sudden development.

Round 7, Pick 230: Dustin Woodard, Center, Memphis 

Grade: D

While I thought Woodard had the potential to replace Ted Karras as our plug-and-play inside offensive lineman, he inexplicably retired a few months after the draft for unknown personal reasons.

Overall Grade: B