The NFL draft is finally here, with the Patriots trading out of the first round to the surprise of no one. The move did set the Pats up with eight picks in Days 2 and 3, allowing them to aggressively pursue the prospects they want most in the middle rounds.
The Pats first selection was the athletic and versatile defensive end/outside linebacker Jamie Collins from Southern Miss. They followed that by addressing their biggest need at wide receiver by taking Aaron Dobson from Marshall, and again grabbing another wide out with Josh Boyce in the fourth round.
In the third round, the Patriots doubled down on Rutgers defenders, selecting cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Duron Harmon.
Saturday also saw the Patriots acquire running back LeGarrette Blount for Jeff Demps and a 7th-round pick.
We'll be here throughout the draft, with in-depth instant analysis and grades as soon as the New England Patriots' picks are made!
With the 52nd overall pick, the Patriots wasted no time making their annual pick that leaves the fans and pundits all scratching their heads. Jamie Collins was projected by most draft pundits as a mid-round selection, but the Pats took him with their first pick of the draft in the mid-second round.
Collins was under most radars, especially this early in the draft, but he's a versatile and athletic player who can contribute at defensive end, outside linebacker and even middle linebacker. His athletic potential was described by one scout as "off the charts".
For those wanting to add a defensive front seven player who can do a number of things, including getting after the quarterback, Collins is a solid addition, with a great deal of upside.
However, it's likely that Collins would've been available later in the draft, just as Tavon Wilson likely would've been in 2012 when they drafted him in the second round. On paper, it doesn't seem like a great value pick, but there's definitely potential in Collins to be used in a variety of ways by Bill Belichick all over his defense.
After leaving their fan base scratching their head with their first pick, the Patriots made a pick everyone thought they should by taking wide receiver Aaron Dobson with their second second-round pick.
Dobson was on most Pats pundits' radars and for good reason. Why not try to finally replace the X-receiver void Randy Moss left with the best receiver to come out of Marshall since Moss?
What stands out most about Dobson? His size at 6'3", 210-pounds, literally head and shoulders above every other receiver currently on the Patriots roster. Dobson caught 15 touchdowns the last two seasons, and should instantly give Tom Brady a big outside target that he's lacked since Moss was traded.
Now the real work begins for Dobson, and that is picking up the offense and getting on the same page as Brady, but from our view this is a slam dunk pick.
The Patriots had success with Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty in 2010 and once again tapped a defensive back from the school, taking Logan Ryan with their first pick in the third round.
Ryan doesn't have great speed, but very good ball skills, physicality and leadership traits. The Pats needed depth in the secondary from the draft. They return all of their starters, but no position is more often ravaged by injuries than at defensive back.
While Ryan's fit will be determined once training camp and injuries play out, he brings the kind of intangibles the Patriots always look for. He's active, physical, and often finds himself around the football, and having played for Greg Schiano early in his career, Belichick surely got the full inside scoop on him.
The Pats won't need Ryan to step in and start immediately, but he could end up playing a significant role down the line.
The Patriots continued a couple of their draft trends by selecting Rutgers safety Duron Harmon late in the third round.
First, and most obvious, is taking their second Rutgers defender in nine picks, and second, Harmon represents the first non-combine player selected in this year's draft. The Patriots have taken non-combine participants Tavon Wilson and Sebastian Vollmer in recent seasons as well.
Most sites and pundits projected Harmon as a "priority free agent". He appears to be similar physical build to Tavon Wilson at 6'0", 196-pounds, serving as a strong safety at Rutgers, while also playing in space as a free safety on a number of snaps.
Given the Patriots depth at safety, it's hard to project how Harmon could possibly crack the lineup, but it's clear that Belichick saw enough in him to use a third-round pick.
As the pundits begin to dig through tape to find what exactly the Pats saw in Harmon, we're left scratching our heads a bit, especially given the remaining need at wide receiver and number of quality players still available.
Many suspected the Patriots would "double-dip" on wide receivers and they did just that, selecting TCU wide receiver Josh Boyce early in the fourth round to go with second-round pick Aaron Dobson.
Boyce was a player on our radar from the start, he's played both inside and outside, competes hard and is a polished route runner. If there's a knock on him, it's that his frame is already maxed out at 5'11" and 210 pounds.
Still, he has elite meaurables, as evidenced by his 4.38 40-yard-dash, 6.68 second three-cone drill at the combine. He will bring both speed and quickness to an receiver corps that is in transition.
The Patriots already got a potential X-receiver in Dobson, and now in Boyce they get a potential all-around receiver to develop as well.
They've addressed their biggest overall need with two explosive players, regardless of the other picks, this draft already has to be considered a win for the Patriots.
There were rumors before the draft that the Patriots wanted to move Jeff Demps due to his desire to run track alongside his football career, and those came to fruition in Day 3 when they traded Demps and a 7th-round pick to the Buccaneers for LeGarrette Blount.
LeGarrette Blount has been in a steady decline since breaking 1000-yards in 2010. He followed that up with 781-yards in 2011, and then just 151 this past year. Blount fell into Greg Schiano's doghouse and never made it out.
Essentially, the Patriots and Bucs just swapped players neither really wanted any more.
Blount joins a backfield led by Stevan Ridley, though he'd likely be competing against Brandon Bolden for the short-yardage/power back role. Bolden was suspended for PEDs last season, and after a promising start, fell along the wayside even after returning to the active roster.
As always, Blount will be given the chance to compete. How much of an impact he makes will be up to him, but there's no question he has some talent when he wants to play.
Michael Buchanan was an ascending players after his 2011 season, but broke his jaw in the summer of 2012, lost 20-pounds on a liquid diet and wasn't the same player in 2012. It dropped his stock considerably, and that's why the Pats were able to nab him in the 7th round.
The selection of Buchanan, along with potential outside linebacker Jamie Collins in the second round, shows that Bill Belichick's attraction to pass rushing defensive ends is still at an all-time high. Last year the Pats selected both Chandler Jones and Jake Bequette, defensive ends as well.
Training camp competition at the position should be excellent, and the Patriots should be able to mine a rotation of athletes who can do multiple things. The pass rush was sub-par in 2012 for the Patriots, after a brief resurgence led by Andre Carter and Mark Anderson in 2011.
The Pats need to get back to that level to take their defense back to elite status. Buchanan is a classic Patriots fit who fell of the radar a bit the year before entering the draft. If he regains his weight and strength of 2011, the Pats might've just gotten a real bargain.
It's appropriate that the Patriots ended the draft with their third selection from Rutgers. Yes, it seems safe to say that Bill Belichick was a fan of the Scarlet Knights defense, taking their starting safety, cornerback and inside linebacker.
Throw in the trade with former Rutgers coach Greg Schinano and it's almost comical.
But unlike their selection of Duron Harmon, that left us scratching our heads a bit, the selection of Beauharnais makes sense. All draft season we looked at versatile linebackers who might be traditionally undersized for the Pats system, but excelled in space.
Beauharnais fits that bill. He was a top-performer in the three-cone drill and both the 20 and 40-yard shuttles at the combine. He is also versatile, and would occasionally stick his hand in the dirt and rush the quarterback.
He adds good depth at a position of need, and should fit in well with the rest of the Rutgers guys on the roster.