Patriots land Cal safety in 2020 NFL Draft, per Pro Football Focus
By Peter Panacy
The New England Patriots have plenty of options in the 2020 NFL Draft, although the folks at Pro Football Focus think a Cal safety is in play for Round 1.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick could go one of many different directions with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
One of the seemingly obvious choices would be for Belichick to land a would-be heir apparent to now-Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, which would make some sense. Yet there’s plenty of indication the Pats are ready to roll out second-year pro Jarrett Stidham as the starter this season.
Even if that’s the case, one could guess Belichick would take advantage of a deep wide receiver draft class in Round 1 or, at the very least, solve another need by grabbing one of the handful of quality pass-rushers early, as there aren’t too many of those after day one.
But Pro Football Focus has another theory in place for New England.
Instead of going with a much-needed pass catcher or a solid pass-rusher, PFF’s Eric Eager has New England grabbing Cal safety Ashtyn Davis with the team’s top pick:
"The Patriots just dealt longtime deep safety Duron Harmon to Detroit, so they replace him here with the former Cal deep guy. As we wrote about last week, Harmon’s former role is perfect for Davis. As the Patriots appear to go full-on into their one-year tank, they can start to rebuild for 2021 with the number-23 pick next to Devin McCourty on the back end."
There is some merit to this, as Eager suggests, primarily stemming from moving Harmon during the offseason. And finding a fellow back-end partner to McCourtny would be beneficial, especially with the veteran turning 33 years old before the start of the 2020 regular season.
As far as Davis is concerned, the 6-foot-1, 202-pound defensive back played a variety of positions with the Golden Bears, yet he projects best as an over-the-top free safety. His physical abilities suggest a fit for a Cover 1- or Cover 3-type scheme, where he can range back and forth from the middle of the field. There’s also a lot to like with his leadership skills, suggesting he’d be a player worth building around in coming seasons.
Yet there could be an argument Davis would be a bit of a reach. Many a mock and big board have him out of the first round.
Granted, the Patriots down own any picks, currently, in Round 2. So one of the ideal solutions to maximize the value here would be if Belichick could trade down from the No. 23 overall selection, which would add to the already deep stockpile (12 picks as of now) in his arsenal.
Interestingly enough, PFF’s mock would have the Pats passing on Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who might actually be a better overall prospect with a higher ceiling.
Considering Stidham will likely be under center this season, the strongest assumption remains a wide receiver to help the young quarterback out. But focusing on the defensive needs isn’t totally a bad idea, either.
The 2020 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, April 23.