These rookie defenders are projected to play large roles this season for the Patriots.
Although the New England Patriots lost a significant chunk of their defense during the offseason through free agency and then via opt outs, the unit is still the strongest part of the team.
The presence of important defensive pillars such as Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung are going to be heavily and noticeably missed this season. Hightower, who is without a doubt the leader and dominant force of the entire unit, along with Chung who has provided hybrid-safety duties throughout both stints of his career with the Patriots, are arguably irreplaceable losses.
Fortunately for New England, not knowing these opt outs were coming, the team went into the 2020 NFL Draft with a defensive mindset, using their first three picks on such players: Kyle Dugger (37th overall), Josh Uche (60th overall), and Anfernee Jennings (87th overall).
And there are a lot of reasons to be excited. Dugger is a hybrid safety reminiscent of Chung. Uche and second-year linebacker Chase Winovich were college teammates at Michigan, so that should help with continuity. Jennings played for Bill Belichick’s longtime friend Nick Saban at Alabama (just like Hightower) and comes into the Patriots system with a firm understanding of the defensive schemes and verbiage.
Not many fans were all that excited about the Pats reloading the defense with their first three picks considering there’s a need for offensive playmakers. But, in time, I believe people will reconsider their original perceptions and wind up enjoying the production these three rookies are going to bring to the team.