3. Fred Warner over Duke Dawson (2018)
If some of you read that and said to yourself “Who on earth is Duke Dawson?”, we’re absolutely positive you are not alone. Back in 2018, the Patriots spent their lone second-round pick (and final pick until Round 5) on Dawson, a cornerback out of Florida whom they traded up to get with the No. 56 overall pick.
A hamstring injury put Dawson behind the eight ball as a rookie and he failed to leave a mark on the coaching staff upon returning. By the following preseason, the Patriots had enough of Dawson and dealt him and a 2020 seventh-rounder to Denver for a 2020 sixth-rounder.
The Patriots preferred Dawson to a slew of future NFL starters, but Fred Warner, taken a whopping 14 picks after Dawson, sticks out like a sore thumb. While Warner wasn’t highly regarded coming out of BYU, proper scouting on New England’s part would have drawn them to the former Cougar.
It took Warner all of two seasons to become one of the best all-around linebackers the league has to offer and his production was rewarded in the form of a five-year, $95 million contract from the 49ers last offseason.
Over four seasons, Warner has averaged 126 tackles while accounting for 25 passes defended, 22 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, 4.5 sacks, 17 QB hits and three interceptions. He’s started all but one game during that span.
Fair to say that linebacker is currently one of the Patriots’ biggest weakness. Had they drafted Warner, though, they wouldn’t be in this position and it’s stomach-turning to think how much more they could have accomplished since 2018.