FOXBOROUGH — After trading out of the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night, the Patriots stood pat during the second and third rounds Friday, using the four picks they had.
The newest New England players are defensive end/linebacker Jamie Collins of Southern Mississippi, taken 52d overall; wide receiver Aaron Dobson from Marshall (59th overall); and defensive backs Logan Ryan (83d) and Duron Harmon (91st), both from Rutgers.
“I think we were able to improve our team tonight with the four players we selected; we’re pleased with that,” coach Bill Belichick said. “We’ll see how it all comes together but we feel like we got good value for our picks, good players, they have a lot of things going for them.”
The 6-foot-3-inch, 250-pound Collins was a moving man at Southern Miss — after playing quarterback and defensive back in high school, he began his college career as a safety. But at the start of his sophomore season he was moved to linebacker, then as a junior he played outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, and then was a defensive end last fall.
Despite the Golden Eagles’ 0-12 season, Collins played well enough to garner an invite to the Senior Bowl after recording 20 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks.
“It’s motivation and adversity,” Collins said about the winless year. “Everybody has to deal with adversity. It’s not just about losing every game and not being able to play hard. I felt like I had to play hard every game . . . I felt like it was going to draw a lot of attention to me to see how I played despite the fact that we were 0-12.”
Belichick was in Hattiesburg, Miss., last month to address players at a junior college coached by former Giants head coach Ray Perkins, and put Collins through a workout while he was in town.
Dobson is also 6-3, and had 57 receptions for 679 yards (11.9 yards per catch) and three touchdowns for the Thundering Herd, missing two games.
A sore hamstring kept him from taking part in the combine, but at his pro day, he ran 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash and left a good impression on those in attendance.
“He’s big, he’s fast, he’s got good hands, he’s a strong player,” Belichick said of Dobson. “Smart, very smart. He has some position flexibility and versatility. Catches the ball very well.”
Dobson’s on-field intelligence will serve him well as he transitions to the Patriots’ offense. He said he’s ready for the challenge.
“It’s definitely something that I’ve been getting prepared for, just going through this whole process, doing what everyone tells me with the pressure of going into the league,” he said. “I’m just going in focused and ready to start my new life with the Patriots.”
Ryan and Harmon are the latest players to jump from Rutgers to New England, following Devin McCourty and Justin Francis. They credited the coaching style of Greg Schiano, now with the Buccaneers, for preparing them for life as an NFL player, through film study and practice methods, among other things.
Listed at 5-11, 191 pounds, Ryan started all 13 games at cornerback last season and had 21 passes defensed plus four interceptions.
“He’s been very productive. He’s one of the most productive corners in the draft,” Belichick said. “He’s been in a very good system. He’s been well-coached, knows his techniques well, he’s an instinctive player. He’s tough, a good tackler.”
Both Ryan and Harmon are happy to be back playing with McCourty.
“The relationship that Devin and I have goes beyond words,” Ryan said. “He’s a guy that helped me make the transition from being a talented high school player to becoming a college corner . . . To have the opportunity to compete alongside him in practice every day and the work ethic that he brings and the great leader he is — I’m just honored to be able to play alongside him and [be in] the Patriots organization.”
Harmon expressed a similar fondness for McCourty as a leader and teammate, but he also had the line of the night.
The 6-1 Delaware native was the Patriots’ annual pick that surprised the pundits. He was not invited to the combine, and both ESPN and the NFL Network, who have hundreds of highlight packages ready for players who are drafted, did not have one for him.
Asked if he laughed about the situation, Harmon started to chuckle.
“Yeah, I did laugh. My mother, she was very excited and she was like, ‘Hold on baby, where’s your clips?’,” he said. “I was like, ‘Mommy, I don’t think they knew I was going today, so I don’t think they had any clips ready for me.’ She was little upset about me not having clips, but me getting drafted overtook her sadness.”
Belichick was at the podium Friday night in a Watertown Police Department hoodie (with the sleeves cut, of course) and said he did it to honor the work the officers did last week.
“That was an unbelievable job they did. I’m sure we all followed it, followed as closely as we could,” Belichick said. “Just supporting people that protect our safety and freedom . . . that’s what makes it all possible to do what we do.”