FOXBOROUGH — In a bit of a surprise, the Patriots stood pat with the 32d overall pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night, selecting University of Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown.
Brown, who is 6 feet 2 inches, 319 pounds, was a first-team All-American last season.
After crediting his personnel and scouting staff with having the team prepared for the draft despite the Patriots playing into February because of the Super Bowl, coach Bill Belichick talked about what Brown did at Texas.
“He’s a guy who played inside, on the nose, all the way outside to the five-technique, and kind of everywhere in between, so he’s been moved around a little bit,” Belichick said. “He played a little bit more outside this year in coach [Charlie] Strong’s defense and a little more inside with the previous staff.”
A Texas native, Brown started all 13 games for the Longhorns last season, leading the team in sacks with 6½ and tackles for loss with 15. He also had two forced fumbles. Brown played 39 games in three seasons, coming on as a reserve as a true freshman and then starting all 26 games over his final two years.
“He’s athletic for . He can run, plays on his feet, he’s got good quickness,” Belichick said. “For anybody to make that transition [to the NFL] it takes a lot of things. Hopefully, he’s got all the components that are necessary, or at least a lot of them. He has a long way to go, like a lot of rookies coming in.
“He’s got a lot of work to do, a lot to learn. It’s a lot different in this league, you’re playing against a lot better people on the other side of the ball. We think he’s got an opportunity to do that. We’ll work with him, see how it goes.”
In a conference call with reporters, Brown said he watched film with defensive coordinator Matt Patricia at Texas’s Pro Day. He also talked with the Patriots at the Combine.
On being drafted by the reigning Super Bowl champions, Brown said, “It means a lot. Going to a winning team, going to contribute to something that’s already great, trying to add whatever I can to the program, it’s a great feeling.”
Asked to describe his playing style, Brown said, “I’m just relentless. I want to be the best I can be, so I’m going to do that when I get there. You’ll get my all out of me.”
In terms of his size, Brown is similar to the now-departed Vince Wilfork; Wilfork was listed at 6-2, 325 pounds during his Patriots career. Wilfork signed as a free agent with the Texans this offseason.
Brown’s draft stock really rose last fall thanks to his play, and scouts see him as a versatile player for three-man or four-man lines, a plus given how the Patriots have used different fronts in recent years.
If the Patriots already are envisioning how they’ll be able to use Brown, Belichick wasn’t tipping his hand Thursday night.
“I don’t know; we’ll have to bring him in here, teach him what we do, evaluate him relative to our other players, and eventually when we get to game-planning and so forth, try to do what’s best for the team, him and everybody else,” he said.
Brown said, “I really focus on being the best I can be, and whatever that calls for, I do. “The sky’s the limit. I really don’t want to put a limit on what I can do. Whatever the job calls for, I get it done.”
At 21 years old, Brown is already married with two young daughters, and said at the Combine that played a factor in his leaving Texas a year early.
“It just gives me more [motivation],” he said. “I’m not just playing for myself anymore, I’m playing to support my family. I can’t just think about myself when I make decisions. I have to think about my daughters and my wife being supportive, so I have to give it my all.”
The Patriots have a history of trading throughout the draft, and they have traded out of the first round as recently as 2013, but traded up in the first round twice in 2012 to take Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower.
A league source said the Patriots were in talks with the Texans about trading the No. 32 pick, but ultimately Belichick opted to take Brown.
It’s the second straight year New England has taken a defensive tackle in the first round. Last year, the choice was Dominique Easley, who tore his right ACL in his final season at Florida and played in 11 games last season before being placed on injured reserve.
The Patriots passed on selecting a defensive back in the first round. Cornerback Jalen Collins of Louisiana State and cornerback/safety Eric Rowe of Utah remained on the board at No. 32.
The Patriots now can turn their attention to Day 2 of the draft. They have the 64th, 96th, and 97th (compensatory) selections on Friday, and their needs remain at cornerback and along the offensive line.
On Saturday, the Patriots have five picks: two fourths, a sixth, and two sevenths.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the Patriots traded the 32d pick to the Texans.