Patriots select three defenders, one receiver on Day 2 of NFL draft
FOXBOROUGH — Jamie Collins made his mark with one of the worst college teams in the country. Now he’s headed for one of the best in the NFL after being drafted by the New England Patriots.
The outside linebacker was chosen in the second round on Friday night by the Patriots, who were just one win away from reaching the Super Bowl last season. Southern Mississippi was 0-12 in Collins’ senior season when he had 10 sacks.
“It’s motivation and it’s adversity,” Collins said in a conference call after being drafted with the first of the Patriots two picks in the round. “I felt like I had to play hard every game just because we were losing.
“I felt like that was going to draw a lot of attention to me to see how I played, despite the fact that we went 0-12.”
The Patriots took Collins with the 52nd overall pick that they obtained in a trade in which they sent their first-round pick to Minnesota. Then they chose wide receiver Aaron Dobson of Marshall with their own pick in the round, the 59th.
In the third round, they took two defensive backs from Rutgers — cornerback Logan Ryan with the 83rd pick, also acquired from the Vikings, and safety Duron Harmon with the 91st pick, who was expected to be drafted much later, if at all.
“That was a very good defensive unit that they had last year,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “We’re getting some high quality guys as well as good football players.”
The Patriots already have a defensive back from Rutgers. They drafted Devin McCourty in the first round in 2010 and shifted him from cornerback to safety last season.
After being picked, Harmon said he spoke with McCourty.
“He’s very eager to teach me what he knows,” Harmon said.
In Saturday’s final day of the three-day draft, the Patriots have one pick in the fourth round and three in the seventh.
Three of the players chosen Friday play positions where the Patriots need help. The team was vulnerable to big pass plays early last season. It also lacked depth at wide receiver, then lost its top two pass catchers when free agent Wes Welker signed with the Denver Broncos and Brandon Lloyd was released.
But they used their first pick of the draft on an outside linebacker.
Collins is a skilled pass rusher who arrived at Southern Mississippi as a safety. He moved on to inside linebacker, then outside linebacker and played defensive end last season. He finished his career with 21 sacks.
“Coming in as a safety to linebacker to end, it’s different going up against those big guys every play,” he said. “I never thought sacking the quarterback would feel so good.”
In his junior year, Southern Mississippi went 12-2. Then coach Larry Fedora resigned to become head coach at North Carolina and Ellis Johnson took his place. Johnson was fired on Nov. 27 after just one season.
“A lot of people didn’t buy into the system,” Collins said. “You know how it is when new coaches come in.”
The Patriots don’t.
Belichick was there before any of his current players. And even though the Patriots have won three of the five Super Bowls they’ve reached in his 13 seasons, his drafting success has been spotty.
Of the four wide receivers the Patriots drafted in the past seven years, only 2012 seventh-rounder Jeremy Ebert remains. Their complex offense is difficult to master. Chad Johnson, then known as Chad Ochocinco, struggled with it in 2011 when he made 15 catches in his only season with the team.
Dobson is optimistic he’ll be able to handle it.
“I think I’m ready,” he said. “It’s definitely something that I’ve been getting prepared for, just going through this whole process, just people telling me about the pressure of going into the league. So I’m just trying to go in, be level-headed and go in focused.”
The Patriots added veterans Danny Amendola, Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins at wide receiver. And now Dobson gives quarterback Tom Brady a fourth new receiver.
For Dobson, who attended the same school as former Patriots receivers Randy Moss and Troy Brown, playing with one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks is “not intimidating at all. I’m excited just to get to know him and start catching balls from him.”
Dobson caught 12 of his 24 collegiate touchdown passes as a junior. His receptions increased in each of his four seasons from 15 to 44 to 49 to 57.
As a senior, he didn’t drop any of the 92 passes thrown his way.
“Look,” Belichick said, “every receiver’s dropped the ball. Every quarterback’s thrown an interception. Every defensive player’s missed a tackle. Every guy who’s ever carried the ball has fumbled at some point. So I don’t want to get carried away on that. I’d say he has good hands.”
Dobson figures he’s just doing his job.
“Being a receiver, that’s what we do,” he said. “We definitely take pride in that.”