FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots stuck with their recent draft pattern — making deals and taking defensive backs.

For the fourth straight year, the Patriots traded in the first round and picked a new secondary member, taking cornerback Devin McCourty of Rutgers with their opening selection Thursday night.

In 52 college games, McCourty had six interceptions, three fumble recoveries, 2½ sacks and two forced fumbles. He also excelled on special teams with six blocked punts, one blocked field-goal attempt and a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

“For Devin to be a first-round pick, it just speaks volumes to his work ethic, his abilities and the type of person he is,” Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano said.

McCourty’s twin brother, Jason, is with the Tennessee Titans, who drafted him in the sixth round last year.

The Patriots’ greatest need heading into the three-day draft appeared to be pass rushing. Their 31 sacks last year were more than just seven other teams and averaged fewer than two per game. But when the 27th pick came up, Coach Bill Belichick chose McCourty.

“I actually ran to the bathroom and my brother heard my phone ringing,” McCourty said. “He came banging on the door and said, ‘answer the phone, answer the phone.’ And as soon as I got out of the bathroom I was answering the phone. I was talking to Coach Belichick.”

The Patriots bypassed pass rushers Sergio Kindle of Texas and Jerry Hughes of TCU.

Hughes was chosen by Indianapolis with the 31st pick. Kindle remained available but is unlikely to last until the Patriots’ next pick, the 44th. They also have two other choices in the second round, the 47th and 53rd overall. They have one pick, the 90th, in tonight’s third round.

“There’s an emphasis on every part of the defense,” Belichick said. “It’s a long time before we play a game, so we’ll see where things are at that point in time.”

The last four rounds are scheduled for Saturday.

New England began the day with the 22nd choice but sent that to Denver for the 24th pick and the fourth pick of the fourth round. Then it traded the 24th selection and the 21st of the fourth round for the 27th overall and the 27th of the third round.

Belichick said he expected McCourty to still be available with the 27th pick but would have been prepared if he wasn’t.

“There were other players we had value with,” he said. “I think we would have gotten a similar value player on 27.”

McCourty joins a secondary that includes 2007 first-round pick Brandon Meriweather, a safety, and three second-rounders — cornerback Terrence Wheatley, taken in 2008, and safety Pat Chung and cornerback Darius Butler in 2009.

“Just having a lot of young guys, I think we’ve got to come in and learn,” McCourty said.

The Patriots allowed 25 scoring passes last year, bringing their total to 75 over the last three seasons. In 2006, opponents threw just 11 against them.

Belichick said McCourty is a rare defensive back because he can play on all four downs.

“There aren’t too many players who can impact the game” that way, Belichick said.

McCourty’s 98-yard touchdown came on the opening kickoff of Rutgers’ 28-24 upset of Connecticut last Oct. 31.

“If you’re able to just make some plays on special teams, it could be the tiebreaker within the game,” he said. “I take it very seriously.”

McCourty said he has learned from watching Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets.

“When you turn on the TV in my area on Sundays, Darrelle Revis is always on,” he said. “I just try to see some things he did and add them to my game.”