FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots traded up twice in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night to add a couple of players to the defense that allowed the New York Giants to march down the field for the winning score in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots sent the No. 27 overall pick, which they obtained in a deal with New Orleans, and a third-rounder to Cincinnati for the 21st pick, then used it to take Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones.
Then they traded the No. 31 pick to Denver with a fourth-rounder for the No. 25 pick they used to take Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
“As usual the draft always takes some interesting twists and turns,” Coach Bill Belichick said after wrapping up the first round. “You just never know how it’s going to go.”
The trades left New England with two second-round picks — 48th and 62nd overall — and nothing in the next five rounds.
Despite winning the AFC title and reaching the Super Bowl for the fifth time in 11 years, the Patriots’ defense allowed the second-most yards overall and in pass defense last season.
Jones and Hightower would be a big boost.
Hightower, who is 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, played for Belichick’s buddy, Nick Saban, on Alabama teams that won the NCAA championship twice in the past three years. Both he and Jones are considered versatile players who can fit into a variety of defensive systems.
“I’m going to get to the ball and I’m going to make plays,” said Hightower, who had 40 tackles and 45 assists to go with four sacks as a senior last year. “Regardless of whether it’s a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense.”
The Patriots scouted both of them at the NFL combine. When they were in Indianapolis, Jones and Hightower met and fantasized about winding up on the same team, even though it was unlikely for the two potential first-round picks.
“It actually happened,” said Jones, who is 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds. “So I can’t wait to see him (today).”
Jones’ brother is Jon “Bones” Jones, a mixed martial arts fighter. Another brother, Arthur, is a defensive end for the Baltimore Ravens.
“Arthur has taught me a lot going through this whole draft process,” Chandler Jones said. “He was basically telling me that the way I carry myself off the field, I’m not just representing myself, I’m representing the organization. I feel like having a brother in the NFL is a great advantage.”