FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Defense. Defense. Defense.

The New England Patriots, clearly looking to beef themselves up on the defensive side of the ball after loading up on offensive free agents in the offseason, took four defensive players in the first three rounds of the NFL draft.

After trading up twice and taking Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones at No. 21 and Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower at No. 25 Thursday, the Patriots then took unheralded defensive back Tavon Wilson (Illinois) with the No 48 pick Friday. Wilson was 16th choice of the second round.

New England — then slated to pick at No. 62 — shipped what would have been its final selection to the Green Bay Packers for a third rounder (No. 90 overall), as well as choice No. 163, a fifth rounder who will be taken today.

At No. 90, the Patriots took Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette. The 6-4, 274-pound Bequette, the defensive MVP of the 2012 Cotton Bowl, can play either defensive end or outside linebacker. He is a former teammate of Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett.

“I feel very comfortable at both (positions),” Bequette said on a conference call. “The more I (stood up at linebacker), the more it grew on me. Whatever the coaches want me to do, I’m going to do it. If that’s what the coaches want me to do, I can’t wait to do it.”

He said he saw Mallett at the Arkansas spring game last week, adding, “I told him ‘I would love to join you up there.’ “

Wilson, honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2011, arrived at Illinois as a cornerback, but moved to safety his junior year because of an injury need. He was then moved back to corner as a senior. He considers himself capable of playing either and said he was used in all special teams situations.

Not rated highly on the draft lists of most experts and not considered a strong tackler, Wilson wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine. But he said he “watched every rep” to see what those players were doing and what he had to do to get better.

Considering what Wilson has overcome in his life — he was a year old when his father was murdered, and was 12 when his mother drowned at a pool party — making the NFL might not seem all that tough.

“Everybody’s got to overcome adversity. I overcame a lot of things in my life,” he said. “That’s the reason why I’m here today and some of the reason why I’m the person I am today.”

Summing up his day, Wilson said, “It’s an exciting day. It’s everything I ever dreamed of.”

Earlier in the day, Jones and Hightower were officially welcomed to the team at Gillette Stadium.

Meanwhile, Coby Fleener heard his name Friday night, grabbed his phone and immediately contacted his new teammate in Indianapolis — and old teammate from Stanford.

The overnight wait paid off for the Stanford tight end. He’s reuniting with his college quarterback, a guy named Andrew Luck.

Fleener wasn’t chosen in the first round of the NFL draft, in which Luck was the top selection. He got a nice consolation prize Friday night when the Indianapolis Colts grabbed him with the second pick of the second round.

Among the other notable selections on the second day of the draft were: Oregon running back LaMichael James by San Francisco, Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson by Seattle and Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw by Baltimore.

The Rams actually used their own pick to begin the second round, selecting Appalachian State wide receiver Brian Quick.

St. Louis traded down twice in the first round the previous night, accumulating several extra picks and also taking LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers 14th overall. In the second-round spot they earned for going 2-14 in 2011, the Rams took a wideout from an FCS powerhouse. The 6-foot-4 Quick had a strong Senior Bowl, showing he could play at the highest college level and helping his stock in the draft.

Upshaw of the national champion Crimson Tide was chosen with the Ravens’ first pick of this draft. Baltimore was projected by many to take Upshaw in the first round, but dealt away its pick. Four of Upshaw’s Alabama teammates went in the first round.

Janoris Jenkins, a cornerback at North Alabama who was kicked off the team at Florida, went to the Rams six picks after they took Quick. Jenkins, holding an infant in his arms, had tears in his eyes as he spoke by phone with the Rams.

“I’ll just be honest,” Jenkins said about talking about his past transgressions. “I don’t have nothing to hide.”