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Rutgers-to-Foxboro pipeline produces two more picks in Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon

04.27.13 at 12:42 am ET
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FOXBORO — With Devin McCourty serving as perhaps the finest example of drafting and developing a defensive back the Patriots have had over the last decade, it makes a lot of sense for New England to go back to Rutgers again.

But on Friday, the Patriots doubled up on their Scarlet Knights, picking up a pair of defensive backs out of Rutgers in the third round. New England went with cornerback Logan Ryan at No. 83, and followed that up with defensive back Duron Harmon at No. 91 overall.

‘€œThat was a very good defensive unit that they had (at Rutgers) last year, over the past few years actually, but especially last year. Of course, Logan [Ryan] had a very productive year outside and Duron [Harmon] inside,’€ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the pairing. ‘€œI know that whole group, but especially those guys, are close. They communicated well, played well. Both were very productive, both defensively and in the kicking game, solid guys.’€

Both Ryan and Harmon pointed to their relationship with McCourty — taken in the first round of the 2010 draft by New England — as key in their development, and welcome the opportunity to play alongside him again at the professional level.

‘€œThe relationship that Devin and I have goes beyond words,’€ Ryan said. ‘€œHe’€™s a guy that helped me make the transition coming from being a talented high school player to becoming a college corner, and now for him to be there for this next step ‘€“ I’€™ve grown up over the years ‘€“ I’€™m not that 18-year-old boy anymore. To have the opportunity to compete alongside him in practice every day and the work ethic that he brings and the great leader that he is ‘€“ I’€™m just honored to be able to play alongside him and [be in] the Patriots organization.’€

Harmon said he heard from McCourty earlier in the day — in fact, when a 508 area code popped up on his cell, he assumed it was someone calling from the Patriots, but instead, it was McCourty giving him a ring to check in. He also heard from another former Rutgers teammate now with the Patriots in Justin Francis.

‘€œIt was kind of exciting talking to [Devin] — he said he’€™s very eager to get me up there. He’€™s very eager to teach me what he knows, help me with the defense, basically just eager to play with me again,’€ Harmon said. ‘€œI [also] talked to Justin Francis not too long ago. He just told me he is excited for me and he told me that it’€™s a place where they work. There’€™s no time for games — it’€™s a place where they work.’€

Ryan started 27 of his 37 games at Rutgers, and recorded 170 tackles (111 solo) with an assisted sack, 11 tackles for loss for 49 yards and a quarterback pressure. He was All-Big East as a senior, and finished the 2012 season with 21 passes defensed. (He also landed a plethora of academic honors, including Big East All-Academic team on multiple occasions.) One thing that likely drew the attention of the Patriots was his agility — he was one of the best at the combine when it came to his time in the 3-cone drill, posting a 6.69 to finish seventh overall at the combine.

‘€œHe’€™s a good football player in a good program,’€ Belichick said of Ryan. ‘€œHe’€™s been very productive. He’€™s one of the most productive corners in the draft. Smart; been productive. He’€™s been in a very good system. He’€™s been well coached, knows his techniques well, he’€™s an instinctive player. He’€™s had a lot of production. He’€™s tough, he’€™s a good tackler.

While Ryan wasn’€™t a surprise, Harmon’€™s selection was a bit of a shocker. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder, who started 27 games at Rutgers, didn’€™t have a lot of highlights that showed up on YouTube, and was sitting at home and watching the draft with his family when the Patriots called his name.

But Ryan wasn’€™t shocked to hear his teammate get the call just after he did.

‘€œIt didn’€™t surprise me one bit — he’€™s a great football player,’€ Ryan said of Harmon. ‘€œHe’€™s my workout partner. He works extremely hard and he believes in himself, and I believe in him. He has all of the measurables and the speed and anything that you look for. He was a two-time All Big East defender, and I think if you were best in the conference two straight years then you’€™re worthy of being a third-round pick.’€

At this point, both Ryan and Harmon will get their chance to contribute on special teams, as well as provide some depth in the secondary. Expect Ryan to start on the outside and battle with Ras-I Dowling — at least right now — for time as an outside corner. Meanwhile, Harmon could ultimately battle with Tavon Wilson for playing time as an extra defensive back in dime coverages.

Regardless of how playing time is distributed in 2013, the addition of Ryan and Harmon continue an influx of talent from Rutgers. It’€™s a group that includes Francis and assistant coach Stephen Belichick.

‘€œI think it all has to start with [former Rutgers] coach Greg Schiano — he’€™s instilled in his players a great football mindset,’€ Harmon said. ‘€œWe know how to prepare for games. We prepare like professionals at Rutgers University ‘€“ that’€™s something that he’€™s instilled in all of us. I think a lot of players when they get to the NFL, they don’€™t know how to watch film, they don’€™t know how to practice, they don’€™t know how to do the certain things that you have to do to be a great football player.

‘€œI think coach Schiano instilled that in us, and I think coach Belichick saw those characteristics from Rutgers football players. He knows what he’€™s going to get from the Rutgers football players. I think he has gotten that consistently over the years. I think that’€™s why he has seriously taken great looks at Rutgers football players.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Greg Schiano
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