FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots had four picks remaining when the NFL draft resumed Saturday, and the first selection came early in the fourth round thanks to Thursday night’s trade with Minnesota.
New England used the 102d overall pick on wide receiver Josh Boyce of Texas Christian. Four hours later, with the 226th pick, the Patriots opted for Illinois defensive end Michael Buchanan, and with their final pick, at 235, the Patriots took Rutgers linebacker Steve Beauharnais.
Their fourth pick, a seventh-rounder, went to Tampa Bay in exchange for running back LeGarrette Blount; the Patriots also gave the Buccaneers running back Jeff Demps.
All told, the Patriots drafted seven players, three defensive front-seven players, two defensive backs, and two receivers, three came from Rutgers and none from the Southeastern Conference. This is the first time since 2007 that New England did not draft a player from the SEC.
Listed at 5 feet 11 inches, 206 pounds, Boyce left TCU after his junior season to enter the draft. He was productive with the Horned Frogs, making 127 catches for 1,889 yards (14.9 yards per reception) and 16 touchdowns over the last two seasons.
Boyce was a high school teammate of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III at Copperas Cove in Texas, and his first quarterback at TCU was Andy Dalton, now with the Bengals.
“It’s great,” Boyce said of now catching passes from Tom Brady. “All three of them are great guys, great quarterbacks. I’ve been blessed to play with great quarterbacks my whole career.”
Boyce, Brady, and Julian Edelman are all represented by the same agency, and Boyce has worked out with Edelman.
At the combine, Boyce posted position-best marks of 6.68 seconds in the three-cone drill (which the Patriots pay particular attention to), 22 reps in the bench press, and a broad jump of nearly 11 feet.
His 40-yard dash time was 4.38 seconds — which he ran on a broken toe. Boyce wasn’t able to participate in TCU’s pro day because he underwent surgery for a fracture at the base of the pinkie toe.
Boyce said he had to make in-route adjustments at TCU, which could aid his transition to the Patriots’ offense. He added that he picks things up quickly, and can see things developing before they happen.
“I think my mind is what’s working for me a lot of times,” he said.
Boyce said part of the reason he opted to leave school early was that he already had earned his degree in sociology.
Buchanan is long and lean — 6-5, 255 pounds — and recorded 4½ sacks last season after having 7½ in 2011. He had six pass breakups last fall.
He does come with some issues: He has been arrested for DUI, and fractured his jaw in an altercation last June. Buchanan lost weight after the broken jaw and his stats were down last fall from the season before, but he didn’t want to tie the two together.
“The jaw situation was a bad time in my life, but I learned a lot from it,’’ he said. “I think I became a better man from it and I just hope it will never happen again.’’
Buchanan said his family was so excited they celebrated as though he had been the first overall pick.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said of getting the call from coach Bill Belichick. “This was a childhood dream of mine with an organization I always wanted to be with, so it’s definitely a great feeling. It’s truly a blessing.”
Buchanan’s three-cone time of 6.91 seconds is very good for a player his size. He is close friends with former Illinois teammate Tavon Wilson, who was drafted by the Patriots last year.
Beauharnais was listening to the draft in his house, but was focused on schoolwork when he got the call from the Patriots.
He is another player who excels at the three-cone drill, and is stout against the run, making him a candidate to back up Brandon Spikes.
“I’m a great run-stopper,” he said. “I always have a good presence in the middle, and that’s the way I like to play — hard-nosed football.”
Listed at 6-1, 240 pounds, Beauharnais started all 38 games for the Scarlet Knights the past three seasons. Last year he had 83 tackles and six tackles for loss. In 2011, he recorded 16 tackles for loss and five sacks.