Patriots’ 2017 NFL Draft recap and review

With only four-total selections in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Patriots set a modern-era record of fewest selections for a defending champion.

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Sep 25, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins offensive lineman Conor McDermott (68) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. UCLA defeated Arizona State 62-27. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
For most NFL fanbases the NFL Draft is the weekend that is like Christmas. They have all these draft picks like presents under the tree waiting to be opened. Before they get to the field this summer, every single pick gives them hope for their franchise in 2017:
  • Did their team hit a home run in the first round with the next Cam Newton or Von Miller?
  • Did they snatch the next Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman or Dak Prescott in the middle rounds?

  • Is that unknown sixth-round draft pick going to develop into a solid starter like Jason Kelce, Charles Clay or Latavius Murray?

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For the Patriots’ fanbase in 2017 it was more of a case of those kids who already knew what their parents bought and they had peeked at the gifts a week earlier.
  • The Patriots shipped their first-round draft pick in the 2017 NFL Draft (along with a swap of their third round draft pick for a fourth round draft pick–moving back 15 spots from 103rd to 118th overall) to the New Orleans Saints for wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who was their first round draft pick in 2014 and has 162 receptions for 2,311 yards and 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons (all stats from NFL.com unless otherwise noted). Still only 23 years old, he is now under the team’s control through 2018 after his fifth-year option was pick up earlier in the day.

  • New England shipped their second-round pick to the Carolina Panthers in return for defensive end Kony Ealy and Carolina’s third-round pick (moving down a net of eight spots). Ealy was a second-round draft pick in 2014 and had three sacks in Super Bowl 50 before falling out of favor last year.
  • The Patriots shipped their fourth pick (137th overall)  to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for tight end Dwayne Allen and the Colts’ sixth-round draft pick (200th overall). Allen is a quality blocker and backup tight end with 15-receiving touchdowns over the past three seasons.
  • New England also signed restricted free agent running back Mike Gillislee to a two year $6 million offer sheet which the Buffalo Bills declined to match. That allowed the Patriots to bring him to Foxboro for the sum of their fifth-round draft pick (163rd overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft.
  • Finally, last season the Patriots traded away the 175th overall pick in this year’s draft to Cleveland for linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the 215th overall pick to Detroit for linebacker Kyle Van Noy, and in 2015 they traded away the 250th overall draft pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to acquire tight end Michael Williams.
With just six picks in the 2017 NFL Draft the Patriots started the trade game:
  • New England traded back in the third round sending the 72nd overall pick to the Tennessee Titans along with the 200th overall pick to go back 11 spots to 83rd overall, which netted them a higher pick in the fourth round (124th overall).
  • The Patriots took the 124th overall pick and packaged it with their second third-round draft pick (96th overall) to move back up in the third round to pick-up the Detroit Lions’ 85th overall draft pick.
  • New England made yet another mover for a veteran player sending their fifth-round draft pick (183rd overall) to the Kansas City Chiefs for blocking tight end James O’Shaughnessy and the Chiefs’ sixth-round draft pick (216th overall).
  • Finally, the Patriots then moved their 239th and 216th picks to move up five slots to get the Dallas Cowboys’ 211th overall pick.
After all this wheeling-and-dealing the Patriots ended up making only four selections in the 2017 NFL Draft:
  • With the 83rd overall draft pick in the 2017 NFL Draft the Patriots picked up Youngstown State linebacker/defensive end/edge rusher Derek Rivers. Rivers fills the need of an athletic and speedy pass rusher who could eventually move inside like Jamie Collins did and contribute at linebacker.

  • With the 85th overall pick the Patriots grabbed offensive tackle Antonio Garcia from Troy. Garcia is raw and needs to bulk up to play tackle in the NFL. He will have a chance to add technique to his quickness and toughness with starting left tackle Nate Solder still a year away from free agency.
  • Going back to Arkansas for a long-armed, productive defensive end, the Patriots added Super Bowl 51 star Trey Flowers’ former teammate Dietrich Wise with the 131st overall draft pick. The Patriots have another pass rusher who can set the edge in the running game as a 4-3 defensive end and can hold up in the interior defensive line as a 3-4 defensive end.
  • With their final pick, the Patriots grabbed another offensive tackle in UCLA’s Conor McDermott with the 211th overall selection. McDermott is huge and also needs to add bulk and strength. Another developmental project like third-round draft pick Garcia, McDermott is a converted tight end and athletic tackle. He should have the quickness needed to defend the smaller and quicker pass rushers.

After all these moves, the Patriots added just O’Shaughnessy and four draft picks. However, they checked-off all three of their biggest needs heading into the draft: edge rushers, athletic offensive tackles, and depth at tight end. Add in Brandin Cooks, Mike Gillislee, Dwayne Allen and Kony Ealy (and Mike Williams and Kyle Van Noy) and no team added as many impact players ready to contribute in 2017 via the draft as the defending Super Bowl champions.

Oh, and the Patriots still have quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo under contract and on the team in 2017 and cornerback Malcolm Butler to team with free-agent acquisition Stephon Gilmore at cornerback.

One final note: the Patriots had only 65-of-90 roster spots filled and over $20 million in salary cap space heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. After it concluded Saturday night, the Patriots still had 20 spots to fill with undrafted free agents and veterans heading into the offseason OTAs. With a number of veterans already having made visits to Foxboro this offseason (and veteran cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Jason McCourty still free agents), the Patriots may not be done with free agency yet.

Add-in the undrafted free agent market (where the Patriots could add 15 or more players) and the Patriots will have a number of players hungry to earn a roster spot this summer. New England always finds a gem or two each offseason who fight their way onto the roster. The Patriots should have a crowded group of undrafted free agents to showcase this summer.

 

 

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