Last weekend was a rather quiet one for the New England Patriots. There was some buzz on Thursday about possible moves regarding Malcolm Butler and Jimmy Garoppolo, but in the end the Patriots were content to remain where they were and sit out Day One. The wait for Patriots fans was even longer than expected, as the Patriots traded down deeper into the third round, not making their first selection until the 83rd pick. When all was said and done, the Patriots ended the draft having only selected four players, one of the smallest draft classes in franchise history. However, this is not to say that they didn’t put all of their draft picks to good use. Here is a look at the Patriots 2017 Draft Results:
Round 1 – Brandin Cooks: The Patriots traded their first round pick to the Saints for wide receiver Brandin Cooks. They unquestionably got more value for this pick through the trade than they would have by choosing a rookie. Cooks is entering his fourth year in the league, and at only 23 years old he is already one of the top receivers in the league. The Patriots received an immensely talented player who also has three good years of NFL experience, which means that there is no rookie learning curve for them to concern themselves with. They also have him at a solid contract; after picking up Cooks’ fifth year option, New England has him for two years and ~nine million dollars. The downside is that the Patriots now only have Cooks for a guaranteed two years before having to resign him, rather than the five with first round rookies, but this was still easily the best decision the team made with their 2017 draft picks.
Round 2 – Kony Ealy: The Patriots traded their second round pick to the Carolina Panthers for defensive end Kony Ealy. This was another solid decision because not only is Ealy as talented, if not more talented, than the rookies available at the end of the second round, but he also has a couple years of NFL experience under his belt. Not only that, but he also has playoff and even Super Bowl experience, having played on the Panthers (and been arguably the team’s Super Bowl MVP) in Super Bowl 50 against the Broncos. That is a critical factor for the Patriots who are very likely heading for another playoff run.
Round 3 – Derek Rivers, Antonio Garcia: These were the first actual selections for the Patriots of this year’s draft. Rivers is a DE/LB out of Youngstown State, and Garcia is an OT from Troy. Rivers is a talented player who excels at sacking the quarterback. His speed and anticipation off the ball are exceptional which enabled him to beat tackles off the edge. He is also strong in the run gain by holding his ground and sealing the edge. This is an important skill for Patriots defensive ends, as the team was great against the run last year by having defensive lineman hold the line while the linebackers came up to make the tackles. His most significant downside is the level of competition that he faced at Youngstown, which could make it a harder jump to the NFL. Antonio Garcia is a developmental tackle who the Patriots are most likely looking to as a potential replacement for Nate Solder if he leaves in free agency after this season. Garcia is long and athletic, but like Rivers is under the stigma of weaker school competition. However, his film from the team’s game against Clemson was promising, as he held his own against one of the better defenses in college football. Under Dante Scarrnechia, Garcia should be able to improve markedly throughout this season.
Round 4 – Dwayne Allen: The Patriots traded their fourth round pick to the Colts for tight end Dwayne Allen. This was a good selection when you look at Allen’s talent and compare that to the players the Patriots could have selected at this position. Despite having a down year last season, Allen is a solid player who will be able to contribute in both the run and the pass game.
Round 4 – Deatrich Wise: This was another selection to add depth to the Patriots defensive line, most likely to eventually replace the aging Rob Ninkovich. Wise has great physical intangibles like size and arm length. He also has versatility, having played multiple positions along the defensive line at Arkansas. He is not likely to step in and have an immediate impact, but he should be able to develop and gain valuable experience under Ninkovich and Trey Flowers (who he played with at Arkansas). His impact will be seen over time, as he progresses this season.
Round 5 – Mike Gilislee: The Patriots gave up their fifth round pick to sign RFA Mike Gilislee from the Buffalo Bills. If you look at the running backs available in the fifth round, it is clear that the Patriots made a great decision by going with signing Gilislee. He is a strong, fast running back who has great decision making skills. He produced solid numbers backing up Lesean McCoy last year, and will be a contributing member of the Patriots running back platoon. Most importantly, he has NFL experience, and will not have the uncertainties of rookie running backs.
Round 6 – Conor McDermott: This is another developmental pick for the Patriots to add longterm depth to the tackle position. At 6’8, 307 pounds, his size and length were most likely what the Patriots were interested in. With Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, and now Antonio Garcia on the depth chart, I would expect McDermott to spend most of this season as a healthy scratch. This is a long-term selection for the team, with the hope that over time he will be able to develop into a starting tackle.
The most noticeable this about this draft was the trades the Patriots made. They traded away a number of picks to bring in skilled veterans, seemingly to avoid some of the rookie learning curve. The selections they did make filled some needs, and will be valuable pieces long-term.
Next week we’ll take a look at some of the Patriots undrafted free agents who, while more obscure, may have some hidden gems.
Until next time- B$