The New England Patriots walked out of the 2017 NFL Draft with the smallest draft class in the league, but possibly the best. The team managed to trade away or surrender every single one of its original 2017 picks and came out with 4 draftees and many veteran players. Here’s my analysis of the 2017 class.
Round 1: Pick 32 traded to New Orleans for WR Brandin Cooks
Round 2: Pick 64 traded to Carolina for DE Kony Ealy and a 3rd round pick (72), which was later traded.
Round 3: Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State (Pick 83 acquired from Tennessee), Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy (Pick 85 acquired from Detroit)
Round 4: Deatrich Wise Jr, DE, Arkansas (Pick 131 acquired from Seattle), original 4th round pick traded to Indianapolis for TE Dwayne Allen and a 7th round pick.
Round 5: Pick 163 surrendered to Buffalo as a result of signing RB Mike Gillislee, traded pick 183 to Kansas City for TE James O’Shaughnessy
Round 6: Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA (Pick 211 acquired from Dallas)
The Patriots turned almost all of their original draft picks into proven, yet some under-appreciated veteran players who will help the team win now in Cooks, Ealy, Allen, Gillislee, and O’Shaughnessy. Cooks is a home run hitting wide out who should torch defenses with Tom Brady, and Ealy should be able to step in and start on the defensive line. Allen should start beside Rob Gronkowski as the TE2, while O’Shaughnessy adds depth, along with Gillislee at running back.
As for the draft picks, Rivers is a small school player but a big time get for the pass rush needing Pats. Rivers was an extremely productive college player and has great burst off the line. Given some time, he could develop into a very good pass rusher for New England, who got him at a great value as some experts had Rivers going in the 2nd round. Wise Jr also adds depth to the pass rush, but is much more of a developmental prospect than Rivers. Wise had long arms, huge hands, and power, but lacks athleticism. With proper coaching and conditioning, the Pats may be able to turn him into a solid role player on the line.
Garcia is a project tackle with a lot of upside. A great athlete with ideal size when he is able to keep his weight around 300 pounds. His issues are related to his lower body strength, which can hopefully be improved at the NFL level. He looks to be a guy the Pats will look to replace Nate Solder with in the near future. McDermott was looked at as a late 1st- early 2nd round prospect to start the season, but as his play dipped, so did his stock. At worst he adds depth to the offensive line.
Overall, New England added draftees who provide depth at the moment and potential starters in the future, and veterans who make them an even more dangerous team than they were last season, all while keeping Jimmy G and Malcolm Butler.