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The newest New England Patriots

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Looking at New England’s 2017 NFL Draft

The 2017 NFL Draft took place this past weekend. Representatives from all 32 teams landed in Philadelphia to add the cream of the collegiate crop to their rosters.

While there was plenty of buzz at the top of the draft – the Browns selected Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the first pick; the Bears made a surprising trade with the 49ers for the second spot (moving up just one slot) to grab North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky – there wasn’t much New England action to be had.

Not only did the Patriots not have a first-round pick (traded to New Orleans as part of the Brandin Cooks deal), but they didn’t have a second-rounder (thanks to the Kony Ealy trade with Carolina). There were rumblings that Bill Belichick might trade backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo for a high pick, but those rumors went nowhere.

The wheeling and dealing ultimately resulted in New England having the lowest number of draft picks in recent memory - the team selected just four players in the 2017 draft. It’s a small group and not a particularly sexy one, but it does appear to address some potential needs for the team. And considering that this squad just won the Super Bowl and has made some solid offseason acquisitions, they probably don’t need that much more.

Let’s check out the new guys.

(Obligatory caveat: this is not an effort to grade the New England draft class. Literally nothing has changed about any of these players other than they have been granted an opportunity to make an NFL team. No one has any idea whether any or all of them will be successful in cashing in on that opportunity. Giving a team a grade for a draft that just happened is essentially a worthless exercise. We're just having a look.)

Third Round (83rd overall) – Derek Rivers, defensive end, Youngstown State

The first pick for the Patriots is the sort of player that Bill Belichick often targets. Youngstown State isn’t an FBS school, but it is an FCS powerhouse – and Rivers was a star for them, racking up 14 sacks in his senior year and over 40 for his collegiate career. He’s considered by many to have elite athleticism and warranted attention early in the second round. It’s a tremendous value in this slot; New England needed someone to rush the passer and they just might have landed a day-one contributor to the Patriot pass rush.

Third Round (85th overall) – Antonio Garcia, offensive tackle, Troy

Oh look – another small-school prospect with elite skills. Garcia is absolutely massive, standing over 6’ 6” and weighing just over 300 pounds. He’s a big, strong guy with all the physical tools to be a successful cog in an NFL offensive line. He’s still raw, but the Patriots are structured to give him the necessary time. He can ease into the rotation at tackle and learn the nuances of the position at this level. It’s possible he moves inside, but New England is definitely looking at him as a potential starting tackle.

Fourth Round (131st overall) – Deatrich Wise, Jr., defensive end, Arkansas

It might seem odd that the Pats would pick up another edge rusher here, but championship teams don’t have a ton of needs, so why not address the ones you feel you have? That’s what they get in Wise, a high-ceiling guy whose collegiate development was slow in a lot of ways. His numbers weren’t great and his speed is lacking, but he’s got some physical tools that could allow him to be a real contributor on the offensive line. Properly used, he could be a quality rotation guy or even a decent starter.

Sixth Round (211th overall) – Conor McDermott, offensive tackle, UCLA

McDermott is precisely the sort of lottery ticket pick that a good team can afford to take a chance on in the later rounds. He’s a gifted physical player with some deep and glaring flaws, but they are flaws that can potentially be alleviated by good coaching. And the Pats have Dante Scarnecchia coaching their line. It’s not a given, but Scarnecchia has turned much less promising raw material into decent offensive linemen. McDermott will be a project, but potentially worth the effort.

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From now until September, it's all speculation. We have no idea how many (if any) of these players will play their way onto the New England roster. It's all going to come down to talent, determination - and more than a little luck. Hopefully, these are names that we'll be hearing from for years to come.

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