The New England Patriots didn’t have a first- or second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, but that didn’t stop the organization from coming away from this past weekend as serious winners in the eyes of ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr.
Kiper handed out grades to each team Sunday, and the Patriots might want to go ahead and put their report card on the refrigerator, as they landed an “A” despite not making a selection until the third round (83rd overall).
Here’s Kiper’s analysis, via ESPN.com:
The reason the Patriots’ grade is so high with no first- or second-round picks? You have to remember that Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy are essentially those picks, and New England knows exactly what it’s getting in both. Cooks is a devastating big-play threat who has caught 315 passes in three seasons in the league. Ealy will likely start at defensive end in New England’s 3-4. The questions there are the contracts. Cooks could be looking at a mega-deal after 2018, and Ealy is a free agent after this season. New England also got Dwayne Allen, plus a sixth from the Colts for a fourth, and surrendered its fifth-round pick for Mike Gillislee. All should contribute to a team looking to defend a Super Bowl title.
Now, on to what New England got this weekend, including two guys who were higher on my board than where the Patriots picked, and at need positions. Derek Rivers is a workout freak and ferocious pass-rusher who had 41 career sacks at Youngstown State. He would have been a contributor if he had played at Ohio State. Antonio Garcia required giving up their fourth-round pick in a trade up 11 spots, but he’s a natural left tackle who started 42 collegiate games. He was my fifth-ranked tackle. If he’s the Patriots’ swing tackle backing up both Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, that’s an improvement. Deatrich Wise Jr., a versatile edge defender, continues the Patriots’ Arkansas pipeline.
It’s been a busy offseason for the Patriots, who are coming off their fifth Super Bowl title. New England has bolstered its already talented roster, and the Pats’ handling of draft picks has been important in that effort.
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