The New England Patriots fielded an unusually small draft class in 2018.
A series of trades before and during the 2017 NFL Draft resulted in the Patriots selecting just four players, the fewest of any draft in franchise history. And only one of those players, defensive end Deatrich Wise (fourth round, 131st overall), saw the field in a regular-season game for New England.
Offensive tackle Conor McDermott (sixth round, 211th) was released at final cuts and scooped up by the Buffalo Bills, while defensive end Derek Rivers (third round, 83rd) and offensive tackle Tony Garcia (third round, 85th) spent the entire season on injured reserve and the non-football illness list, respectively.
Rivers, who was expected to boost a pass rush depleted by offseason departures, tore his ACL during a joint training camp practice with the Houston Texans. Garcia simply disappeared from practice in August and never returned. The exact nature of his ailment — reportedly blood clots in his lungs — was not revealed until after the season.
The Patriots got exactly zero snaps out of their top two draft picks last year. But fortunately for the team, both seem to be on the right track toward recovery.
Garcia announced on Instagram last month that he has been medically cleared to play, and ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported Wednesday that Rivers has suffered “no setbacks” in his rehab and should be ready in time for Week 1.
It’s important to remember that Rivers and Garcia have been away from the field for eight months, so both will need time to reacclimate. Garcia also must regain a substantial amount of weight after losing close to 40 pounds over the course of last season.
Having either or both back in the fold would be a great help to a Patriots team that still has needs both on the edge and at left tackle, though. They’d become de facto members of what’s expected to be a much larger draft class this year, as New England currently owns eight selections in the 2018 draft, including four in the first two rounds.
In his final season at Youngstown State in 2016, Rivers tallied 58 tackles, 14 sacks and 19 1/2 tackles for loss in 16 games.
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