There are reasons for the New England Patriots to have regrets about the 2017 NFL Draft. But as it turns out, the alternative isn’t much better than the actual return.
With Sunday’s Patriots-Chargers divisional-round matchup on the horizon, let’s examine one of those alternatives, which includes Los Angeles.
The Chargers selected Indiana offensive lineman Dan Feeney with the 71st overall pick. The Patriots were set to make their first pick at No. 72 overall and traded down.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported the Patriots came close to drafting Feeney, but the Chargers selected him first. After losing out on Feeney, the Patriots selected defensive end Derek Rivers 83rd overall, offensive tackle Antonio Garcia 85th overall, defensive end Deatrich Wise, Jr. 131st overall and offensive tackle Conor McDermott 211th overall. Perhaps most importantly, they extended starting center David Andrews on a three-year deal.
The Patriots’ starting offensive line has been a strength this season with Trent Brown (44th-ranked tackle on Pro Football Focus) at left tackle, Joe Thuney (12th) at left guard, David Andrews (ninth) at center, Shaq Mason (first) at right guard and Marcus Cannon (26th) at right tackle.
Feeney, a 16-game starter at left guard this season, is the 75th-ranked player at his position. That means 11 backup guards were better than Feeney, according to PFF.
Feeney let up eight sacks, eight quarterback hits and 31 hurries this season. The Patriots’ starting offensive linemen combined to let up eight sacks this season. New England’s starting interior offensive line let up just three sacks. Thuney didn’t let up a single sack, and Andrews allowed just two.
The Patriots’ interior offensive line, on average, allowed less than five QB hits and less than 13 hurries apiece.
If Feeney had fallen to the Patriots, he probably would have played about as many snaps as Rivers, who was a healthy scratch for 10 games, this season. Or perhaps the Patriots wouldn’t have extended Andrews, and the offensive line would have been weaker as a result.
It’s entirely possible Feeney improves as his career progresses, but for now, it appears the Patriots dodged a bit of a bullet when the Chargers nabbed him before New England could.
Among other Patriots draftees, Garcia and McDermott no longer are with New England, Wise has recorded 9.5 sacks in 32 games with eight starts, and Rivers tore his ACL and missed the 2017 season but recorded one sack in six games this season.
The Patriots and Chargers play Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.