The 2017 NFL Draft was not the norm for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. This continued their trend of having an uncharacteristic off-season. The Patriots only draft four players, their first two were not until No. 83 and No.85, meaning they had no first or second round draft picks. However, one could look to the beginning of the off-season for the explanation. Then they did not draft again until the fourth round, No. 131, and then again in the sixth round, No. 211. These four draft picks are the fewest in any year under Belichick. But this should nor surprise anyone, since Belichick is the king of surprises in the NFL and this off-season has been the exact opposite of what he normally does with the Patriots.
Since the Patriots traded both their first and second round draft picks, they essentially said the players the acquired were better than any player they would draft at the respective places in the draft. For receiver, the fifth overall draft pick, Corey Davis, is the only receiver taken that might be as good as Brandin Cooks. To Belichick, it made more sense trading the No. 32 overall pick to acquire him, since they will have two years (the Patriots just picked up Cooks fifth year option) with Cooks. Not only that, Cooks is a former first round draft pick himself, so trading the last pick in the first round to acquire the former 20th overall selection seems like a win for the Patriots.
Following the logic on the first-round pick, the second-round pick was used to acquire defensive end Kony Ealy, the former second round (No. 60 overall) draft pick. Ealy is an immediate starter along with veteran Rob Ninkovich. Trading the No. 64 pick to acquire Ealy was a no-brainer for Belichick and Co. Even though Ealy is an unrestricted free agent after this year, expect the Patriots to try to extend his contract by two or three years. They have the cap-space to be able to do it. This also proves that Belichick did not deem any draft prospect to be as good as Ealy, an established edge rusher, in the draft.
With the four picks the Patriots did make, two of them were defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid types (Belichick’s favorite position) and two of them were offensive tackles. This shows how much Belichick values the offensive and defensive line. He understands that without a strong line on both sides of the ball, no matter how talented the rest of the roster is, a team will not make a run to the Super Bowl. His first pick, defensive end Derek Rivers, will likely see playing time immediately. The second selection he made, offensive tackle Antonio Garcia, will likely be the top sub for both Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon. The other two picks, defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr and offensive tackle Conor McDermott, will be projects he works on. Both of the later draft picks have incredible size and other physical tangibles, it is just a matter of teaching them how to use their talent their best abilities. All four draft picks have the potential to be cornerstones for the future of the Patriots.
Bill Belichick has done it again. He has masterfully maneuvered the NFL draft, picking four players that will be Patriots for many years. He made wise trades and signings before the draft, acquiring a plethora of instant starters in Cooks, Ealy, tight end Dwayne Allen, signing running back Mike Gillislee at the cost of their fifth-round draft pick, and even traded for tight end James O’Shaughnessy (likely will not start) from the Kansas City Chiefs. Belichick has strengthened the Patriots in an unorthodox manner, but on paper it seems like he and the Patriots came away as the biggest winner of the off-season so far.
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