Mike Reiss breaks down the New England Patriots' 2017 draft class.
Round 3, No. 83 overall: Derek Rivers, LB, Youngstown State
My take: The Patriots’ top need entering the draft was defensive end, and Rivers was one of the three prospects identified in this space before the draft as a good fit. So what’s not to like? All rookies have a big jump to make when coming to the NFL, and Rivers’ is even greater considering he’s coming from an FCS school, Youngstown. What Rivers does best is rush the quarterback, as evidenced by his school-record 41 sacks, and his strength was reflected in his 35 repetitions on the bench press. His work at the Senior Bowl, against competition from larger schools, likely was a significant factor in giving the Patriots' comfort in selecting him.
How he fits: The Patriots have Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich returning as their top defensive ends, with Kony Ealy and now Rivers filling out the top four spots on the depth chart. Given how often the Patriots are in sub-packages (as much as 80 percent of the snaps in some years), and how the Patriots adopted a four-man rotation at the end of last season, Rivers has the chance to be an immediate contributor. At the least, because of how well he runs (4.63 in the 40-yard dash), he should factor into the special-teams mix from Day 1.
Belichick on drafting an FCS prospect: “He’s been in a good program. Coach [Bo] Pelini has been an NFL coach, been a Division I head coach [at Nebraska]. They were in a championship game there at Youngstown. He does a great job. Visiting with Derek [Rivers] last week, or two weeks ago -- whenever it was when he was in here -- he’s obviously been in a good program. He’s been well-coached, and sure, it’s a big adjustment for him or anybody else moving to the National Football League. I think he’s been in a solid program.”
Round 3, No. 85: Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy
My take: A developmental left tackle was ranked No. 4 on the team’s needs list entering the draft, and Garcia was one of three prospects identified as a good fit for the Patriots, so this is another pick that makes a lot of sense. It was easy to see why the Patriots would see some desirable traits in Garcia, who has length (6-foot-6 1/4), is athletic and plays with a nasty mean streak. Left tackle is a premium position, and that also explains why the Patriots would give up a late-third-round pick (96) and fourth-rounder (124) to move up to the 85th spot to select him. Garcia is another small-school prospect who benefited from playing in the Senior Bowl, similar to Rivers, whom the Patriots selected two picks before him.
How he fits: Patriots starting left tackle Nate Solder enters the final year of his contract in 2017, and Garcia could be his eventual replacement if Solder departs as a free agent. Top left tackles can usually command big money on the free-agent market, so this pick potentially provides the Patriots a fallback option in 2018. It is often said the Patriots sometimes draft players by looking ahead to needs two years down the road, and this pick seems to qualify. In that sense, it’s similar to the selection of Solder in the first round of the 2011 draft when the team still had incumbent left tackle Matt Light (who was one year away from retirement).
In a conference call with reporters late Friday night, Garcia described his style of play this way: “Physical, athletic and just nasty.” One of the questions some scouts had with Garcia was with his ability to keep weight on, but he said he is comfortable anywhere between 300-315 pounds.
Round 4, No. 131: Deatrich Wise, DE, Arkansas
My take: The possibility that the Patriots would double-dip at defensive end in the draft was high, given that it was a top need and this year’s crop of prospects is considered deep at the position. Wise, at 6-foot-5 1/4 and 274 pounds, was identified before the draft as a likely target for the Patriots because of some of his rare traits, such as 35 5/8-inch arm length, 10 1/2-inch hand size, the power with which he plays and also his intangibles (team captain). He dealt with some injuries in college, which bears watching.
How he fits: Because of the variety of defensive fronts the Patriots play and the creativity of coordinator Matt Patricia, Wise could fit in a variety of roles. If he develops as hoped, he could be an end in a four-man front, possibly rush from the interior in passing situations, and play a 5-technique role in an odd front. Special-teams coaches Joe Judge and Ray Ventone will also find him a spot on the field goal block team, assuming he is on the 46-man game-day roster as he learns behind Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich and Kony Ealy.
Round 6, No. 211: Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA
My take: The 6-foot-8 1/8, 307-pound McDermott fits the profile of a Patriots offensive tackle in that he is long and athletic. With the Patriots selecting Garcia in the third round, and then trading up for McDermott in the sixth round, it reflects how they are building depth behind starting left tackle Nate Solder, who is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in 2017. McDermott turns 25 in October, so he’s older than most players in the draft, but the Patriots obviously liked him because they traded up to get him, giving up a sixth-round pick (216) and seventh-round pick (239) to move to No. 211.
How he fits: If everyone is healthy, the Patriots have Solder, Garcia and Cameron Fleming on the left tackle depth chart, with Marcus Cannon locked in on the right side. So, McDermott is a developmental tackle prospect who will be groomed with the future in mind. He had a private workout with assistant offensive line coach Cole Popovich in the pre-draft process and said when he arrived at UCLA he was at around 235-240 pounds and is now at 315. He also said he played last season in the 300-305 range. The Patriots have a solid history of developing offensive tackles under longtime O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia, and now McDermott joins the pipeline.