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The New England Patriots sat out the first night of the 2017 NFL Draft on Thursday. However, they were still a big winner as they were able to retain cornerback Malcolm Butler and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, allowing them to hold on to their top-flight cornerback and the best backup quarterback in the NFL for the 2017 season.
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New England also watched three wide receivers come off the board during the first 10 picks of the draft on Thursday night. Considering this was a weak draft class for wide receivers, the Patriots look good, having flipped their last pick of the first round for a proven commodity in Brandin Cooks. Per Miguel Benzan:
Brandin Cooks’ 2017 cap space number ($1,563,198) will be $53,296 less than the 32nd pick’s.
— Cap Space=20,027,765 (@patscap) April 28, 2017
There were three wide receivers taken in the first nine picks of the draft and none of them will have the impact of Cooks next season (despite all three being close in age to Cooks) and all will cost more. With a premium at the wide receiver position, the Patriots look prescient for nabbing Cooks earlier in the offseason.
The Patriots forced their fanbase to stay up late on Friday night (or wanted everyone to watch the Boston Celtics clinch their first round series against the Chicago Bulls) as they sat out the entire second round of the NFL Draft after having traded out to the third round with Carolina to get defensive end Kony Ealy. The Patriots then flipped the 72nd overall pick to Tennessee with a sixth-round pick (200th overall) for the 83rd pick and the 124th pick.
This set up the Patriots with two third round picks with the 83rd and 96th pick. They also set themselves up with two picks in the fourth round with the 124th and and 131st for Saturday. However, Bill Belichick was not done trading and flipped pick number 96 along with number 124 and shipped them to the Detroit Lions to jump back up to 85th overall.
New England finally got on the board on day two as they selected edge rusher Derek Rivers from Youngstown State with the 83rd overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Rivers stands six-foot-four and weighs 248 pounds (per NFL.com). He is extremely athletic and should be able to contribute immediately as a third-down pass rusher. He could be developed into an inside linebacker in a Jamie Collins-type role on first and second-down and then shift outside on the edge to rush with a hand on the ground.
Rivers was a star at the Senior Bowl and at the Draft Combine. He is explosive and jumps off film as he gets into the backfield in a hurry. Rivers was under-the-radar having played in the Missouri Valley Football Conference but his athleticism makes him intriguing. Per NFL.com, at the combine he ran a 4.61 40-yard dash, had a 35-inch vertical jump, did 30 reps of the bench press, and did the three-cone-drill in just 6.94 seconds.
After trading up, the Patriots grabbed offensive tackle Antonio Garcia from Troy. Garcia is big and quick for a left tackle. He weighs in at just 302 pounds but stands six-foot-six (per NFL.com) and should be a redshirt in 2017 as he packs on muscle and weight. In addition, the crash course with offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia should get him ready to contribute in 2018.
What Garcia brings to the tackle position is his athleticism to handle smaller, quicker defensive ends. The speed rushers who have given Nate Solder (and Matt Light before him) fits at left tackle should have trouble with Garcia. Garcia was a high school basketball player who has quick feet and is fluid in his movements.
The Patriots had a solid second day making a few deals and added depth which they desperately needed on the edge. In addition, with left tackle Nate Solder in the last year of his contract, the Patriots got a player to groom and develop to take over if necessary. It may not have been flashy, but it was a solid day-two of the draft for New England.
Around The AFC East
Buffalo added a desperately needed wide receiver in Zay Jones from East Carolina early in the second round. They also traded up back into the second round and beefed up their offensive line grabbing Temple offensive tackle Dion Dawkins. The Bills do not pick again until the fifth round but it was a solid second day for the Bills as they refit on both sides of the ball.
For Miami, they passed on talented Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster with their first-round draft pick on Thursday. However, on day two they got their linebacker, scooping up Raekwon McMillan from Ohio State. McMillan was a productive tackler in college and has good instincts. His athleticism is average and may not be ready to contribute immediately.
The Dolphins added Clemson cornerback Cordrea Tankersley in the third round at 97th overall. Tankersley is long (six-foot-one) and fast (ran a 4.40 forty) but not a great tackler and non-existent in run support. Tankersley is a “handsy” cornerback who grabs a receiver when he gets beat.
Finally, the New York Jets went all-in at turning over the safety position. On day one they had LSU safety Jamal Adams fall to them at sixth overall and got one of the best players in the entire draft. On day two they added Florida safety Marcus Maye who is a ball-hawk safety who is instinctive and rangy. This gives the Jets two rookies in the defensive backfield to build around (and probably means former first round draft pick Calvin Pryor and 2016 free agent acquisition Marcus Gilchrist are not long for the Jets).
In the third round the Jets added a desperately needed wide receiver in Alabama wide receiver ArDarius Stewart. Stewart is a physical receiver who left school a year early to enter the draft. He is a scrappy receiver in the mold of Steve Smith Sr. The Jets traded out of the last pick of day two of the NFL Draft to accumulate more picks on day three.
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