Today’s NFL Draft reports point towards the New England Patriots retaining both QB Jimmy Garoppolo and CB Malcolm Butler as neither the New Orleans Saints, nor the Cleveland Browns will meet the Patriots asking price. Garoppolo and Butler represented two possibilities for the Patriots to re-acquire a first or second round draft pick.
So where does this leave the Patriots from a draft perspective?
As of right now, the Patriots hold the 72nd and 96th overall selections, both in the third round, as their only picks in the first two days of the draft. If we look at the Draft Value Chart, the total of the Patriots entire 2017 draft is the equivalent of the 41st or 42nd overall pick in the draft.
In other words, if the Patriots packaged all their picks together, they’d be able to move into the top 50, but they wouldn’t have enough for a first round pick.
The Patriots also have 64 players under contract, with a possible 65th in RB Mike Gillislee if the Buffalo Bills don’t match the Patriots offer sheet by 4:00 PM EST on Monday, April 24th. The Patriots are currently projected to have 71 players under contract after the draft, leaving room for 19 undrafted free agents.
If the Patriots don’t trade up- and they lack the capital to really maneuver up the draft board- they should trade down from their fourth and fifth round picks to acquire more draft capital.
Expected value of a day three draft pick. All lottery tickets, with 4th-first half of 5th round better odds than second half of 5th onward. pic.twitter.com/5ygb45XSar— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) April 24, 2017
The expected NFL value of a drafted player does not follow the draft value chart, opening up an arbitrage opportunity. The Patriots own the 131st pick in the NFL Draft, but a player selected 131st has a similar success rate as one selected 115th and one selected 170th- and the Patriots would absolutely be able to pick up an extra fifth or sixth round lottery ticket to trade down from 131st to 170th.
The Patriots could consider trading down from the 183rd overall pick to acquire more sixth and seventh round picks.
New England treats the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds as an opportunity to get “dibs” on preferred free agents and there will be plenty of preferred free agents signing with the Patriots based purely on the open roster spots.
Of course it might make more financial sense for the Patriots just to sign as many undrafted free agents as possible because they’re cheaper upfront than rookie draft picks. Patriots WR Devin Lucien received $85,412 guaranteed as the 225th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, while undrafted free agent CB Jonathan Jones was one of the highest-paid undrafted prospects and received just $35,000 guaranteed.