The New England Patriots added two great prospects in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft in Youngstown State EDGE Derek Rivers and Troy OT Antonio Garcia. Both come from smaller schools, but the Patriots believe they can contribute due to their athletic abilities.
The two players are interesting selections because they reveal a lot about how the Patriots view the current roster.
Rivers should be an impact player as a rookie
Rivers probably won’t line up with the first unit defense, but he won’t have to. He’ll be fourth on the depth chart behind Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, and Kony Ealy. Rivers needs at least 10 more pounds of muscle to hold up against NFL blockers and he’ll have his entire rookie season to bulk up.
But look for Rivers to be a key player on passing downs because his burst off the snap in incredible and he has an outstanding ability to bend the offensive tackle and get after the quarterback. He could be the pass rush the Patriots have been looking for.
Both Rivers and Garcia were made with 2018 in mind
Nate Solder, Cameron Fleming, and LaAdrian Waddle are scheduled to be free agents in 2018. So are Rob Ninkovich and Kony Ealy. Both Rivers and Garcia should have a year in the system before they will be asked to take on larger roles in 2018.
Even if the Patriots retain, say, Solder and Ninkovich, Garcia could serve as the top swing tackle and would allow the Patriots to move on from Fleming, while Rivers would likely take on the #2 or #3 pass rusher role.
Patriots didn’t care about college pedigree
Neither Rivers, nor Garcia were SEC or Big 10 or ACC players. They come from the Missouri Valley and Sun Belt conferences. And yet Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is confident enough in both prospects to hold their own in the NFL.
Both players need to add weight (10 pounds, each). Both need to work on their technique. But both have long track records of experience and stepped up when given the opportunity to play against the Power Five conferences.
We’ll see how both players fit into the Patriots team-building as we head into the summer.