The New England Patriots selected OT Antonio Garcia with the 85th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. The 6’6, 302 pound Garcia started 42 games at left tackle over his four seasons in college and didn’t give up a single sack in 2016. He is regarded as a high-upside prospect that needs to spend time with an NFL coaching staff to improve his technique and to add necessary weight.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that Garcia visited with the Patriots “last week” and that he believes Garcia will be “competitive” with the Patriots offensive tackles.
Garcia is just happy to be in the NFL.
“I’m just super excited,” Garcia said after day two of the draft. “It was a great feeling to hear my name get called and see my name go across that screen. I’m just super thankful and I’m ready to contribute to the team to the best of my ability.”
“It’s not really where you start or how you start, it’s where you finish,” Garcia added. “It doesn’t matter where you go to school if you just perform well while you’re there. I think I’m a testament to that and I’m just happy to have the opportunity.”
Like Patriots 83rd overall pick EDGE Derek Rivers, Garcia comes from a smaller school and just needed a chance to prove he could compete in the NFL. Fortunately, both he and Rivers were invited to the Senior Bowl to show off their abilities.
“[The Senior Bowl] was very important to me,” Garcia said. “It was a platform for me to show I can compete with everybody in the country and I felt like I did that...I think I do remember going against [Rivers] in the game a few times. He was on the North team. I’m looking forward to competing with him here in the next few weeks...I remember faring well [versus Rivers] during the game. I can’t really remember specifically what happened but I don’t remember giving up a sack or anything like that.”
The Patriots are hoping that Garcia’s string of sackless games continues into the NFL as he protects the greatest quarterback in league history. Garcia wants to make sure that QB Tom Brady stays clean in the pocket.
“That’s what you dream about,” Garcia said about playing with Brady. “He’s one of the best in the business. I’m definitely going to give my all to protecting him. It’s just an honor to have that opportunity.”
But before Garcia can protect Brady, he’ll need to get into NFL shape, both from a physical and a technique perspective. Garcia weighs a relatively light 302 pounds and the team prefers a player with his frame to measure in closer to 315 pounds, which is beyond what Garcia has weighed in a game.
“I’ve been all the way up to 310 [pounds],” Garcia said about his weight. “I’m comfortable anywhere between 300 and 315...I’ve been here consistently at about 305 [pounds] for a few months now. I’m just more focused on being in shape and being able to play to the best of my ability.”
In order for Garcia to reach that maximum potential, he’ll need to combine his great athleticism with strong tutelage from offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, of whom Garcia admits he knows “not much.” Garcia said that he played in a three-point stance “a great” at the Senior Bowl and “did our fair share at Troy,” so hopefully the learning curve won’t be too steep.
Garcia describes his play as “physical, athletic...just nasty,” and pointed to his high school basketball career for partial reason for his success.
“I think I still have some of that athleticism, being able to jump, slide my feet and just mirror guys,” Garcia said about playing basketball. “I think that kind of rolls over and I also ran track, so I think that they all play a part in it.”
The Patriots don’t need Garcia to be a starter in 2017, and if the team reaches an extension with LT Nate Solder, then Garcia would likely remain a super-sub in the coming years. But it’s always better to have too many offensive linemen than too few, and Garcia will be a welcome face in New England.