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Sunday NFL Thoughts: Patriots tie for second-smallest draft class since 2000

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Also, comparing Chandler Jones and Jabaal Sheard to the Patriots pass rushers, looking at the entire Patriots 2017 draft class, and whether the Patriots went “all in” for the sake of Tom Brady.

Recapping day three of the 2017 NFL Draft

What do you think about the Patriots final two draft picks?

Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Saturday, April 29, 2017

1. The New England Patriots double-dipped at edge defender in the 2017 NFL Draft, creating a top five depth chart that includes Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Kony Ealy, Derek Rivers, and Deatrich Wise Jr. All five players are likely to make the final roster.

After the 2015 NFL season, we could have had a discussion about how the Patriots were set on the edge with a combination of Chandler Jones and Jabaal Sheard. Neither player remained with the Patriots, due to a combination of fit and price tag.

Well, price tag is extremely important, so check this out (rookie salary cap hits per @PatsCap)

Chander Jones 2017 salary cap hit: $10,000,000

Jabaal Sheard: $9,968,750

Rob Ninkovich: $2,450,000
Kony Ealy: $903,660
Trey Flowers: $754,733
Derek Rivers: $$665,639
Deatrich Wise Jr.: $608,024
Patriots Total: $5,382,056

Both Jones and Sheard have individual 2017 cap hits that are nearly double that of all five Patriots pass rushers combined. New England is showing how teams should build depth at an important position.

2. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wanted us to include the acquired veterans via draft picks when evaluating the team’s 2017 draft class. If we do that, we can say that the Patriots acquired:

  • WR Brandin Cooks (first round) (first round)
  • EDGE Kony Ealy (trade down from second round)
  • EDGE Derek Rivers (third round)
  • OT Antonio Garcia (third round)
  • EDGE Deatrich Wise Jr. (fourth round)
  • TE Dwayne Allen (trade down from fourth round)
  • RB Mike Gillislee (fifth round)
  • 2016 LB Barkevious Mingo (fifth round)
  • TE James O’Shaughnessy (trade down from fifth round)
  • OT Conor McDermott (sixth round)
  • LB Kyle Van Noy (trade down from sixth round)
  • TE Michael Williams (seventh round)

That’s a pretty outstanding draft haul.

3. Check out this behind the scenes video to watch Nick Caserio trade down with the Tennessee Titans. It’s a pretty simple video, but it’s always fun to see what happens in the Patriots decision room. Bonus points for anyone that can read anything on the white boards.

4. The Patriots trades left the team with just four draft picks, the fewest in franchise history and tied for the second-fewest since 2000.

The Jets really hated building depth in the late 00s, but they used a different tactic than the Patriots. New York traded up to get a few unproven rookies, while the Patriots traded the picks for proven veterans and sometimes received a later draft pick in return.

“Whoever we end up with, we end up with,” Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said after the draft. “I mean the draft, whoever we pick, there are four players there. We acquired players as a part of trades so they’re a part of it. The undrafted players are a part of it. I mean let’s call it, I don’t know, 25 to 30 new players that we’ve sort of added to the team. However they get here, they get here. We can’t necessarily control that. We just try to take our resources, and try to make the best decision for our team and get the players on our team however we can get them here. That’s what we try to do.”

The Patriots wound up with 12 players from this draft. That’s a great haul.

5. A reporter asked Caserio if the team’s acquisitions of proven veterans was related to Tom Brady’s age (ie: “going all in”) or just a weak draft class.

Caserio replied that trading for veterans “has zero to do with” Brady’s age, but instead just a series of opportunities to acquire players that could help the team better than a rookie.

“We take the resources that we have and we try to make the best decision for our team,” Caserio explained. “It’s about trying to put the best team together. However we get to that end point, look, next year may be different than it was this year. I mean this year was different than last year. However we put the team together, I would say it’s constantly evolving. It’s very fluid and there is no template you pull out and say ‘This is what we’re going to do this year.’ That’s kind of how we approach it.”

So just because the Patriots appear to have gone “all in” in 2017, doesn’t mean there’s a shift in how the team approaches the offseason. This was just an opportunity the Patriots couldn’t pass on.

6. I feel like the Patriots two tight end acquisitions in Dwayne Allen and James O’Shaughnessy have flown extremely far under the radar. Allen was acquired with the same compensation as Martellus Bennett, but without any of the fanfare, while O’Shaughnessy felt like a footnote in a quote day three of the draft.

But the Patriots don’t look at it that way.

“Part of the draft today was the flip of the fifth and sixth- round picks with Kansas City with James O’Shaughnessy, who’s a player who we actually did a lot of work on coming out,” Caserio said after the draft. “It was kind of similar to the discussion we had here last week when we had the pre-draft. Just when you go through your draft process, your evaluation process, you never really know when a player may or may not come up. He was a player we had done quite a bit of work on, as well. [We] worked him out, spent some time with him, so he was available. We thought it was an opportunity to add another player to our team.”

“We went down there, we worked him out before the draft, so we had some contact with him,” Caserio added when asked about the team’s past work on O’Shaughnessy. “I mean, he was a player that we liked that year and the Chiefs ended up picking him. He’s had some experience offensively. He’s had a decent role in the kicking game for them down there in Kansas City, and he’s a young player. We’ll put him in a mix. I mean, obviously, he knows nothing about our system. He hasn’t been in our system, so we’re kind of starting from scratch with him. We’ll put him in the mix with everybody else and see how he does.”

O’Shaughnessy has two more years left on his rookie deal. Don’t be surprised if he ends up winning the competition to be the team’s third tight end, due to his experience on tight end and his productivity as a receiver.