The New England Patriots drafted UCLA OT Conor McDermott with the 211th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. McDermott comes with an interesting connection to the Patriots as his line coach at UCLA was Adrian Klemm, the very first draft pick of the Bill Belichick tenure in New England. The Patriots like that McDermott comes from a strong football program at UCLA.
“We just bumped up a few spots, unloaded the seventh and took Conor McDermott, a left tackle out of UCLA, another good program,” Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said after the draft. “Coach [Jim] Mora and that staff, they’ve done a great job out there. A lot of experience, good size, good length, [McDermott] has played against some pretty good people out there.”
McDermott had a private workout with Patriots coach Cole Popovich, who is destined to be the heir to offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. New England didn’t think that McDermott would still be on the board at such a late stage in the draft, which led to the team packing picks to move up and snag the offensive tackle.
“We’re looking up at the board and saying how many of those players would we actually pick?,” Caserio said after the draft. “Well, if we’re not going to pick them or we think we can get them after the draft, well let’s just make sure we get a player that we actually like.”
McDermott joins a crowded offensive tackle room with Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, LaAdrian Waddle, and third round rookie Antonio Garcia, with whom McDermott spent a fair amount of time at the Senior Bowl.
“We were on the same team and practiced together every day, watched film together in meetings,” McDermott said about Garcia. “He's just a great guy. I'm happy for him and excited to work together.”
The Patriots have double-dipped on the offensive line for the fourth straight season, after taking Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming in 2014, Shaq Mason and Tre Jackson in 2015, and Joe Thuney and Ted Karras in 2016. If history is any indicator, the Patriots will have McDermott and Garcia joined at the hip over the summer (and, harsh reality from history, just one of them will likely be a success).
As an athlete, McDermott compares fairly well to Nate Solder. Both are 6’8 and roughly 315 pounds and started at left tackle for three seasons. Solder is a slightly better athlete and both are former basketball players that started their college careers at tight end before converting to offensive tackle.
“I have watched Nate Solder,” McDermott said. “I've studied a lot of tackles and I’ve been a fan of his for a while, even when I was a skinny tight end being told I’d be a tackle one day. When I was first in high school I didn’t believe it, but he’s a great player and I look forward to meeting him.”
McDermott is an ideal ball of clay for offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to form into a success in the NFL. While Popovich was the coach that worked him out, McDermott acknowledged that Scarnecchia is “a great coach and very revered in the sport.”
Due to his sixth round status, McDermott has an uphill climb to make the crowded roster. It’s possible that the Patriots will try to stash McDermott on the practice squad with 2018 in mind because he needs to gain functional strength before he can compete in the NFL.
But for now, McDermott is a member of the New England Patriots and he will do everything he can to get a shot at the active roster.
“This is something I’ve been working towards since I was real little,” McDermott said. “Just to be here and share this moment with my family is a dream come true.”