The New England Patriots only added four rookies in the 2017 NFL Draft, but it was enough to get the highest grade from ESPN’s Mel Kiper after the draft. Kiper issues his grades based on the talent the team added, how the team addressed needs, and whether the team received players at good value points in the draft.
The Patriots needed to add a defensive end, linebacker, and offensive tackle, and did enough to receive a solid A, tied with the Los Angeles Chargers for the best in the entire draft.
“The reason the Patriots' grade is so high with no first- or second-round picks?,” Kiper asks. “You have to remember that Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy are essentially those picks, and New England knows exactly what it's getting in both. Cooks is a devastating big-play threat who has caught 315 passes in three seasons in the league. Ealy will likely start at defensive end in New England's 3-4. The questions there are the contracts. Cooks could be looking at a mega-deal after 2018, and Ealy is a free agent after this season. New England also got Dwayne Allen, plus a sixth from the Colts for a fourth, and surrendered its fifth-round pick for Mike Gillislee. All should contribute to a team looking to defend a Super Bowl title.
“Now, on to what New England got this weekend, including two guys who were higher on my board than where the Patriots picked, and at need positions. Derek Rivers is a workout freak and ferocious pass-rusher who had 41 career sacks at Youngstown State. He would have been a contributor if he had played at Ohio State. Antonio Garcia required giving up their fourth-round pick in a trade up 11 spots, but he's a natural left tackle who started 42 collegiate games. He was my fifth-ranked tackle. If he's the Patriots' swing tackle backing up both Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, that's an improvement. Deatrich Wise Jr., a versatile edge defender, continues the Patriots' Arkansas pipeline.”
It would seem that Kiper is following the Bill Belichick model by including the veterans acquired when evaluating the success of the Patriots draft. The Patriots also addressed two of Kiper’s positions of need with two of his top prospects at value points of the draft.
The Patriots are coming off a Super Bowl championship season and have nailed the offseason and draft. What more can you ask for?