The New England Patriots added two offensive tackles in the draft with OT Tony Garcia and OT Conor McDermott, but it turns out the Patriots were targeting a different offensive lineman- and one that wasn’t a tackle at all, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
“The Patriots came close to drafting a potential challenger to [David Andrews’] starting job in the third round, Indiana’s Dan Feeney, but the Los Angeles Chargers nabbed Feeney before the club was on the clock at No. 72,” Reiss writes in his weekly notes. Would the Patriots have extended Andrews if they'd drafted Feeney? It’s an interesting question to ponder.”
The Chargers drafted Feeney 71st overall and the Patriots immediately traded away from 72nd overall and moved all the way down to 83rd overall. You can watch Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio striking the trade in this video here. The Patriots had a trade lined up with the Tennessee Titans if their player was no longer available at 72nd overall.
Feeney was a career right guard at the University of Indiana and was regarded as one of the most polished guard prospects in the draft. The fact that Reiss notes the Patriots were considering Feeney as a challenger to David Andrews at center is worthy of further analysis.
While 2016 rookie LG Joe Thuney was often the “weak link” in the line, it is assumed that Andrews offered the lowest ceiling on the line due to his smaller size and physical limitations.
Of course, this analysis is simply looking a gift horse in the mouth because after two years of horrendous line play from 2014-15, the Patriots line was outstanding in 2016, Andrews was extremely solid all year, and the entire group should be even better moving forward- both Andrews and Shaq Mason made enormous strides from 2015 to 2016.
But the team was apparently willing to invest a third round pick on another interior lineman with the goal of bumping Andrews out of the line-up. Even if Feeney remained at guard, the Patriots would have likely moved forward with Feeney, Thuney, and Mason in some order on the interior line as a collection of high-upside third and fourth round players.
The Patriots missed out on Feeney, drafted an offensive tackle in Tony Garcia at 85th overall, and then handed Andrews a three-year extension, so it’s not like the Patriots are crying over lost opportunities.
But this all shows how much an NFL career can come down to simple luck. Would the Patriots offer Andrews an extension if they drafted Feeney? How does the addition of Garcia affect Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle? Can we come to terms with missing out on a career’s worth of Mr. Feeny/Boy Meets World jokes from Alec Shane?
So much can happen when a Belichick flaps its wings.