With opening day almost two months away and the mandatory portion of the initial wave of offseason workouts over, we have entered the more quiet parts of the NFL offseason. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
During workouts and studying sessions, players still have a chance to lay the foundation for their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we will continue the series with one of the Patriots’ 2017 draft picks.
Name: Antonio Garcia
Position: Offensive tackle
Jersey number: 63
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6’6, 300 lbs.
2016 review: After serving as Troy’s starting left tackle during in his injury-shortened 2013 season as well as the 2014 and 2015 campaigns, Antonio Garcia returned to the school for his 2016 senior season. The decision proved to be a good one as the Georgia native recorded the best season of his collegiate career and earned first team All-Sun Belt honors in the process.
Garcia started all 13 of the Trojans’ games and proved to be a stalwart at left tackle: A great natural athlete who possesses outstanding moving skills, he did not allow a single sack in over 900 of the offensive snaps he played. Not only was Garcia an able pass protector, he also helped pave the way for a ground game that gained 169.2 yards per game and 4.5 per attempt.
In short: Garcia played another tremendous season as the leader of Troy’s offensive line. And as such, he became a highly regarded prospect entering the 2017 NFL draft.
2017 preview: On the second day of the draft, the Patriots traded up to pick number 85 – a third round choice that the team ultimately used to select Antonio Garcia. Given this investment as well as his athletic upside, Garcia can be considered a lock to make the Patriots' 53-man roster as a likely backup swing tackle behind starters Nate Solder (left) and Marcus Cannon (right); maybe even behind last year’s top backup Cameron Fleming.
With the starters set in stone, Garcia is projected to only see irregular snaps on offense during his rookie season; potentially fighting against Fleming for playing time as a tackle eligible in jumbo and goal line packages. Consequently, he might at best play around 20% of New England’s offensive snaps, but only if he is able to take snaps away from the more experienced Fleming. It would not be a surprise to see this happen, though.
But while Garcia is a superior talent, he is a work in progress and still needs to add to his frame and work on his strength, especially in the lower body area. It is therefore possible that Garcia remains fourth on the depth chart and will see most of his playing time on special teams, probably on the field goal protection units. This would allow him to adjust to life in the NFL and the top competition he will face in a relatively safe environment.
All in all, Garcia’s rookie campaign projects to be a rather quiet one. And given his standing on the roster – injury insurance at least for now –, the Patriots certainly have to hope that this will not change.