NFL draft picks are a currency that cannot be counterfeited. But they can be laundered, scattered and concealed throughout the rest of the league to the point where their origin is no longer clear.
The New England Patriots did plenty of that around this time last year.
From the start of free agency on March 9 until the end of the draft on April 29, Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio, Dave Ziegler and Co. swung trades involving draft capital with seven different teams.
Though by the time all 253 cards were filled out, the Patriots had only penned four.
That can happen when an organization brings aboard a handful of veterans via trade, and it did. New England was left with its smallest draft class in franchise history and went the first 82 slots without anointing a member at all.
But what happened to those 2017 draft selections the Patriots never made? There were 11 in total.
That is, if not accounting for the one that the war room hardly owned. Or, the No. 163 overall pick – Boston College linebacker Matt Milano – that went to the Buffalo Bills as compensation for signing restricted free-agent running back Mike Gillislee.
Here’s where the rest went.
THE INDIANAPOLIS DEAL
- Traded away: No. 137 (Zach Banner)
- Acquired: Dwayne Allen, No. 200 (later sent to Titans)
On March 9, the Patriots formally announced the acquisition of tight end Dwayne Allen and pick No. 200 overall from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for what’d become USC offensive tackle Zach Banner at No. 137.
Allen proceeded to catch 10 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown with New England in 2017, and Banner appeared in eight games as a rookie reserve for Indianapolis. But, of course, the Patriots never took a rookie of their own with No. 200 from the Colts. More on this later.
THE CAROLINA DEAL
- Traded away: No. 64 (Taylor Moton)
- Acquired: Kony Ealy, No. 72 (later sent to Titans)
One of two trades made official on March 11, the Patriots acquired defensive end Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers in what was an eight-pick drop-back more so than a swap of second- and third-rounders. New England sent No. 64 overall to Carolina, and Carolina sent No. 72 back along with Ealy, who was waived and claimed by the New York Jets five months later.
As for the result of No. 64, the Panthers drafted Western Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Moton, who played 75 snaps on special teams and 63 on offense by season’s end. And as for the result of No. 72 – more on this one later, too – the Patriots used that pick to trade down on the second day of the draft.
THE NEW ORLEANS DEAL
- Traded away: No. 32 (Ryan Ramzcyk), No. 103 (Trey Hendrickson)
- Acquired: Brandin Cooks, No. 118 (forfeited; Mack Hollins)
Remember that time New England shipped linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns for a compensatory third-round pick? It wound up going to the New Orleans Saints, who took Florida Atlantic defensive lineman Trey Hendrickson as part of the blockbuster that brought wideout Brandin Cooks and his third consecutive 1,000-yard season to Foxborough.
Hendrickson went on to log two sacks and a forced fumble for the Saints in 2017. But the grand prize was the first-rounder New England also sent to New Orleans to acquire Cooks. New Orleans used pick 32 on Wisconsin offensive tackle, eventual 16-game starter and Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie selection Ryan Ramczyk. And as for No. 118 that the Patriots also got in return alongside Cooks, it was forfeited as part of Deflategate. The Philadelphia Eagles inherited it in the form of North Carolina receiver Mack Hollins.
THE TENNESSEE DEAL
- Traded away: No. 72 (Taywan Taylor), No. 200 (later sent to Giants; Adam Bisnowaty)
- Acquired: No. 83 (Derek Rivers), No. 124 (later sent to Lions)
On Friday night of the draft, the Patriots acquired No. 83 and No. 124 overall from general manager Jon Robinson’s Tennessee Titans in exchange for the aforementioned No. 72 and No. 200 overall. To put some the names to the numbers: No. 83 became Youngstown State edge-rusher Derek Rivers for New England, while No. 72 became Western Kentucky wideout Taywan Taylor for the Titans.
As for the lower two selections packaged, New England went on to ship No. 124 to GM Bob Quinn’s Detroit Lions – also, more on this below – while Tennessee traded No. 200 the next day to the New York Giants, who took Pittsburgh tackle Adam Bisnowaty. Bisnowaty played in one game for the Giants after spending the majority of 2017 on New York’s practice squad.
THE DETROIT DEAL
- Traded away: No. 96 (Kenny Golladay), No. 124 (Jalen Reeves-Maybin)
- Acquired: No. 85 (Antonio Garcia)
The recycling of picks did not slow to an idle during the draft’s middle rounds. That was seen as New England handed No. 96 and No. 124 overall to Quinn and the Lions in exchange for the No. 85 draft slot.
Detroit took Northern Illinois wide receiver Kenny Golladay at No. 96 and Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin at No. 124 overall. And as the former caught 28 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns, the latter was in on 30 tackles, a half-sack and a forced fumble. New England turned the 85th pick from the Lions into Troy offensive tackle Antonio Garcia, who, like Rivers, would be sidelined for the entirety of 2017.
THE KANSAS CITY DEAL
- Traded away: No. 183 (Ukeme Eligwe)
- Acquired: James O’Shaughnessy, No. 216 (later sent to Cowboys)
New England continued to rack up the long-distance phone bill on the third day of the draft. It started as the Patriots acquired tight end James O’Shaughnessy and the 216th overall pick from the Kansas City Chiefs for the 183rd.
Kansas City took Georgia Southern outside linebacker Ukeme Eligwe with the fifth-rounder obtained from New England. The Patriots, though, never called a draft prospect with the late-six compensatory pick obtained from the Chiefs, and O’Shaughnessy was claimed off waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars at the 53-man cutdown.
THE DALLAS DEAL
- Traded away: No. 216 (Marquez White), No. 239 (Noah Brown)
- Acquired: No. 211 (Conor McDermott)
At this point, it became evident that New England wasn’t going to be restocking the cabinet, but leaving fingerprints on others. That Kansas City pick from the O’Shaughnessy trade? It became the Dallas Cowboys’ to make.
New England extended the Cowboys both No. 216 and No. 239 to move up five spots in the sixth round. And from there, the Patriots drafted UCLA bookend Conor McDermott – ultimately claimed by the Bills in September – with what would be the war room’s last selection. The Cowboys, meanwhile, turned the sixth- and seventh-rounders from the Patriots into Florida State cornerback Marquez White and Ohio State wideout Noah Brown.
And that marks the end of the rabbit hole known as the Patriots’ 2017 draft.
The selection of Arkansas defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. was the only pick that remained untouched for New England last spring, and it came courtesy of a fourth-round pick attained from the Seattle Seahawks during the draft prior.
So while the Patriots enter the new league year with seven picks scheduled in the 2018 draft, it’s hard to say where that first, two seconds, third, fourth, newly added fifth, and sixth will end up by the conclusion of it.
Each pick is an unproven commodity. Its value lies in its maneuverability. It’s currency.
And from March through April of 2017, the currency that New England disbursed elsewhere became Banner, Moton, Ramczyk, Hendrickson, Taylor, Bisnowaty, Golladay, Reeves-Maybin, Eligwe, White and Brown.
And, in even more roundabout ways, Hollins and Milano.