The New England Patriots' 2017 draft was an unusual one as the team, with a deep roster coming off a Super Bowl victory, opted to use its resources differently than it has in the past: While the Patriots seemed to prefer the “throw it on the wall and see what sticks”-method earlier in the 2010s, it went a different road last year and selected only four players while investing considerable resources in trades.
New England moved its first rounder to acquire Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints, and also shipped away draft picks to bring Kony Ealy, Dwayne Allen and Mike Gillislee aboard. Meanwhile, the team drafted two players in the third round (defensive edge Derek Rivers and offensive tackle Antonio Garcia), and one apiece in the fourth (defensive edge Deatrich Wise Jr.) and sixth (offensive tackle Conor McDermott).
The approach New England took last year was praised at the time. Among those who liked it was ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who gave the team an A during his post-draft grading and noted that Cooks and Ealy essentially were the Patriots' first- and second-round picks. One year later, however, this stance has changed. In a recently released re-grading piece, New England received only a C+.
Kiper points out that not all of the deals the Patriots made involving their draft picks turned out well: “Cooks is a stud, but Ealy didn’t make it out of training camp with the Patriots,” the long-time draft analyst writes as justification of the downgrade. “Allen caught just 10 passes and was basically used as an extra tackle. Gillislee had three touchdowns in the season opener, then couldn’t get on the game-day roster.”
Of course, New England also suffered from the fact that only one of the team's rookies – Wise Jr. – was able to make it onto the opening day roster: Following a promising start to training camp, Rivers tore his ACL during joint practices with the Houston Texans. Garcia was placed on the non-football injury list after blood clots in his lungs were discovered and missed all year. McDermott did not survive final roster cuts.
Kiper notes that Rivers' and Garcia's injuries hurt the Patriots' grade but also points out that Wise Jr. “looks like a steal [...] as he had seven total sacks” and that undrafted signee Adam Butler “pitched in with four sacks”. Overall, though, he writes that the team needs to get much more out of its 2017 rookie class. Considering how the season went, it is hard not to agree with that.