The New England Patriots have rostered 17 picks from the 2017 NFL draft over the years since then.
The Ohio State product went No. 54 overall that spring, a full round before his current team filled out its initial draft card in a class that would be both the league’s smallest and the franchise’s smallest.
But the Patriots agreed to terms with McMillan on a one-year deal in March. And on his introductory conference call before the calendar turned to April, the pre-draft and free-agent visitor shared a conversation he had with head coach Bill Belichick.
“He actually told me that they wanted me in that draft,” McMillan told reporters. “It wasn’t as intimidating now because I’ve played against his team. It feels a little different now. But coming out of college, I was way over my head talking to him. Just looking him in his eyes and seeing how serious he was, his track record, all that stuff. The Patriots are known for their linebackers. So, to be a guy that they want to be a part of their group, I feel like it’s special.”
Belichick and the Patriots signed off on seven trades involving draft capital over initial months of the 2017 league year. Those trades included veteran acquisitions ranging from tight ends Dwayne Allen and James O’Shaughnessy to defensive end Kony Ealy and wide receiver Brandin Cooks. A reset board was the result. Four selections were made by the war room by the time it was over.
Those selections became Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers and Arkansas’ Deatrich Wise Jr. on the defensive edges to go with Troy’s Antonio Garcia and UCLA’s Conor McDermott on the offensive edges. Only the Razorback remains in the fold.
Yet others taken in 2017 have stopped by New England to varying degrees. A handful are under contract entering 2021.
PAST AND PRESENT PATRIOTS PICKED IN 2017 DRAFT
- No. 54: Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State — signed
- No. 56: Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut — signed
- No. 83: Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State — drafted
- No. 85: Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy — drafted
- No. 93: Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn — signed
- No. 100: Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International — signed
- No. 106: Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan — voided waiver claim
- No. 127: Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo — voided trade
- No. 131: Deatrich Wise Jr., DE, Arkansas — drafted
- No. 138: Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan — signed
- No. 141: Chad Hansen, WR, California — waiver claim
- No. 159: Jermaine Eluemunor, G, Texas A&M — trade
- No. 174: Eric Saubert, TE, Drake — trade
- No. 178: Davon Godchaux, DT, LSU — signed
- No. 211: Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA — drafted
- No. 237: Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech — trade
- No. 241: Khalfani Muhammad, RB, California — signed
Count McMillan among them. The 25-year-old finds himself alongside the aforementioned Wise as well as tight end Jonnu Smith and defensive tackles Montravius Adams and Davon Godchaux.
McMillan suffered a torn ACL during his rookie preseason with Miami and was traded to Las Vegas after tallying 204 tackles and three forced fumbles through 29 games and 28 starts. His most recent campaign brought a reduced role on defense and an increased a role on special teams that spanned 285 snaps.
Time will tell what follows four years later with the rookie contract in the rearview. But a player picked 29 slots before New England picked once has been circled back to.
“Coach Belichick told me something interesting that really jumped out at me,” said McMillan. “He told me that he’d been watching my career. And for a player, you’re talking to a Hall of Fame coach, him talking about watching me play out of all these linebackers in the league. I know he watches a lot of ball, but he said he paid attention to me over my career. ... Everything he talked about, he talked about progress and moving forward and being the person he knows that I can be. Hearing that from a Hall of Fame coach really inspired me to go out there and do what I got to do.”