Typically, NFL teams find their star players in the first and second rounds. Sure, solid contributors are found later on, and every now and again a superstar falls into the later rounds. But generally speaking, the first two rounds of the draft determine the success of a franchise. This is not the case with Bill Belichick’s Patriots. The first and second rounds have been something of a mixed bag, but the mid to late rounds are where this recent run of success has been built. Let’s take a look back on the New England Patriots third round draft history.
Steal After Steal – New England Patriots Third Round Draft History
2017: Derek Rivers, 83rd overall; Antonio Garcia, 85th overall
The Patriots took two players in three picks in the 2017 NFL draft, but neither saw the field in 2017. Rivers suffered a torn ACL in the preseason, while Garcia missed the season with blood clots in his lungs.
Both players absences left voids that the Patriots never truly overcame. New England struggled setting the edge and getting to the passer with just their front four all season. Starting offensive tackle Marcus Cannon only played in seven games, and backup tackles Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle saw more playing time than they probably should have.
Rivers and Garcia appear to be on the mend. His initial recovery timetable had him back for the start of 2018, and he hasn’t had any reported setbacks. Garcia’s status is even more promising. Garcia appears to have put his blood clots behind him, and has reportedly put on all his playing weight. With the starting left tackle job up in the air, Garcia could potentially earn the starting job for 2018.
2016: Joe Thuney, 78th Overall
This is the most recent of Belichick’s great mid-round picks. With one of the picks acquired from the Chandler Jones trade, the Patriots selected Thuney and immediately threw him in to the starting lineup. The offensive line was an absolute mess in 2015, and Thuney fit a huge need.
He lacks elite size one desires in a guard, but it’s hard to call the Thuney pick anything other than a whopping success. Thuney has started every game since being drafted, and has gotten better with every season. He’s not on the same level as Logan Mankins, but all signs point to him holding down the job for the foreseeable future.
2016: Jacoby Brissett, 91st Overall
With Tom Brady playing as well as ever and Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract expiring, the Patriots used their second third round pick of 2016 on Jacoby Brissett. Brissett was a different mold of quarterback, as he relied more on scrambling and athletic ability and less on pinpoint accuracy. He was drafted as a project, and wasn’t expected to be ready for game action for a year or two.
So, naturally he saw his first action in Week Two of his rookie season. With Brady suspended and Garoppolo injured, Brissett started Weeks Three and Four, going 1-1. He performed well in Week Three against the Texans, but suffered a thumb injury that clearly limited him against the Buffalo Bills.
Despite the promising rookie season, the Patriots decided Brissett wasn’t going to be the future of the franchise. New England sent the second-year passer off to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for receiver Phillip Dorsett. Brissett would go on to start 15 games for the Colts. While he only went 3-10, Brissett showed promise that could keep him in the league for a while.
2016: Vincent Valentine, 96th Overall
The Patriots held three third round picks in the 2016 draft, and got something out value out of all of them. With their final third round pick, the Patriots took a big, run stuffing presence to fill the interior of the line. Valentine was drafted to be an average, if unremarkable, defensive run stuffer. So far, that’s exactly what he’s been.
Valentine played in 13 games his rookie season, and was primarily used as the third or fourth defensive tackle in the rotation. He didn’t do much to stand out while on the field, which for a defensive tackle is generally a good thing. He’d make the occasional big play, but overall he did his job and nothing more. Ultimately, his solid performance was all the Patriots could have realistically expected out of the third round rookie.
Unfortunately, Valentine didn’t have a chance to build on his rookie year. Valentine’s entire sophomore campaign was wiped away via injury. He should make a full recovery for 2018, and his presence should be a welcome addition to a defense that struggled against the run all season. Still, Valentine will likely be a career rotational tackle. He’s not a star, but he’s exactly what you expect to get out of a late third round pick.
2015: Geneo Grissom, 97th Overall
The 2015 draft was an interesting one for the Patriots. After spending their second round pick on a guy nobody has heard of in Jordan Richards, New England doubled down with the Grissom selection. Grissom was seen as a raw prospect who would be either a seventh round pick or go undrafted.
Nobody has Grissom being a top-100 pick, and he has not justified the Patriots selection. Grissom has spent the better part of his NFL career bouncing on and off of the Patriots roster and practice squad. He’s carved out a minor role on special teams, but hasn’t made an impact on defense. If the Patriots could do this pick over, they’d definitely go in another direction.
2013: Logan Ryan, 83rd Overall
Belichick went back to the Rutgers well in 2013, and it paid off big time. The Patriots drafted Logan Ryan in 2013, and Ryan went on to become a key defensive piece during his four years in New England. He was never a superstar, but was certainly worth the third round investment.
Ryan made an immediate impact as a rookie. Despite only being a situational corner, Ryan managed to lead the team with five interceptions. His nose for the ball earned him the nickname “Instant Offense.” After a down 2014, Ryan worked his way into the starting lineup in 2015 and 2016.
Ryan and Malcolm Butler played well of each others strengths. Ryan’s specialty was covering larger receivers, but he struggled against speedier players. Generally speaking, Ryan would cover the larger receiver and Butler would take the quicker one. This led to Ryan covering the likes of DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones for entire games, albeit with safety help.
Ryan left in free agency for greener pastures with the Tennessee Titans, but he was still great during his time in New England. However, even his departure paid dividends for New England. Ryan received a three-year, 30 million dollar contract, which played a big role in the Patriots receiving a fourth round compensatory draft pick. Essentially, the Patriots received four years of good cornerback play and a fourth round pick out of their third round pick. Overall, this was a great pick.
2013: Duron Harmon, 91st Overall
Belichick drafting a Rutgers safety that nobody had ever heard of is probably the most Bill Belichick thing that could ever happen. The Duron Harmon pick was a surprising move at the time, but the decision has paid dividends.
Harmon may not technically be a starter, but he’s one of the most important members in the secondary. The sixth-year safety doesn’t do much against the run, but he’s one of the best at taking away the deep part of the field. Harmon’s ability to take away the deep ball allows fellow safety Devin McCourty to play closer to the line. Additionally, the versatility of the safeties allows the Patriots to switch up their coverages and keep opponents guessing.
Harmon has a knack for making plays in the fourth quarter. Harmon has recorded 14 interceptions in his career, including playoffs. Ten of those have come in the fourth quarter. Teams get desperate late in games and try to force things downfield. Every time they do, Harmon makes them pay. Harmon’s the master of securing victories, as just about all of his 4th quarter picks guaranteed wins for New England. His most notable interceptions are probably the ones against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisonal Round and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15.
Recent history has shown the Patriots have had far more hits than misses in the third round. Of their eight most recent picks, they’ve gotten four starters, one role player, and two other players that will likely have big roles in 2018. Belichick’s record with early picks is a little streaky, but nobody is better at finding diamonds in the rough. No matter who New England takes, look for them to have a big impact for the franchise.
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