The best way to judge an organizations’ ability to evaluate talent is by looking at what they do in the middle rounds of the draft. Anyone could select Baker Mayfield first overall, but it takes true talent to find diamonds in the rough. The Patriots have three picks in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, so let’s look at the recent history of the New England Patriots third round draft picks
A Breakdown of Recent New England Patriots Third Round Picks
2017: Derek Rivers, 83rd overall; Antonio Garcia, 85thoverall
The Patriots took two players in three picks in the 2017 NFL draft, but neither saw the field as rookies. 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 2017 Patriots never truly overcame. New England struggled to set the edge and get to the passer 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.
Garcia never got the chance to prove himself in a Patriots uniform. The Troy product reportedly lost 40 pounds due to his injury and the Patriots released Garcia early into the 2018 off-season. The former third-rounder spent the 2018 season on the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad.
Rivers returned to the field in 2018 but hardly any playing time. Still working to get back to full strength, the Youngstown State product appeared in just six games, recording two tackles, two quarterback hits, and one sack. Despite the low production, Oladipo Indiana Jersey Victor Victor Bill Belichick spoke highly of Rivers and the former third-rounder should have a chance to compete for a starting spot in 2019.
2016: Joe Thuney, 78th Overall
This pick was a home run. The 2015 Patriots had one of the worst offensive lines in the league, and New England they needed to add some talent to protect Tom Brady. The Patriots used one of the picks from the Chandler Jones trade to grab Joe Thuney, who ended up being a Day One starter along the offensive line.
After two solid seasons as a starter, Thuney elevated his game to another level in 2018. Thuney finished the season as the seventh-best guard in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Working alongside David Andrews and Shaq Mason, Thuney helped anchor arguably the best interior offensive line in all of football. He’s no Logan Mankins, but he’s a fantastic pick and an absolute steal in the third round.
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. Brissett filled in for a suspended Brady and an injured Garropolo, going 1-1 in his two starts. 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. Andrew Luck returned to the field in 2018, so Brissett hardly played in the past season.
2016: Vincent Valentine, 96th Overall
The Patriots’ third-round picks progressively got worse and worse in 2016. Defensive tackle Vincent Valentine arrived in New England as a run-stuffing presence, and he performed adequately during his first year in the league. The rookie appeared in 13 games, recording 19 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, two quarterback hits, and one sack.
Unfortunately, Valentine didn’t have a chance to build on his rookie year. The Nebraska product tore his ACL in the 2017 off-season and missed the entirety of his second season. He came back healthy in 2018 but couldn’t earn a job out of camp. New England released the once-promising defensive tackle and Valentine spent the 2018 season with the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks practice squad.
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 Geneo Grissom. Grissom came out of school as a raw prospect and most projected him to be a seventh-round talent at best.
Nobody had 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.