Patriots hold onto Garoppolo, finally take DE Derek Rivers
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots held on to coveted backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo through the first three rounds of the NFL draft, choosing instead to make a couple of minor deals on Friday night and pick up help on the offensive and defensive lines.
Spurning offers for Garoppolo, who won’t play in New England unless Tom Brady is injured or retires, Patriots coach Bill Belichick waited out the first seven hours of the draft. Asked how close he came to trading Garoppolo — the Cleveland Browns were one suitor — Belichick declined to say.
“I’m not going to comment on anybody’s ...,” he said. “Everybody that’s on the team is here to compete, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
New England had given up its first-rounder to get receiver Brandin Cooks from New Orleans, and its second-rounder for Carolina pass-rusher Kony Ealy. They also gave up draft picks to land Colts tight end Dwayne Allen and Bills running back Mike Gillislee.
“We’ve been watching a lot of picks go by,” Belichick said late Friday night. “The four players that we acquired already are also part of the draft.”
After waiting out the entire first day of the draft and another three-plus hours on Day 2, Belichick then traded the No. 72 pick to Tennessee to move down to No. 83 and used it to select Youngstown State defensive end Derek Rivers. Belichick said he liked the fact that 6-foot-4, 248-pound edge rusher, who was second in FCS with 14 sacks as a senior, was well-coached in college, and also praised his performance in the all-star games.
The Patriots then made a deal with Detroit to acquire the No. 85 pick and used it to select Antonio Garcia, a tackle from Troy. Garcia, who said he could not remember the last time he allowed a sack, said he is eager to try to protect the five-time Super Bowl champion Brady.
“That’s what you dream about,” Garcia told reporters on a conference call. “He’s one of the best in the business. I’m definitely going to give my all to protecting him. It’s just an honor to have that opportunity.”
The flurry of activity near the middle of the third round left New England with three picks remaining in the final four rounds on Saturday: Nos. 131, 183 and 249. They have few needs, but a defensive back would give them the option of trading Malcolm Butler.