NFL Draft 2017: Patriots are biggest draft winners before even making a pick

The Patriots are teaching a clinic on working the draft. They spent the offseason flipping picks into players who can help them win another Super Bowl.

The Patriots were the biggest winners of the first round of the NFL Draft, and they didn’t even have a pick.

That’s the kind of offseason they’ve had. Last month, they were offered up as the offseason Super Bowl champ. Not that teams can really claim that title in the first round of the draft, but nobody knocked the crown off the Patriots’ head Thursday night.

The reason, of course, is because their first-round “pick,” essentially, was Brandin Cooks, the wide receiver they got from the Saints for the price of the 32nd overall choice, the final one on Day 1.

NFL DRAFT: Winners and losers from Round 1

Even with the talent still on the board as Day 2 begins Friday — the likes of Dalvin Cook, Cam Robinson, Chidobie Awuzie and a wave of red-flag guys (including, of course, Cook) — the chances are pretty good that the Patriots came away with a better player in Cooks.

For what it’s worth, the Saints took tackle Ryan Ramczyk, the kind of player Bill Belichick would take, except he’d manage to get him in a later round and make him feel grateful for it.

Meanwhile, the Patriots do not have a second-round pick. They traded it to the Panthers for defensive end Kony Ealy, another relative theft and another example of what their offseason has been like. They do have an extra third-round pick because of that same trade. And they don’t have the compensatory third-round pick they got from the Browns in last year’s Jamie Collins trade because they sent it to the Saints as part of the Cooks package.

MORE: 2017 NFL Draft Board

So they already had had a strong second day before anyone went on the clock Friday night. They have Cooks, Ealy and a third-round pick.

To take it into Day 3 on Saturday, they have a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks via a draft-day trade last year. That makes up for the fourth-round pick they got from the Saints in that Cooks deak, which was docked by the NFL for a rules violation that now feels even more like ancient history than ever: Deflategate.

Yes, Saturday officially closes the door on that, 833 days after the 2015 AFC Championship Game.

DRAFT, DAY 2: Projecting the best players available

And if that wasn’t enough, they’re missing a fourth-round pick but have an extra sixth-rounder because of their trade for tight end Dwayne Allen. They’re missing a fifth-round pick because they gave that up as compensation to the Bills for signing restricted free agent running back Mike Gillislie. That signing now allows them to take their own free-agent back LeGarrette Blount — or leave him.

It’s not unfair. It only seems that way.

Yet there’s one more name the Patriots have to leverage the rest with of the league, one whose presence couldn’t be avoided throughout free-agency and draft season: quarterback Jimmy Garoppollo. The first round of 2017 came and went without any team biting on him in a trade.

But after the whirlwind of Day 1, the Browns and Bills both have two first-round picks in 2018. If at least one first-rounder is still the price for Garoppollo, they both can pay it, though the Pats have reportedly already rebuffed an inquiry from the Browns.

That’s a lot of winning for a team that doesn’t play a game for more than four months, and did not pick a single player Thursday. And, of course, just won the Super Bowl less than three months ago.

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