Patriots: Yasir Durant trade adds depth and versatility to offensive line

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - FEBRUARY 26: Yasir Durant #OL15 of Missouri interviews during the second day of the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 26, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - FEBRUARY 26: Yasir Durant #OL15 of Missouri interviews during the second day of the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 26, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots made a minor trade for Yasir Durant, acquiring some additional muscle for the O-line. 

In the midst of roster cuts, at least one player went the other way, as the New England Patriots traded a seventh-round draft pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for offensive lineman Yasir Durant. That seems like a bit of an oddball move at roster cutdown time, given that there are certain to be many offensive linemen available for the taking on the waiver wire.

Durant is a 6-foot-6, 331-pound offensive lineman who has played both guard and tackle, with experience on both the left and right side of the line. He looks like he might fit in well with the Patriots other big men like Trent Brown, who comes in at 6-foot-8 and 380 pounds at right tackle as well as second year man Michael Onwenu, who is listed at a trim 6-foot-3 and 350 pounds.

Part of the theme of the 2021 Patriots is not to baffle anyone, but to come right at their opponents and overpower them at the line while pounding them with a cadre of running backs. It’s not very mysterious. Durant will fit right in.

The 23-year-old was a junior college transfer who played in the SEC with the Missouri Tigers for his last two years in college. At Mizzou, he played left tackle and was outstanding.

In 2018, by Pro Football Focus‘ estimation, Durant allowed just eight pressures, the fewest of any SEC offensive tackle while protecting Drew Lock.

After signing as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs, he split time between right guard and tackle with them last season.

However, Durant was not a star in 2020. He was thrust onto the scene when the Chiefs’ iron man right tackle Mitchell Schwartz went down with injuries and replacement Mike Remmers also got banged up. Durant did not play particularly well, but he did receive 91 snaps in regular-season games. He also played a few snaps in the playoffs and the Super Bowl on special teams.

Will he make an immediate impact with the Patriots? Probably not. There’s really no room for him. But wouldn’t you rather have a player of Durant’s versatility and potential over a seventh-round pick in next year’s draft?

What’s a seventh-round pick actually worth anyway? Analytics experts differ as to the value of a it, although in recent years the trend has been to devalue the seventh round. The reason is that it’s so close to the unlimited pool of undrafted free agents who may be signed and cut much more freely, and thus are much better to manage.

In fact, there’s legitimate belief that seventh-round picks have negative value. As a thought experiment, which would you rather have? In one case, you can draft a player in the seventh round, indoctrinate him into the Patriot Way, and give him all the instruction possible for the entire spring and summer. Alternatively, you can sign an undrafted free agent, and if you do not like him, you can wait until the end of August and choose another player on waiver wire after watching film from preseason games around the NFL. And if you don’t like that player, you can cut him and take a replacement player at any time. Which is better?

In theory, the team is just as free to cut the seventh-round pick as a UDFA, but psychologically teams are committed to them because they were once considered an “asset” and they wind up occupying a valuable roster spot that they usually don’t deserve. Hence, most of the time, the seventh-round pick actually has negative value unless the general manager is totally immune to the need to save face, which history suggests is not true.

Bill Belichick, though his best drafting comes in the later rounds, doesn’t necessarily need seventh-rounders because of the tremendous job he does on the undrafted free agent market. The Patriots have signed an undrafted free agent to their 53-man roster in 12 straight seasons. Unreal.

That’s why the Patriots will not miss a seventh-round pick very much. A free roster spot is worth about as much, if not more. On top of that, Durant offers flexibility on the offensive line and appears to be someone who will get better in the next two or three seasons. He can help the team considering he will be receiving the best tutelage out there. Another win-win for Belichick.