The 2021 NFL Draft was the most important Patriots draft in recent memory. The Patriots not only needed to find themselves a potential franchise quarterback, but they also needed to rectify some of their past draft mistakes. New England, as admitted by Owner Robert Kraft, has had their fair share of draft struggles the last few years. Because the Patriots filled a lot of their immediate needs in free agency, the 2021 Patriots draft was all about finding a future quarterback and adding good young talent, regardless of position.
Now that the draft is over, it’s time to sit down and review the New England Patriots 2021 Draft Class. I’ll be giving the Patriots a draft grade, picking my favorite and least favorite selections, sharing my biggest surprise of their draft, and more. Without further ado, let’s hop into it!
New England Patriots 2021 Draft Class
Round 1, Pick 15: QB Mac Jones, Alabama
Round 2, Pick 38: DT Christian Barmore, Alabama
Round 3, Pick 96: EDGE Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma
Round 4, Pick 120: RB Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma
Round 5, Pick 177: LB Cameron McGrone, Michigan
Round 6, Pick 188: S Joshuah Bledsoe, Missouri
Round 6, Pick 197: OT Will Sherman, Colorado
Round 7, Pick 242: WR Tre Nixon, UCF
After all the speculation around trading up for Justin Fields, the Patriots sat at 15 and selected Mac Jones. I would have preferred a trade-up for Fields, but it seems the Patriots preferred Jones all along and didn’t have to trade up, so it’s hard to ding the grade too much. Plus, I think Jones has a good chance to succeed in New England. It’s just a very nice fit for both sides.
Christian Barmore and Ronnie Perkins were excellent picks on day two. Barmore required a bit of a trade-up, but in a year in which New England had limited open roster spots, the trade-up was worth it. Barmore was a first-round talent available in the second round. As for Perkins, his value was too good to pass up. New England didn’t necessarily need another edge defender, but many thought Perkins was a second-round talent. It seems New England was just going best player available, which is a strategy I can get behind.
Day three of the draft saw the Patriots get another steal in Cameron McGrone. McGrone is an athletic linebacker prospect, and he’s only 20 years old. He’ll need to develop and recover from injury but New England got a good one. Rhamondre Stevenson gives the Patriots a big running back that can add value in the running game and the passing game. The last three picks, Joshuah Bledsoe, Will Sherman, and Tre Nixon, give the Patriots some developmental prospects.
Overall, the Patriots had a very nice draft. I thought they got good value at most of their selections. I’m still not fully sold on picking Jones instead of trading up for Fields, but I can see how Jones would be very appealing for New England. The only thing that docks their grade a bit is the fact New England didn’t add a corner. I also wouldn’t have minded a mid to late-round wide receiver selection (aside from Nixon). However, it’s hard to complain too much as they got a quarterback they like and strengthened their front seven.
Favorite Selection: Christian Barmore
At worst, Barmore is a guy that can fill the Adam Butler role as a pass-rushing interior piece. He’s more talented than Butler though, and his upside is tremendous. Barmore was the top interior defensive lineman in this entire draft class. To get him in the second round is something to be excited about. Barmore needs to be more consistent from game to game, but if anybody can get consistency out of him it’s Bill Belichick. We’re going to look back on this selection as one of the best in this draft if Barmore can reach his full potential and become a three-down interior lineman.
Least Favorite Selection: Joshuah Bledsoe
It’s hard to knock a sixth-round selection, as the talent is running dry, but the Bledsoe pick was my least favorite in this class. I just don’t see Bledsoe making much of an impact on defense and I’m not sure what position he’ll play. However, I do think he can be a nice special teamer. If a sixth-round pick is my least favorite of the class, it shows what a good class this was for New England.
Biggest Potential Steal: Cameron McGrone
This was a hard category because Barmore and Perkins I would both categorize as steals. However, I’m going to go with a later-round prospect in McGrone. McGrone has all the athletic tools to be a great modern-day linebacker, but he’s raw and he may be forced to redshirt 2021 to rehab his torn ACL. The good news is McGrone is young and he’ll be coached by one of the greatest defensive minds in football. If he can get healthy and become more technically sound to match his athletic tools, there is some serious upside with this pick.
Biggest Risk: Mac Jones
Picking a quarterback in the first round is always going to be the biggest risk for any franchise. It’s a well worth risk though, in my opinion. If Jones is a bust it has the potential to set the franchise back a couple of years. However, if he reaches his potential, it gives New England a franchise quarterback for the next decade. No matter how good or bad the rest of the class performs, everyone will always judge the class on how the Jones selection works out. That in itself, naturally, makes this selection risky. Added risk, comes with the decision on if New England should have traded up for Fields instead of sitting back and waiting for Jones. Bottom line, New England needed to address the quarterback position, and they did. Now we wait to find out if they chose correctly.
Biggest Suprise of the Patriots Draft
The biggest surprise of the Patriots draft was easily the fact they didn’t address the cornerback position. Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson are both free agents following the 2021 season and the Patriots tend to keep the position well-stocked through the draft and undrafted free agents. Without drafting a corner, it would seem the play would be to figure out a contract that works for Gilmore and keep him around. Corner could become a sneaky big need next offseason if the Patriots can’t work something out with Gilmore and Jackson.
The Patriots successfully drafted a quarterback they like and they added young talent to the roster. The draft was a success. However, as mentioned before, how we view this class will ultimately be determined by Mac Jones. If Jones is a franchise quarterback, it’s a great class. If Jones is a bust, it’s not a good class. Whether that’s fair or not is up for debate, but barring a hall of fame career from another one of the Patriots draftees, that’s the reality of drafting a quarter in the first round.
For the final note, I want to say I’m very excited to see how this draft class grows and eventually turns out. On paper, this has the potential to be one of the best Patriots draft classes in years.