Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots went bananas at the start of free agency and were throwing money around like their direct deposit just hit. With all their signings and re-signings, New England did address a number of holes throughout its roster, which has now taken a bit of the pressure off of the 2021 NFL Draft as the Patriots filled a wide array of their most pressing needs. That said, they do have 10 picks at their disposal and now have the flexibility to move all along the draft board. Which way will they go? Who could they be targeting and could a quarterback be available to them at No. 15?
Below, you'll find one stab at how the Patriots' 2021 draft may go from the first round to the last (h/t The Draft Network's mock draft machine).
|Round (Overall Pick)||Prospect||College|
OB Mac Jones
LB Zaven Collins
CB Keith Taylor Jr.
IOL Aaron Banks
IDL Tyler Shelvin
WR Seth Williams
CB Bryce Thompson
WR Shi Smith
S Damar Hamlin
OT Landon Young
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New England's biggest splash comes in the first round by selecting Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. The club was able to re-sign Cam Newton earlier this offseason, but given that he only inked a one-year deal it seems like the Patriots are very much still in the quarterback market.
While Jones was available at No. 15 in this mock, where he may ultimately come off the board differs depending on whom you ask. Some believe he could make it to the Patriots at their current draft position while others -- like CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Ryan Wilson -- have been bullish on Jones' ability and could see him being drafted as high as No. 3 to the San Francisco 49ers. Speaking of the Niners, the Patriots could also address their QB need by swinging for the fences in a draft-day deal that nets them Jimmy Garoppolo, but for the purposes of this mock, San Fran went with Ohio State's Justin Fields and Jones was there to be had for New England, giving them a QB to build around for the future.
Outside of the first round, the Patriots were pleasantly surprised to find Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins -- who is pegged as a potential first-rounder -- still on the board in the second. New England did land linebacker Matthew Judon at the start of free agency, but adding more youth to this position could prove to be beneficial for the club, especially with longtime linebacker Dont'a Hightower set to enter the final year of his deal in 2021. No matter if it's Collins or some other prospects, it'd behoove the Patriots to get out in front of this need by injecting more talented young players to grow and develop alongside Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings.
Cornerback is also an underrated need for the Patriots when considering Stephon Gilmore has just one more year left on his deal and J.C. Jackson currently has a second-round tender placed on him. That's why in this mock we see New England target Washington's Keith Taylor Jr. and Bryce Thompson out of Tennessee in the third and fifth round, respectively. Both provide the opportunity to add depth in 2021 while also developing them for even bigger roles going forward. As for the rest of the draft, the Patriots pick up a couple of big bodies in interior offensive lineman Aaron Banks out of Notre Dame and LSU defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin. Both give the Patriots young pieces to a position that either has players on one-year deals or are in need of an injection of youth.
We would have liked to have added wide receivers earlier in the draft, but Auburn's Seth Williams (strengths: size, ball skills) and Shi Smith (strengths: explosive, speed) out of South Carolina do pose some solid upside. Williams could look to become what 2019 first-round pick N'Keal Harry has struggled to become throughout his tenure in Foxborough: a reliable, physical pass-catcher. Meanwhile, Smith has all the makings of a future slot receiver, which is a position of great value in New England.