We’re inching ever closer and closer to the 2021 NFL Draft. The NFL Draft is scheduled to begin on Thursday, April 29th. So with little other NFL news, these weeks have become mock draft season. Once again every NFL analyst is putting out their own version of what he or she believes NFL teams should be doing with their draft picks.
Last week I published version 1.0 of the mock draft here at Full Press Coverage. I’ve run over fifty of these mock drafts for the Patriots in the past few weeks. They are incredibly informative and addictive.
As with any mock draft, having an idea of the players available and potential trades that can be made helps the mock draft process. Fortunately, a fantastic tool is available from our friends at Pro Football Network. The PFN Mock Draft Simulator is a boon to mock drafts.
There are some limitations as there are 350 players available (Bill Belichick has been known to grab an unknown or two) and trades can only include 2021 and 2022 draft picks. No player trades are allowed. Yes, there are other mock draft simulators (such as the PFF Mock Draft Simulator), but I feel the PFN simulator is more accurate.
Another feature is that the simulation will have teams make trade offers throughout the draft. Keep your copy of our pal at Pats Pulpit, Rich Hill’s Draft Trade Value Chart handy. It is an updated version of the Jimmy Jones draft trade value chart. I bookmarked the version over on DraftTek.
Also, the mock draft simulator is free to use as often as possible. There is no paywall and no limited trial required to sign up and enter a credit card.
I am not plugged in or presumptuous enough to try and understand the thinking of all 32 NFL teams. However, observing and studying the Robert Kraft/Bill Belichick pairing of the past two decades gives me an idea of what direction the team could potentially address in the NFL Draft.
Some disclaimers, I feel that one of the drawbacks of the mock draft simulators is the lack of the “quarterback tax” when trying to trade up. To get Atlanta off the number four overall pick with Ohio State quarterback on the board was far too inexpensive (in my opinion). So no trade-ups into the top ten for this mock draft.
Most important is that all mock drafts are wrong. They all deserved to be mocked. No one is going to agree with someone else’s mock draft. Heck, no one is going to agree with the players drafted by Bill Belichick and he is a certified football genius.
Finally, the NFL draft is about drafting for need. Anyone that tells you otherwise is pulling your leg. The Patriots, who long were held up as the standard-bearer of “next best available player” camp, have ALWAYS drafted for need. Every NFL team does it.
So, before getting into Mock Draft Version 1.0, a quick look at the team needs for the Patriots:
- Quarterback: Tom Brady is in Tampa Bay. While I believe Cam Newton is a good enough stop-gap if he stays healthy in 2021, it is long past the time to find a long term answer.
- Wide receiver: Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne help, but with the release (and likely retirement) of Julian Edelman, this need may be stronger. Is N’Keal Harry’s breakout year 2021? I doubt it. Do not get me started on how Josh McDaniels has no idea how to maximize Harry in this offensive system.
- Inside Linebacker: Last year showed how desperate the need is here. Run-support, youth, athleticism, game-changing speed, and coverage skills are all needed.
- Defensive tackle: Depth is an issue here, as it was last year. A pass rushing interior rusher is a need with Adam Butler signing to play in Miami.
- Cornerback: Still no word on if Jason McCourty will be back. Right now, neither Stephon Gilmore nor J.C. Jackson is under contract in 2022.
- Safety: Patrick Chung is retired and Devin McCourty is nearing the end. A developmental free safety should be on the agenda for the draft.
- Interior Offensive line: Ted Karras is back for a one-year contract only. Depth is in short supply with this unit.
- Offensive tackle: Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn are set as the starting tackles for 2021, but what about next year?
OK, enough preamble. Let’s get to the New England Patriots 2021 NFL Mock Draft version 2.0:
#15 DeVonta Smith – WR – Alabama
No surprise at the top of the draft with quarterbacks going one through four. Chicago traded up to number 14 overall to grab Mac Jones (don’t worry, I was not wasting an early first round pick on Jones).
The top cornerback (Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn) were long gone at eight and nine. Wide receivers Jaylen Waddle (ten to Dallas? Dallas needs defense!) and Ja’Marr Chase to the Lions at seven are off the board and Kyle Pitts went to the Bengals at five overall.
Three offensive linemen were gone at this point with Penei Sewell going to Miami at six overall, Rashawn Slater to the Eagles at 12 overall, and Christian Darrisaw to the Chargers at 13. Micah Parsons, the versatile linebacker from Penn State, went to the Giants at 11 overall.
Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith was still on the board and the trade offers were rolling in.Three trade offers were received from Arizona, the Giants, and Baltimore. Baltimore and New York included 2022 second round draft picks. Arizona likely wants Smith to pair with D’Andre Hopkins and A.J. Green. Their offer is to jump up one spot from 16 to 15 with a sweetener turning pick 96 in the third round into pick 49 of the second round.
Moving up 47 spots from third round to second round was a tempting offer, but DeVonta Smith was enticing as well. Wide receiver is a position of need and the polished and productive Smith is the smaller, smarter wide receiver who fits the New England offensive system perfectly. He did not run the 40 yard dash or the three cone drill (all pro day statistics are from Dane Brugler’s “The Beast” NFL Draft Guide at the Athletic)
Smith can step in for Edelman in the slot and his instincts and awareness should allow him to quickly become an impact player. His size may scare off teams, but his route-running and separation skills make this choice a slam dunk. He is smaller but tough and runs the entire route tree.
#46 Alex Leatherwood – T – Alabama
There are many quality options in the second round for the Patriots. First, the trade offers. Indianapolis offered the 54 overall pick and a 2022 third-round pick for this pick and a seventh round pick. Tampa Bay offered the 56 overall pick and a 2022 second-round draft pick for this pick and 120 overall. Neither of these offers were very enticing.
This draft is very deep in the 50 to 150 range. There are a ton of prospects, and with limited games played in 2020 and players opting out, teams are going to have wildly varying grades on these players. Draft boards for different teams could be all over the place in the second through fifth rounds.
.A lot of quality players to choose from here. UCF safety Richie Grant, Miami (FL) edge rusher Jaelan Phillips, Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike, North Carolina running back Javonte Williams and Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney.
Going one-two with Smith and Toney was tempting. Talk about a jolt to the passing game. A running back would help add depth and a big body in the middle of the defense is needed. However, with Leatherwood on the board at a position of need and potential versatility, he has to be the pick.
A lot of analysts have a first round grade on Leatherwood, who manned left tackle in Tuscaloosa for the last two years. He also played at guard as a sophomore. He can step in at guard or be tackle depth for 2022. He should not be on the board at 46 overall. Two Alabama players drop, and the Patriots pounce.
#96 Traded to Tennessee for pick 100 and 166
Once again, the trade offers are raining in. The Bengals offered pick 111 and a 2022 fourth-round draft pick for this pick and 197 overall. Nope. Tennessee was trying to move up four spots from 100 and offered 166 overall in exchange for this pick and a seventh round pick (242 overall). I countered with the seventh round pick not included and it was accepted.
Tennessee needed a tight end since some team poached Jonnu Smith this offseason. They used the pick on Notre Dame tight end Tommy Tremble.
#100 Paulson Adebo – CB – Stanford
Houston and Nick Caserio offered the pick 109 and a 2022 sixth-round pick for this pick. Take that offer and shove it, Nick. Atlanta had an intriguing offer of picks 108 and 148 for this pick and a 2022 sixth-round pick. I’m not keen on trading away future picks. A counter-offer of this pick and 177 for 108, 148 and 187 was made and declined.
There were a lot of options on the board at this point. Safeties Jamar Johnson (Indiana), Ar’Darius Washington (TCU) and Talanoa Hufanga (USC) were intriguing. Linebackers Cameron McGrone (Michigan) and Chazz Surratt (North Carolina) fill a need.
Wide receivers D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan), Tutu Atwell (Louisville) and Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State) are on the board. Running back Kenneth Gainwell (Memphis) could be an interesting fit as a high upside player. However, the pick here is cornerback Adebo.
Not a household name, Adebo did not play last year opting out due to the pandemic. However, his tape is impressive as he is tall (six-foot-one) with great length and 4.44 speed in the 40-yard dash. Do not worry, Patriots fans, he had an impressive 6.69 on the three cone drill.
He is a bit of a projection as he opted-out, but he has great ball skills at the point of the catch (always something the Patriots like with their cornerbacks). Most importantly, he has played zone and press-man and that versatility bodes well for anyone coming into the Patriots’ defensive system.
#120 Tutu Atwell – WR – Louisville
In mock draft 1.0 last week, I grabbed Florida tackle Stone Forsythe. He is on the board again but I have to stray. There are four skill position players that are just too intriguing to pass on.
Ohio State running back Trey Sermon, Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Houston wide receiver Marquez Stevenson and Atwell are all available. Sermon is a plug-and-play NFL running back, Smith-Marsette is a project with NFL size and speed, and Stevenson is a game-breaker vertical threat at receiver.
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However, Atwell is a gadget guy who can impact defenses. He is small at just five-foot-eight and 155 pounds, but he is a playmaker. He has 4.35 speed in the 40 and a 6.87 three cone drill. He will take the top off of defenses and can keep a safety and corner occupied every time he is on the field.
The Patriots desperately need athleticism and speed, and Atewell (jet sweeps, screens, go routes) fits the bill perfectly without having to use a high draft pick.
#122 Stone Forsythe – RT – Florida
After holding my breath for one pick (Las Vegas goes for a running back taking Sermon? You know what, that is so Jon Gruden), Forsythe is still on the board.
New England has a need for a developmental prospect at tackle with Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn both on short-term contracts. Wynn should be the left tackle for the future, but his string of injuries has made it difficult to count on him. Brown is in on a one-year deal, so there is no guarantee he comes back next year.
Forsythe is a developmental project for the right tackle position (although he played on the left side at Florida). He has size (six-foot-eight and 307 lbs) but needs to refine his technique with hands and feet and can use a year at what used to be called “Camp Scar”. Dante Scarnecchia is retired, but his protegees Carmen Bricillo and Cole Popovich were outstanding last season getting this line to be a strength despite opt outs and injuries.
Forsythe is a pro-level pass protector but drops due to his lack of leverage and power while run blocking. He needs a year of conditioning and getting that tough love coaching, but Forsythe has the potential to be a starter down the road.
#139 Ambry Thomas – CB – Michigan
In my mock draft 1.0 I grabbed Georgia linebacker Monty Rice at this pick. However, at 122 overall I had Ambry Thomas, the Michigan cornerback. Thomas is still available at 139 overall and this makes him a value pick a dozen spots later.
That said, there are still a number of interesting players besides Thomas and Rice on the board that deserve to be looked at.
On the offensive line, tackles Adrian Ealy (Oklahoma) and Jaylon Moore (W. Michigan) are available, as is guard Aaron Banks (Notre Dame). Having already drafted two wide receivers, it may not be worth mentioning, but wide receivers Anthony Schwartz (Auburn) and Demetric Felton (UCLA) are on the board as well.
In the defensive backfield, safety Divine Deablo (Virginia Tech), cornerback/safety Shaun Wade (Ohio State) and cornerback DJ Daniel (Georgia) are also available. That said, I stuck with Thomas.
Thomas is another one of the many college players who opted out of the 2020 season. I like Thomas’ fit for the Patriots as he is press-man cornerback who likes to get his hands on the receiver. He should fit right in with J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore with that profile.
Thomas is not a big corner, so his future may be inside as a nickel cornerback. Jonathan Jones is also in his final contract season in 2021, so there may be a need to develop a cornerback to kick inside.
Thomas is athletic (no three cone drill run at his pro day, sorry) is also a special teams contributor and played some wide receiver and returned kicks as a true freshman.
#162 Marvin Wilson – NT – Florida St.
The trade offers dried up by the end of the fourth round, which is normal. Again, this deep wide receiver draft had a pair of intriguing prospects available at the position with this pick (Cade Johnson from South Dakota St. and Sage Surratt from Wake Forest). Teams taking the best player available without regard of position would end up with nothing except wide receivers this season.
Again, interesting players at positions that could be a need. On the interior offensive line, Penn State center Michael Menet and Georgia center Trey Hill were available along with Grambling State guard David Moore and Notre Dame guard Robert Hainsey. In the secondary, Pitt safety Damar Hamlin was available along with Michigan State cornerback Shakur Brown.
However, the fifth round is when teams look for players who may have a pro body or athleticism but slid down the draft board due to injuries or off-the-field reasons (or the opposite, players who outperformed their athletic traits). With Marvin Wilson, the Patriots can pick up a player with an NFL body and athleticism at the nose who dropped due to injury.
At six-foot-four and 303 lbs, Wilson is a big and strong player who projects at the nose in the New England 3-4 front. Wilson never seemed to meet the high expectations at Florida State after being a highly touted coming out of high school.
Wilson broke his thumb to end his impressive Junior season four games early. Even missing the last four games, he was selected First Team All ACC. Last year his season ended early due to a leg injury requiring surgery. Getting Wilson in the strength and conditioning program and having a role model like Lawrence Guy could give the Patriots a fifth-round steal.
#177 Chauncey Golston – DE/DT – Iowa
Golston is a big end who is a bit of a tweener but a good fit as an end for the New England 3-4 front. Golston was First Team All-Big Ten as a senior. He has long arms and wingspan. His hustle stands out on the game tape. At the Senior Bowl, he played on the interior of the line and was a standout in practice and in the game.
Golston’s versatility is a plus, but he is a player with lesser athleticism who outperformed expectations. He can contribute on special teams (long arms to block kicks) and the coaches will love his attitude and work ethic. Also, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is a certified FOB (Friend of Bill) and was his offensive line coach in Cleveland.
#188 Jaret Patterson – RB – Buffalo
Small school players can be a big surprise as no one knows how they will react against higher quality competition. Buffalo’s Jaret Patterson is fun because he absolutely destroyed MAC competition. Patterson is just five-foot-six and low to the ground but only 195 lbs.
He is small, not a power back, or even a burner. He does have quick feet and always falls forward on contact. His statistics are insane (409 yards rushing in a game. Eight rushing touchdowns in a game) but for a sixth-round back, he adds depth at a position that has had injuries the past few years.
#197 Tariq Thompson – S – San Diego State
Having drafted two cornerbacks already, it may seem excessive going back to the secondary. However, Patrick Chung retired, Devin McCourty is on the wrong side of 30 and Adrian Phillips is in the last year of his contract. There is potentially a need to develop a young player for the back-end of the defense.
Thompson is available here in the sixth round because he lacks eye-popping speed and athleticism. However, everything in everyone’s scouting reports on him pegs him as a Belichick type player: “leader”, “intelligent”, “heads-up”, “physical”, “wraps up”, “limits penalties”, and “overachiever”.
Middle Tennessee guard Robert Jones and Pitt center Jimmy Morrissey were both available and the interior offensive line was definitely an option as the position is a need for the team. North Carolina wide receiver Dazz Newsome was taken two picks earlier, otherwise he may have been the pick. Did not need to draft a third wide receiver, but was kicking myself a little for not trying to trade up for him.
#242 K.J. Britt – LB – Auburn
Nine times out of ten, this pick gets packaged as I move up and down the draft board during the mock draft. I resisted trading down in the first two rounds as there was too much value available on the board.
At this point, I know I whiffed on adding a linebacker and fortunately there was one linebacker left in Britt who projects as a solid depth piece fitting nicely at middle linebacker in the New England defense. Britt drops in the draft due to being buried in the depth chart at Auburn his first two seasons and a thumb injury limiting him to just four games last year.
Britt is not overly athletic and a little undersized (six-foot-one and 235 lbs), but he is thumper and instinctive. He is not great in coverage but is solid against the run. He is tough and would be able to assist on special teams while adding some additional size in the weight room.
The only hesitation in grabbing Britt was once again another wide receiver from this deep group. Georgia Tech’s athletic but raw Jalen Camp was sitting there tempting me to grab a third wide receiver in this draft.
Quarterback: As usual, the quarterback position gets overvalued and the Patriots had no realistic chance to get one of the top quarterbacks with five gone in the first 14 picks. Davis Mills went off the board at 70 overall and Kellen Mond was gone at 85 overall. Kyle Trask was an option at 100 but he may not be an upgrade from Jarrett Stidham.
Wide receiver: Having DeVonta Smith available at 15 overall is a gift. Adding the versatile and explosive Tutu Atwell gives the position a shot of athleticism.
Inside Linebacker: K.J. Britt is a decent backup for the future, but the position will need to be addressed soon. Maybe one should have been picked in the sixth round instead of an Edge rusher (not a huge need) but Chauncey Golston has good size and positional flexibility.
Defensive tackle: Marvin Wilson makes for an intriguing development piece for a position of need on the nose. Belichick loves a big, immovable object.
Cornerback: Doubling up at the position improves the odds of hitting on the position. Both Paulson Adebo and Ambry Thomas project well for the Patriots’ defense.
Safety: Tariq Thompson may just be a special teams player, but so is Matthew Slater. This is another position that may need an upgrade soon.
Interior Offensive line: Another position that is probably fine for 2021 but needs to be addressed in the future. Fortunately, it is possible to hit on an undrafted free agent at guard and center so the Patriots can bring in some players they like through that process.
Offensive tackle: Having Alex Leatherwood drop to the middle of the second round is not likely when the actual draft happens, but I was happy to scoop him up. Adding a developmental project like Stone Forsythe goes a long way towards keeping this vital position well-stocked.
Mock Draft Grade:
It does not really matter what my own grade is for my mock draft. What did you the reader think? Feel free to reach out and tell me where I screwed the mock up on Twitter @HalBent01. Or let me know about your mock draft. Or tell me you agree with adding an edge rusher even though it is not a big need. Or tell me if you think running back should be a need in the draft and I dropped the ball not identifying one.
I would give my pinch-hitting for Bill Belichick in the draft a grade of a B+.
Adding a quarterback would have been great, but trading up was cost-prohibitive and the mid-tier quarterbacks went earlier than their actual value as well. Having two strong Alabama players drop in the first and second round made this one of the better mock drafts. It seems very unlikely both players would actually be there for the Patriots, but anything is possible.
–Hal Bent is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @halbent01
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