Coming off of the back of the worst season of the Bill Belichick era, the New England Patriots were uncharacteristically flashy in free agency. However, with a whole host of questions remaining unanswered — most notably at the quarterback position — will the Patriots get equally creative in the draft? We hand out grades for every one of the Patriots’ 2021 NFL Draft picks.
Patriots draft picks in 2021
- 15th Overall Selection (R1-P15): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
- 38th Overall Selection (R2-P6, from Cincinnati): Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
- 96th Overall Selection (R3-P33, Compensatory selection): Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma
- 120th Overall Selection (R4-P15): Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma
- 177th Overall Selection (R5-P33), Compensatory selection): Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan
- 188th Overall Selection (R6-P4, from Houston): Joshuah Bledsoe, S, Missouri
- 197th Overall Selection (R6-P13): William Sherman, OG, Colorado
- 242nd Overall Selection (R7-P14): Tre Nixon, WR, UCF
Who did the Patriots draft on Day 1?
With the 15th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.
New England Patriots grades for 2021 NFL Draft
The biggest need coming into the 2021 NFL Draft for the Patriots was quarterback, and they land their face of the franchise without having to use any of their picks to trade up.
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
For many, landing a national championship-winning quarterback who threw 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns would earn the Patriots a high grade for their pick.
In many respects, Jones fits a winning formula that the Patriots have used for years. As a pro-style pocket passer with limited athletic ability, there is more than a passing resemblance between former New England quarterback Tom Brady and their new signal-caller.
However, Jones’s limited out-of-the-pocket mobility is concerning for an offense currently operated by Cam Newton. Furthermore, his inability to drive the ball consistently down the field had even Bill Belichick shaking his head during Alabama’s Pro Day. Jones ranked as the 25th overall prospect on Tony Pauline’s big board, representing a reach at 15.
Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
Considered a potential first-round pick, the New England Patriots move up in a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals to secure Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore. Having been run all over in 2020, the Patriots desperately need to strengthen their defensive line.
Despite adding some pieces in free agency, Barmore meets a considerable need. Although he received some pre-draft criticism, anyone who witnessed Barmore’s display in the national championship game knows that he can make plays. Explosive and agile, Barmore could use to add some bulk to his frame.
Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma
For me, this represents an absolute steal for the Patriots with the 96th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Ronnie Perkins was one of my highest graded pass rushers.
There’s a reason why he has savage incorporated into his Twitter handle. He’s one of the most explosive players in the class, he’s strong, gets after the quarterback, and plays strong against the run. Some concerns arising from a suspension have likely caused a slide to the third round, but the Patriots land a gem here.
Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma
Purely a between-the-tackles running back, Rhamondre Stevenson is big, strong, and has the ability to break a tackle. However, he tested abysmally and has a potentially limited role in a running back room led by Damien Harris and Sony Michel.
Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan
The Patriots continue to upgrade last season’s below-par defense with Michigan linebacker Cameron McGrone. He should ultimately line up alongside Dont’a Hightower in the heart of the linebacker unit. Extremely strong against the run, he also shows good coverage skills despite a lack of statistical production. He’s a steal in the back of the fifth round.
Joshuah Bledsoe, S, Missouri
Joshuah Bledsoe joins Missouri teammate Tyree Gillespie as being the first Tigers defensive backs drafted to the NFL since 2014. The Missouri safety has decent ball skills and fits the Patriots’ mold of also adding special teams versatility. He joins a crowded New England safety room.
Wiliam Sherman, OG, Colorado
From the same school as former Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder, William Sherman has been a three-year starter for the Buffaloes. He offers versatility as well as experience, having played left and right tackle following a high-school career at guard. His measurables suggest he will play guard in the NFL, yet he could be a backup across the offensive line. Good value pick in the sixth round.
Tre Nixon, WR, UCF
The Patriots wait until the seventh round to add further pieces to their wide receiver room. Although they made some moves at the position in free agency, it’s still a surprise to see them wait until this late in the day. Tre Nixon is a former Ole Miss pass catcher that found success with a transfer to UCF. Has the ability to turn underneath passes into big plays, something that will be extremely valuable in an offense led by Mac Jones. I like this pick.
New England Patriots Overall Grade: B+
The New England Patriots had a really good week in Cleveland. Landing Christian Barmore, Ronnie Perkins, and Cameron McGrone were the real highlights as far as I’m concerned. Those picks alone should be enough to overhaul the defense.
Waiting to draft a receiver until the seventh round was questionable, and I’m not sold on the selection of Rhamondre Stevenson. The Patriots land their quarterback of the future in Mac Jones, although with Justin Fields in striking distance they could have done so much better.
Team needs for New England coming into the NFL Draft
After a surprising free agency, where are the biggest holes on the Patriots’ roster?
Although the Patriots re-signed Newton to a one-year deal, it’s clear that the future face of the franchise isn’t on the current roster. It wouldn’t be a shock at all to see New England trade up to secure Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Jones, depending on which one slides past Atlanta at pick four.
New England hasn’t made a success of drafting wide receivers in recent years. However, they desperately need to upgrade a unit that lost longtime stalwart Julian Edelman in the spring. Ignore the pass-catching additions in free agency, and this is very much still a position of dire need.
The long-term future of both Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson remains unclear, with talks of a potential trade of Gilmore still floating about. Finding a replacement for one and potentially both is a priority in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The addition of Matthew Judon and the return of Kyle Van Noy were both nice free agency moves for a defense that failed to meet expectations last season. Yet, the Patriots need to utilize one of their 2021 NFL Draft picks on an inside linebacker to play alongside Dont’a Hightower.
The Patriots added several defensive linemen in free agency but expect them to strike for a defensive tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft. The defensive line was extremely porous against the run last season and must be upgraded.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.