The 2020 NFL season marked the end of an era for the New England Patriots. After Tom Brady departed for Tampa Bay, they failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Furthermore, their 7-9 record was the worst since Bill Belichick’s first season in Foxborough. Change is clearly needed next season to see a different result. That starts with the 2021 NFL Draft. In this Patriots 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, they address issues on both sides of the ball.
Patriots Pre-Senior Bowl 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft
- Round 1, Pick 15: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
- Round 2, Pick 46: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
- Round 4, Pick 110: Marvin Wilson, DT, FSU
- Round 5, Pick 141: Amen Ogbongbemiga, LB, Oklahoma State
- Round 6, Pick 170: Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State
- Round 6, Pick 172: Ar’Darius Washington, S, TCU
- Round 7, Pick 205: Tarron Jackson, EDGE, Coastal Carolina
Patriots 2021 NFL Mock Draft pick-by-pick analysis
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
How many times in Tom Brady’s tenure with the Patriots did we hear about his lack of supporting cast? Although Brady lacked a dominant WR1, he could consistently rely on Julian Edelman or Rob Gronkowski.
With Edelman injured for most of this season, Cam Newton was left with a woeful array of wide receiver weaponry. As a result, the Patriots struggled to their worst offensive performance since the early 1990s. Despite having the fourth-best rushing attack in the NFL, they ranked 27th for offensive points and offensive yards. Although Jakobi Meyers impressed, former first-round pick N’Keal Harry once again failed to live up to expectations.
Harry joins a long list of wide receivers drafted by New England that hasn’t produced in the NFL. However, in this Patriots 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, they hit a home run with Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
DeVonta Smith solves New England Patriots wide receiver woes
Smith, the first Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver since 1991, has been electric for Alabama this year. Smith led the nation in receiving yards in 2020. Smith leaves the Crimson Tide having secured the most career touchdowns in SEC history. He received the 2020 Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in the nation due to his performances this year.
It may seem ludicrous that a player of Smith’s ability should be available with the Patriots’ first-round pick. However, justifiable questions regarding Smith’s slender frame could see him fall into the middle of the first round. Stranger things have happened than a former Biletnikoff Award winner slipping to the mid-point of the first round. Just ask Smith’s former Alabama teammate Jerry Jeudy who dropped to the middle of the first round in 2020.
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Although wide receiver is a position of importance for the Patriots in this 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, QB comes first. Their hole at quarterback is, without a doubt, the biggest area of need.
Despite some early-season excitement over Cam Newton, it was apparent later that he isn’t the answer. The Patriots passing game ranked 30th for passing yards per game. They scored a passing touchdown on a miserly 2.7 percent of passing plays, ranking 31st in the league.
Although they drafted Jarrett Stidham in 2019, it’s clear that the Patriots need to find a quarterback this year. Unfortunately, they find themselves picking too late to be in play for one of the “top four” options.
It would be unlike Belichick to trade up to snag a new signal-caller. However, in the second round, they could find themselves in a position to recreate part of college football’s most potent offenses, pairing Smith and Jones in New England.
Record-setting performances elevate Mac Jones’ 2021 NFL Draft stock
Mac Jones became the first Alabama quarterback to win the Davey O’Brien Award for the nation’s best quarterback after a record-setting 2020 campaign. It’s a remarkable accomplishment given that he won the award over the presumptive number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence. Despite fears that the Alabama offense would regress without Tua Tagovailoa, it has been greatly improved. As a result, Jones is receiving serious NFL Draft buzz.
Much will depend on what happens with free agency as to where Jones falls. However, a mid-second round selection — as is the case in this Patriots 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft — is a realistic expectation of his draft position. It’s worth remembering that he has only one year of starting experience in college for all the records and obvious talent. As with any young quarterback, there are areas of his game that need improvement.
Reuniting Smith and Jones in the NFL would be a mouth-watering prospect for Patriots’ fans.
Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
While some have elevated their value entering the NFL Draft, FSU defensive tackle Marvin Wilson has seen his value plummet. He was nearly a guaranteed first-round prospect and even considered a top-10 pick before the season. Just six months later, some analysts even think Wilson as a fourth-round selection is too early.
There’s no denying that Wilson had his struggles in 2020. There were few signs of the dominance that he previously displayed. Although Notre Dame had one of the nation’s best offensive lines, Wilson’s performance against them was particularly poor. Meanwhile, a season-ending leg injury throws up a red flag against his stock, as does a needless ejection against Miami.
However, on the positive side of things, Wilson still possesses desirable qualities that can translate to the NFL. He is a physical specimen, and his strength allows him to be a force at the line of scrimmage. If he can find his earlier career form and combine his physicality with an improved technique, he can plug into the heart of a Patriots defensive line that has been quite inefficient against the run. The Patriots ranked 26th in run defense last season.
Amen Ogbongbemiga, LB, Oklahoma State
Although the Patriots’ offense came under fire in 2020, their defense was also a shell of its former self. They may have been relatively successful against the pass — ranking 8th in passing yards allowed, 11th in yards after the catch allowed, 6th in passing touchdowns allowed — but struggled against the run. The defense also failed to convert pressure into defensive production consistently.
That was particularly true for the linebacking group. Although they selected Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings in last year’s draft, they have multiple pending free agents at the position. Adding a playmaking linebacker in this Patriots 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft just makes too much sense. So, in the fifth round, they select Oklahoma State’s Amen Ogbongbemiga.
Ogbongbemiga contributed 15.5 tackles for loss and five sacks to the Oklahoma State defense in 2019. Their defense was one of the better units in the Big 12 this season. In doing so, Ogbongbemiga added three forced fumbles, five tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks to his resume. That level of production will be invaluable to the Patriots’ defense.
Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State
A poor 2020 class hampered the quest to find a Rob Gronkowski replacement at the tight end position. Although the Patriots selected Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene last year, they could add another tight end in 2021.
Jeremy Ruckert might not be a household name due to limited use in the Ohio State system. However, he can be a productive tight end if utilized in the right scheme. Ruckert has just 27 receptions during his time with the Buckeyes and nine touchdown catches. Not many pass catchers can boast a one-to-three touchdown-to-reception ratio. For an offense that’s lacked production, Ruckert is a valuable selection in this Patriots 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
Ar’Darius Washington, S, Texas Christian University
Despite drafting Kyle Dugger last year, the Patriots add another safety in this 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft. Devin McCourty isn’t getting any younger. And three of the safeties on the current roster are set to hit free agency this spring.
Ar’Darius Washington is an athletic, playmaking safety who makes up for a lack of size with might. In 2019, he snagged five interceptions. Washington also has six career pass deflections during his time at TCU. However, at 5’8″ and 178 pounds, his size is really going to impact his NFL Draft stock. As such, he could represent something of a bargain in the sixth round.
Tarron Jackson, EDGE, Coastal Carolina
The Patriots lacked defensive production in 2020, but one man who didn’t is Coastal Carolina EDGE Tarron Jackson. The 6’2″, 260-pound defender racked up 14 tackles for loss with 8.5 sacks in a dominant 2020 campaign. Jackson’s performances earned him the 2020 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Jackson also brings positional versatility having played inside as well as outside during his time with the Chanticleers. That would be particularly beneficial in a Patriots offense that likes to use their personnel in many different ways.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a contributor for Pro Football Network, focusing on NFL Draft, general NFL, and NFL fantasy football. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.