The New England Patriots entered the final week of the regular season with only two things to play for: ending their disappointing 2020 season on a positive note, and finalizing their draft position. Their 28-14 win over the New York Jets took care of the first, and also of the second.
Due to New England’s victory, and the San Francisco 49ers losing their season finale to the Seattle Seahawks, we now know that the Patriots will hold the 15th overall selection in the NFL’s 2021 draft.
The Patriots originally entered Week 17 in possession of the 14th pick, but the selection was not set in stone. The team could either have moved up the board as high as 10th or fallen back one spot to 15th, depending on the outcome of its own game and other contests around the league. The latter is precisely what happened, with the 49ers jumping ahead of New England despite winning the head-to-head matchup earlier during the season.
The NFL’s draft order, after all, is not quite determined like the playoff picture. Head-to-head contests are not the deciding tiebreaker, but rather strength of schedule followed by division, conference and interconference tiebreakers as well as eventually a coin toss.
While the full order of the first round is not yet set in stone — the final Sunday night game between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles will determine how it looks — we know that the Patriots cannot be moved out of that 15th spot.
New England did therefore end up with a higher selection than it has had in a long time: the organization has not drafted in the teens since picking Nate Solder 17th overall back in 2011, a pick that was acquired as part of the trade that sent Richard Seymour to the then-Oakland Raiders. The Patriots’ 2021 selection will therefore be their highest since 2008, when Jerod Mayo was drafted 10th overall.
Both the Solder and Mayo selections worked out well for the organization, and the hope is that the same happens this year — especially if a quarterback gets picked.