With the 2021 NFL draft rapidly approaching, I decided it was time to come out with my third and final seven-round mock draft. Let’s hope this one turns out to be more accurate than my first, when I had the New England Patriots trade for quarterback Sam Darnold before the draft. Whoops.
The biggest question, of course, still is what the Patriots are going to do at quarterback. Most people want them to trade up in the first round for one of the top players available at the position, but that is a route that I am once again not taking.
TRADE: Patriots trade 1-15, 2-46, and 6-197 to Dallas for 1-10, 3-75, and 2022 6th
The Patriots trade up in the first round without giving up any future first-round picks. Bill Belichick has talked about potentially pouncing if a player they think should go early drops down the board, and that’s exactly what happens here.
1st round, 10th overall (via trade with DAL): OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
I’m sure there are a lot of people wondering how this would be possible. In this scenario, all of the top-five quarterbacks go within the top six selections, with Miami trading back with another QB-needy team (Washington). Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase, and Jaylen Waddle come off the board next with the Denver Broncos then deciding to take Patrick Surtain II at No. 9.
This prompts the Patriots to move up to take a guy that many people believe is one of the best offensive tackle prospects to come out in a few years. The position itself may not seem like a huge need right now, but both starters — Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown — are currently on expiring contracts, so it’s a position that is going to need some help for sure. Sewell would be a long-term solution at offensive tackle.
This might be the greatest OLine clip ever!— John Chapman (@JL_Chapman) April 21, 2021
Penei Sewell is just different. pic.twitter.com/GNihZnzQlc
TRADE: Patriots trade 3-75 to Pittsburgh for 3-87 and 2022 3rd rounder
The Patriots, seeing multiple guys on the board who they like, trade down 12 spots in the third round and pick up an extra third-rounder next year.
3rd round, 87th overall (via trade with PIT): LB Baron Browning, Ohio State
Browning’s Relative Athletic Score is an unreal 9.98, and he has the makings to be a solid linebacker for the Patriots for years to come. The position is another one that might be overlooked a bit right now, but with the uncertainty surrounding Dont’a Hightower’s future — he is 31 years old and entering the last year of his contract — and without any other real options outside of him, Browning would make a ton of sense to be brought onto this team.
#Patriots draft target: Ohio State LB Baron Browning. Outstanding athlete at 6-3, 245 pounds that has Pats-like versatility. Very good play speed.— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) February 24, 2021
Run defense or cover from ILB, blitz from off the line, blitz off the edge. Athletic and powerful enough to play in space or inside. pic.twitter.com/ukYw8SIcQ6
3rd round, 96th overall: S Jamar Johnson, Indiana
Safety is another position that may not be on people’s radars right now, but there is a lot of uncertainty there as well when looking towards the future. Who knows what Devin McCourty’s plans are after 2021, and there is no one else on the team that can take his position if he decides to hang up his cleats.
Johnson is a very good player, meanwhile, who unexpectedly dropped to this point, so the Patriots pounce on the best option available, and hold off on the more pressing needs at quarterback and wide receiver.
The "wow" plays on Jamar Johnson's tape are wild — LOVE the fluid hips/feet.— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) April 16, 2021
( ️: @MattBowen41) pic.twitter.com/0BpUOMPco6
4th round, 120th overall: WR Jaelon Darden, North Texas
The Patriots finally grab a wide receiver, and it’s one with insane agility. The numbers Darden put up at his Pro Day are reminiscent of recently retired Julian Edelman: he had ran a 6.66 3-cone drill, a 3.98 short shuttle, and a 4.46 40-yard dash. Darden might not be the biggest guy, but he has the short-area quickness to be a productive player for New England in the slot.
#Patriots Draft Target Thread: WR #1 Jaelon Darden (North Texas) 5’9” 175lbs.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) February 3, 2021
• Extremely shifty playmaker with major YAC potential.
• Good route runner with a variety of releases.
• Potential to be the #weapon that Josh McDaniels has been looking for. pic.twitter.com/tfN0zULvyk
4th round, 122nd overall: DT Bobby Brown, Texas A&M
Brown is tough to figure out. He put out some fantastic tape, but he also has some very suspect plays as well. He is the type of project the Patriots could use at nose tackle. If they feel confident that they can turn those flashy plays into the norm, they could be getting a steal here in the fourth round.
Texas A&M DL Bobby Brown: strong, fires off the ball, disruptive:— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) April 15, 2021
1st play - split-zone. Brown fires off the ball with low pads, jolts the center right into the lead blocker. Blows it up.
2nd play- feels the guard over him pulling, crosses face to beat puller to spot. pic.twitter.com/5rbhSMdzus
4th round, 139th overall: CB Tre Brown, Oklahoma
Brown was a physical shutdown cornerback in college, and brings a toughness to the game that you don’t often see from cornerbacks. He will most likely transition to the slot at the next level, but given that the Patriots love corners who are willing to play physical at the line of scrimmage his selection in Round 4 makes sense. Brown will certainly fit what the team is looking for in the defensive backfield. A 4.40 40-yard dash and 38” vertical jump won’t hurt either.
Tre Brown (@T_Brown25) vs Oklahoma St WR Tylan Wallace— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) April 7, 2021
2 receptions allowed
46.4 passer rating when targeted pic.twitter.com/EW22ghYvmj
TRADE: Patriots trade 5-177, 7-242, 2022 6th (from Dallas) to Chicago for 5-164
New England moves up the board again. While New England targeted the offensive tackle and linebacker positions with its first two trades, the target this time is a developmental quarterback.
5th round, 164th overall (via CHI): QB Jamie Newman, Georgia
Newman opted out of the 2020 season, and never actually played a snap at Georgia. He came back for the Senior Bowl and looked absolutely terrible. It would be very difficult to justify taking Newman before this point after what you saw out of him at the exhibition game, but with that being said, he put together some solid tape at Wake Forest in 2019. Newman could develop into a decent player with some time and coaching.
The Patriots give up a seventh-round selection and the pick they acquired in the Sewell trade to go up and get him.
Jamie Newman + Amari Rodgers + Bill Belichick =— PFF NE Patriots (@PFF_Patriots) January 29, 2021
TRADE: Patriots trade 6-188 to Chicago for 6-204 and 2022 6th round pick
The Patriots move back this time, and recoup a sixth-rounder from Chicago. This time, the Bears’ pick is involved, not the one New England sent them.
6th round, 204th overall (via CHI): OT D’Ante Smith, East Carolina
The Patriots go for more offensive line depth with their final pick of the weekend. Smith has some flashes of solid play, and looked decent at the Senior Bowl. He has a lanky frame that should allow him to put on some weight, and hopefully won’t sacrifice his athletic traits while doing so. Even though they spent their first-round pick on Sewell, I like the idea of having them go after another project at tackle late in the draft.
Howard Mudd is the best OL coach I’ve ever been around. He was always obsessed with how guys recover. This is an awesome rep by ECU’s D’Ante Smith! pic.twitter.com/5DBXTApMUv— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 27, 2021
It may not be the draft that everyone wants, but the Patriots get arguably the best non-quarterback in the draft without having to sacrifice significant future assets, and add talent at a bunch of positions of need. Remember that Bill Belichick often drafts to address future as opposed to current needs. That could mean that offensive tackle and safety — two positions that have potential for quite a bit of turnover in the next year or so — might be early targets for the Patriots come draft weekend.
Will this mock be an accurate prediction as to where they go? Who knows, but I do think that they target most of these spots next week. Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to what’s shaping up to be a really fun weekend!
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Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast. Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats