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The Lane Breakdown: 5 Patriots takeaways from the 2021 NFL Draft

Related: Meet the Patriots’ 2021 draft class!

2021 NFL Draft Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Now that the dust has settled from the NFL Draft, I thought I would share some of the New England Patriots takeaways that I had. I decided against doing grades because literally everyone has already done them and you probably don’t care about my grades anyway (if you care about other people’s grades, though, please click here and here).

Instead, here are four things that I have been thinking about since the draft ended on Saturday.

The Patriots have found their quarterback

You don’t have to like the Mac Jones pick. You’re allowed to think that Mac Jones stinks, it’s a free country. However, I went into draft weekend with one request for the Patriots: Draft the guy that Bill Belichick believes is the QB of the future, would you?

There are people that will tell you that he didn’t want to draft Mac Jones at No. 15, and that he was unsure about the pick even though they took less than half the time allotted to them to make a decision. The matter of fact is: Belichick and his team used the highest pick they had since 2008 on Mac Jones and it certainly wasn’t a throw away selection.

In the end, I can’t complain even if it’s not a sexy pick. I asked them to draft the guy that they thought could take over, and they did.

And for those that are going to look into the comments that Belichick made after the pick, and compare them to the comments that he made about Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014, please use some context. Yes, he believed that Garoppolo could potentially take over at some point, but he also knew who the QB in New England was at the time, and how he would react to those comments.

Now, look at the situation today. A significant portion of the fan base wants to see Cam Newton replaced, and New England just drafted a passer in the first round. Throw your support behind the current starter, motivate your rookie, and try to take a little bit of the heat off a situation that is already pressure-packed to begin with. Belichick is a master of using his words and actions to motivate those around him, there’s no reason to believe he’s not doing the same thing now.

Also, in case you’re on the fence about Jones as a prospect, here’s an amazing breakdown by Matt Waldman and our very own Mark Schofield.

A lack of trades

The Patriots made only one trade this weekend, trading up for Christian Barmore in the second round. The only time they have made fewer than that was in Belichick’s first draft back in 2000 when zero trades were made.

There are a few reasons for this.

Belichick himself talked about the price to move up in this year’s draft, as almost everyone overpaid to move up, including the Patriots.

“I would say that the prices on the trades have been, I think, a little higher than normal,” he said. “Certainly at the end of the third round those trades are pretty high. There weren’t a lot of trades in the first round, but I thought those were pretty high.”

This might have dissuaded the Patriots from moving up again. It may also have meant that they were asking too much to move down. Or, maybe they simply liked the players that were available when it was their turn to pick. We will probably never know.

Trades were not impossible to come by in the draft. There were multiple teams who traded 2022 selections — a draft that everyone assumes is going to be LOADED — to move up and select guys they wanted. It’s surprising to me that the Patriots didn’t get anything like that done, especially with the roster as full as it is. But, again, maybe they simply liked the value that was available to them too much to trade out.

New England’s lear vision

Like the rest of you, I have fallen in love with Rhamondre Stevenson over the last few days, but I was shocked when they took him. I assumed the Patriots would be looking for more of a James White rather than a LeGarrette Blount.

The selection, however, showed us the vision the Patriots have for their team: they are going to be a tough, physical, running team. They are going to use their great offensive line, their multitude of tight ends, and their powerful quarterback and running backs to run the ball all over teams. It’s going to be awesome.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, they are going for versatility. They went out and acquired players in free agency and the draft who can play a bunch of different positions. Whether that’s Jalen Mills, who will be playing safety and corner, or Christian Barmore, who has the athleticism to play anywhere on the line of scrimmage. New England is going to be able to give offenses very different looks while using the same 11 players, which is going to make the unit even tougher to score against.

No rookie free agents (so far)

As of me writing this, the Patriots still have yet to sign any undrafted free agents. If they do not, that will break their streak of 17 straight seasons of at least one UDFA making the opening day roster — the third longest streak in the NFL.

My thought is that that they are possibly waiting until some veterans are cut before signing any players. They can also invite guys to rookie minicamp without actually offering them a spot on the roster, so they will get a look at some players at that point. If you remember, this was Malcolm Butler’s path to the team in 2014: not being initially signed by anyone, he balled out at mini camp, got a roster spot, and, of course, was the eventual hero of Super Bowl 49.

There are also rumblings that the roster size for camp might go back down to 80, which the Patriots are currently over, so it makes sense to wait until word comes out about that before offering players any contracts. Either way, here’s hoping that they bring at least a few in, and that one or two of them might surprise during the summer.

A positive résumé

All in all, it was a very successful draft for the Patriots. I love the value that they got with Christian Barmore and Ronnie Perkins on Day 2, for example.

This draft, however, is going to come down to Mac Jones. If he is a solid quarterback for the Patriots, then this will be looked at as a great draft. If he’s a bust, however, or does not live up to the expectations of becoming a viable starting quarterback, this draft will be seen as a failure. Personally, I think he will be decent, but the question is whether or not he will ever become great. Only time will tell.

Still, there is a lot to be excited about with this draft and New England’s future.

Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast . Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats.