The 2021 NFL Draft was a different experience for the New England Patriots. Not only did the team draft a quarterback in Round 1 for the first time since head coach/general manager Bill Belichick’s arrival more than two decades earlier, it also was comparatively quiet on the trade market.
In fact, the notoriously trade-happy Patriots swung just one of them during the three-day event. In the second round, Belichick and company moved up the board to select Alabama’s Christian Barmore 38th overall.
New England paid a steep price to climb those eight spots in order to get itself in a position to draft the highest-rated defensive tackle in the draft. The team sent three total selections to the Cincinnati Bengals: the Patriots pared ways with a second-round pick (46th) as well as two fourth-round selections (122nd and 139th).
The investment paid off from New England’s perspective. Barmore became an instant difference-maker along their defensive front, finishing the season ranked second on the team with 51 quarterback disruptions, according to Pro Football Focus. Only one first-year player — Defensive Rookie of the Year front-runner Micah Parsons of the Dallas Cowboys — had a higher number of combined sacks, hits and hurries.
In total, Barmore was on the field for 55.6 percent of New England’s defensive snaps during his 2021 rookie season. Only Davon Godchaux had a higher playing time share among the team’s interior defensive linemen.
Barmore’s outlook is encouraging and the Patriots can therefore feel pretty good about that draft-day trade with Cincinnati. The Bengals can also call it a win, though.
Defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin and offensive tackle D’Ante Smith, both selected with the fourth-rounders previously belonging to New England, saw only marginal action as rookies. Second-round guard Jackson Carman started six games as an injury replacement.
The impact of the trade goes beyond those three players, however. It also helped set the Bengals up to draft their place kicker of the future, Evan McPherson, in the fifth round.
Peter King of NBC Sports wrote about the move in his weekly Monday column, highlighting it from Cincinnati’s perspective:
The Bengals did like McPherson, who came out a year early from Florida and the team scouted heavily. Special team coordinator Darren Simmons gave his seal of approval, which was big in the eyes of draft czar and director of player personnel Duke Tobin. They liked McPherson’s physical gifts and his moxie. But the team wanted to draft at least two offensive linemen and two defensive linemen (and maybe a third) in the draft, and they knew they were going to pick Ja’Marr Chase. To get Chase, the kicker (no sure thing if they didn’t deal for extra picks) and the linemen, they needed extra picks. ...
The trade-down with the Patriots gave Cincinnati those picks it needed, and it contributed to McPherson getting drafted 149th overall. He was the lone kicker selected in the draft last year.
“I can’t say I’m Carnac in that way,” said Tobin, referring to the mind-reader Johnny Carson used to play on late-night TV. “You have guys on your board that you’re saying, okay, if we make this deal we could get three guys we liked instead of picking only one. It felt good to get three swings at picks in the fourth round.”
McPherson has been instrumental to the Bengals’ success this season. He made 28 of 33 field goal attempts during the regular season and 46 of 48 extra points, with his combined success rate of 91.4 percent among the best in the NFL.
Most importantly, he has been perfect since entering the playoffs. McPherson has made all eight of his field goals — including two from beyond 50 yards — as well as his three extra point tries. The Bengals have scored 45 points so far this postseason, with their rookie kicker accounting for 27 of them.
Needless to say, that the trade with the Patriots worked out quite well for Cincinnati. New England, meanwhile, can also feel quite good about it.