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Pro Football Focus re-confirms that the Patriots’ 2021 draft was awesome

Long live McCorkle, Barmore, and the gang.

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NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a sort of Deadpool-and/or-Nickelodeon-show-esque breaking of the fourth wall the last several years when it comes to draft grades. Almost no matter where you go, here included, whoever’s dishing out the superlatives will acknowledge the inherent ridiculousness of saying a draft class was CRUSHED or ACED or FLUNKED or authoritatively declaring every team a Winner or a Loser at the end of April....

.....and then, of course, we all do it anyway. While making fun of what we’re doing in real time. And still doing it. It’s fine, it’s fun, no reason to take it too seriously.

That being said, it is awfully nice when a draft class looks like just what the doctor ordered on paper, the draftniks all agree that the New England Patriots stocked up like a veteran fifth-year senior grocery shopping in Panama City Beach the first day of Spring Break, and then a year later, 10 out of 10 draft nerds agree that yup, this was just as good as we thought.

We’re talking, of course, about Pro Football Focus, so if the expert analysis of the 2022 draft left a sour taste in your mouth, you’ll enjoy both of the following:

  1. The same guys that are, by and large, pissing on the Patriots draft class this spring are saying flat-out that Bill Belichick and friends racked up hit after hit after hit last year, and
  2. at least part of the stellar reviews for the 2021 class are because the draft picks lined up favorably with PFF’s draft value analysis, which, of course, is what the class of ‘22 is getting crushed for; not necessarily that the players the Patriots drafted are bad, just that almost all of them seemed to be drafted at least a round or three too high.

So, early criticism of the Patriots’ ‘22 draftees notwithstanding, let’s take a victory lap on last year’s class being every bit as good as advertised, and maybe even better.

Here’s the full draft class, a few of whom pretty notably haven’t even seen the field yet:

R1 (15): QB Mac Jones, Alabama

R2 (38): DI Christian Barmore, Alabama

R3 (96): EDGE Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma

R4 (120): RB Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma

R5 (177): LB Cameron McGrone, Michigan

R6 (188): CB Joshuah Bledsoe, Missouri

R6 (197): OT William Sherman, Colorado

R7 (242): WR Tre Nixon, UCF

Here was PFF’s opinion on the rookies going into the 2021 season:

Day 1: The narrative surrounding Mac Jones for the past few weeks was focused on whether he was worth not just the No. 3 overall pick, but the three first-round selections the 49ers invested in that draft slot. At No. 15 overall, it’s an entirely different conversation. Jones led the nation last season in overall PFF grade (95.8) and was the most accurate college quarterback in terms of adjusted completion rate (84.2%) PFF has seen. This is an outstanding pick.

Day 2: Christian Barmore is the best interior defender in this draft, and he should have been a first-round draft pick. He is the only consistently high-level pass rusher from the interior in this class, posting a 90.3 PFF pass-rushing grade against true passing sets last year. Barmore was the No. 12 overall player on the PFF Big Board.

Perkins burst onto the scene with a 90.5 PFF grade last season. The problem was that his stellar play came on only 262 snaps, and some of that was against the lowly Kansas Jayhawks. If that production is real, he is an excellent steal at this pick. He has all the physical traits that the NFL covets at the position, and the Patriots can work with him to find a role on their defense. He needs to work on his hand usage but has everything else one could ask for in an edge rusher.

Day 3: McGrone has legitimate sideline-to-sideline speed. His combination of range and reliable tackling makes him well-suited to shut down outside rushing attacks and screens. And at 20 years old, McGrone has room to grow and improve on some of the concerns surrounding his coverage ability.

Draft Grade: A+

Looking good, kids, looking good!

And here’s PFF’s take after a year of watching McCorkle and Friends in action, despite the Patriots, let’s say, inglorious exit from the postseason.

Spoiler alert: the grade’s still an A+, likely because if I remember correctly, they stop giving A++’s after third grade or so.

Initial Draft Grade: A+

1-year Re-Grade: A+

This was a draft that came right off the PFF board when it happened and may look even better now. Mac Jones was far and away the highest-graded rookie quarterback (80.4 overall). Christian Barmore was the real steal, though, as he had one of the best pass-rushing seasons we’ve seen from a rookie defensive tackle. He finished with 48 pressures on the year — the most from a rookie defensive tackle since DeForest Buckner in 2016.

You know you’re doing something right when Rhamondre Stevenson, who was statistically more likely to rip off a monster play than Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey, and Patriots Legend Cordarrelle Patterson, isn’t even included in the re-grade greatest-hits recap.

(check out ‘Mondre at No. 3)

Of course, a couple notable second-year guys from the 2021 class are still the Family Guy mystery box; despite his glowing reviews coming into the season, Ronnie Perkins has yet to see the field after being inactive for most of the season and finally being placed on Injured Reserve right before Christmas. And after what looks like a thorough tear-it-down-to-the-studs rebuild of the linebacker corps, expectations/fantasies are sky-high for fifth-round linebacker Cameron McGrone, who certainly seems like he’s well past being on the mend and is trending in the right direction:

Enjoy the weekend and go Celtics, everyone.