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2021 NFL mock draft: Patriots bolster defensive tackle depth in last mock before the regular season

Related: Michael Barnett reverts to Patriots’ injured reserve list after clearing waivers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Florida at LSU Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While the New England Patriots’ focus is on the 2020 regular season opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, the team’s college scouting department is already on to the next spring: evaluating players and how they would eventually fit into the organization. One of the players to surely come up is LSU defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin, a player who could come off the board as early as the first round next year.

Why talk about Shelvin? The Draft Network’s Benjamin Solak released his last mock draft before the regular season on Monday, and it has the youngster go to New England.

27. Patriots

Tyler Shelvin IDL, LSU

I’ve loved this team/player fit from the moment I watched the player. While I remain skeptical that Shelvin is the best option on the board, I do think the Patriots will value his skill set more than any other team does. Why? Because they’ve had players in his mold before — Danny Shelton, Alan Branch, all the way back to Vince Wilfork. Gargantuan space-gobblers at nose tackle who account for multiple gaps and allow other players to play more freely.

Currently that player is Beau Allen, who is best as a rotational player. Shelvin can take over that job, and offers something more on late downs than the average two-gapping behemoth, with some quickness to his feet and a know-how for turning power into pocket disruption by working through angles. He’ll make everyone else better.

The Patriots investing in their defensive tackle depth next spring does make sense not only because of Shelvin’s potential scheme fit: the team’s top-two at the position, Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler, are also headed for unrestricted free agency and could be gone by the time New England is on the clock in the draft. But even if they are retained, bolster the position would be a smart decision with Guy turning 31 in March.

Shelvin, however, will be somewhat of a projection: he is planning to opt out of the 2020 season. That being said, his upside in the team’s two-gap scheme could make him a viable candidate for the Patriots next year.