Over the course of the offseason, Pro Football Focus has continued to be critical of the New England Patriots and their team building. There were arguments that the Patriots should just tank in 2021 and that their free agency spending spree produced only questionable results.
Heading into the draft, PFF has not changed its stance with the quarterback position the biggest area of attack once again. New England came in just 20th place in a recent story titled Ranking all 32 NFL rosters ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Author Anthony Treash wrote the following about the status of the Patriots:
Bill Belichick went all-in during free agency, handing out money left and right. Even after the heavy spending, the Patriots still have an average roster outside of their offensive line. Despite losing standout left guard Joe Thuney, they still have a top-10 unit.
The big concern with this team is at quarterback and wide receiver. Cam Newton ranked 24th in passing grade in his first season as a Patriot and struggled to push the ball downfield. His 2.8% big-time throw rate was a bottom-five mark among quarterbacks on the year. As it stands, New England’s No. 1 wideout is Nelson Agholor, who is coming off a boom-or-bust campaign with Las Vegas where he was fed deep crossers and vertical routes. He ranked 45th of 99 qualifiers in receiving grade in what was his most productive year in the NFL. In the five years prior combined, he ranked second-to-last in receiving grade.
The passing game remains a major question mark for the Patriots, but, to be fair, the team did invest some major resources in more than just Nelson Agholor: New England also added Kendrick Bourne in free agency as well as the top two tight ends on the market in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. Together with Agholor and Newton they should help improve what was an at times abysmal passing offense last year.
The Patriots’ roster has therefore improved quite a bit from last year, especially considering the moves made on the defensive side of the ball as well. Does that make it better than 20th in a league-wide comparison? At least on paper that is an argument that can certainly be made.