A look back at the 2021 NFL Draft for the New England Patriots

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Patriots’ 2021 NFL Draft was both consequential and highly regarded. Here’s how it stacks up a year later.

The Patriots came into the 2021 NFL draft on the heels of a 7-9 2020 season. This was the first season of the post-Brady era, and the first losing season for the team since 2000. The 2021 offseason provided crucial insight into how the Patriots would tackle their roster-building strategy for this new era.

They went with a re-tool rather than a full rebuild, giving out about $160 million dollars in guaranteed money to fill out their roster with existing starting-level talent.

These free agent moves directly affected the Patriots’ strategy in the 2021 draft. After Mac Jones fell to them at the 15th pick, cementing their answer at quarterback, the Patriots focused the remainder of the draft on a longer-term plan. The team elected to draft for value: players that would help them in the future rather than reaching for immediate needs.

The 2021 draft for the Patriots involved a combination of luck and skill, as they got a handful of talented, albeit still largely unproven players. The downside of their rookie class is that it not only dealt with many injuries last year, not drafting for need meant the Patriots neglected to fill their roster with young players at the offensive line and wide receiver.

Patriots 2021 NFL Draft

Round 1: 15th pick – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Jones was probably the most successful quarterback of the rookie class last year, as Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Trevor Lawrence had their share of struggles. Still, Jones’ season was very good even without the rookie curve.

He started all 17 games, throwing for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns, with just 13 interceptions, at a 67.6 completion percentage. He was selected for the pro bowl and came in second in offensive rookie of the year voting.

Round 2: 38th pick – Christian Barmore, IDL, Alabama

Barmore had a solid season as a rotational lineman, appearing in all 17 games and starting 2 of them. He managed to achieve a 63.4 grade from PFF.

Round 3: 96th pick – Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma

Perkins did not play in a single game for the Patriots before being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury in December.

Round 4: 120th pick – Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma

Stevenson emerged as a reliable option in the Patriots’ backfield in the middle of the year after the season-ending injury to James White. He played in 12 games, rushed for 606 yards, and scored 5 touchdowns on 133 carries, demonstrating his power in a few highlight plays. Stevenson proved to be a strong selection for the Patriots in the 4th round last year.

Round 5: 177th pick – Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan

McGrone did not suit up for the Patriots in the 2021 season as he was recovering from a torn ACL suffered in November 2020 while playing for Michigan.

Round 6: 188th pick – Joshuah Bledsoe, S, Missouri

Bledsoe did not suit up for the Patriots in the 2021 season dealing with offseason wrist surgery and a calf injury.

Round 6: 197th pick – William Sherman, OT, Colorado

Sherman spent most of the year on the Patriots’ practice squad. Though he did suit up for one game in the 2021 season.

Round 7: 242nd pick – Tre Nixon, WR, UCF

Nixon spent the year on the Patriots’ practice squad, not appearing in any games.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that the Patriots got lucky not having to trade up for Mac Jones last year. The combination of waiting patiently, not sacrificing any draft capital, and still successfully selecting their franchise quarterback already makes the Patriots’ 2021 draft a success.

Furthermore, they added two players in Rhamondre Stevenson and Christian Barmore who look like future starters for the team—although they were not in major positions of need. Unfortunately for the Patriots, just three of their draft picks received meaningful playing time last season. In a large part, this was due to injury.

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The lack of meaningful playing time drops the Patriots’ draft grade to a B or B+, but the contributions they did get were very impactful. If players like McGrone, Perkins, and Bledsoe can get on the field, they have the upside to positively contribute to the team. If this happens the Patriots’ 2021 draft will enter the A range.