The New England Patriots have done so well in free agency, they can head into the 2021 NFL Draft with an open mind.
The Patriots really don’t have many obvious needs to fill in the draft after reportedly agreeing to re-sign running back and third-down pass-catcher James White on Wednesday. A third-down back was the biggest void on New England’s roster after last week’s free-agency splurge.
The biggest future area of concern is at quarterback, but Cam Newton can start the 2021 season. The Patriots don’t need to look for starters or immediate contributors at running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, cornerback, safety or the specialist positions.
New England could afford to add one more useful rotational defensive lineman to join Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Montravius Adams, Byron Cowart, Carl Davis, Akeem Spence, Nick Thurman and Bill Murray (Lawrence Guy is still available). The Patriots also could potentially find an upgrade at wide receiver if a good enough player is available in the first round. Otherwise, New England is relatively set there with Julian Edelman, Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, N’Keal Harry (who could be traded), Gunner Olszewski, Kristian Wilkerson, Isaiah Zuber and Devin Smith.
New England will have 78 players on its active roster when White joins the squad. The Patriots already trimmed three players off of the team Tuesday and could look to make more cuts in the coming days or weeks. The Patriotds have 10 draft picks and only would be able to sign two undrafted free agents as the team currently is constructed.
Trading away draft capital either by moving up the board (for a quarterback?) or out and into 2022 would be the Patriots’ best approach to next month’s player selection event. It’s tough to imagine more than five or six rookies making New England’s roster. The Patriots currently have six picks in the first four rounds of the draft, and they can use them all on the best available players without an urgency to fill specific needs.
It’s a good place to be with a future need at quarterback and a competitive-looking roster in 2021. The draft is always a crapshoot, but it will be even more unpredictable this spring after a volatile 2020 college football season that saw many top players opt-out or play limited snaps because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If there was a year to punt on the draft or go all-in on one or two players, this would be it.