NFL Draft Analyst Sets Expectations For Patriots’ 2021 First-Round Pick

Could New England go defense at No. 15 overall?

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The Patriots really need to enhance their offense.

Just don’t be surprised if Bill Belichick uses New England’s first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft — No. 15 overall — on a defensive player.

NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein, a draft analyst, explained Thursday on WEEI’s “Dale and Keefe” that circumstances could prevent the Patriots from selecting either a quarterback or a wide receiver in the first round.

“I think more than likely the positions you’re talking about with the Patriots draft, you’d have to move up a little bit for your quarterback or your wide receiver,” Zierlein said, as transcribed by WEEI.com. “I don’t see the Patriots trading up for a wide receiver. It definitely doesn’t show up in their draft history under Bill Belichick.”

Of course, this wouldn’t be the end of the world for New England, which has a ton of salary cap space this offseason. The Patriots could target offensive playmakers in free agency, and perhaps even secure a viable veteran quarterback via the open market or trade.

Is it ideal? Of course not. The Patriots would love if an elite QB or wideout prospect fell to them at No. 15, even if they still ultimately went in a different direction. The draft board just might not shake out that way.

ESPN’s Todd McShay projected in his latest mock draft Thursday that five quarterbacks — Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones — will be selected within the first nine picks, with four coming off the board to open Round 1.

McShay predicted the Patriots will land Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons at No. 15. And that seems like a reasonable expectation based on how Zierlein sees the dominoes potentially falling.

“I would say more than likely where you’re drafting, pass rush, that is where the pass rushers are going to start coming off the board,” Zierlein said, per WEEI.com. “There’s some high-upside, low-floor guys. Some guys that really have some athletic talent that I think Bill Belichick is going to like there in the middle of the first, possibly even an outside shot at a corner if that is something he wanted.

” … Offensive line and pass rush is where the middle of the first round is where you should see a run start somewhere around there on those positions.”

When it comes to the NFL draft, Belichick always seems to zig when everyone else zags. So, we probably shouldn’t rule out anything, even if New England’s most glaring needs are obvious on paper.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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