The 2021 NFL Draft is just over a week away, and the New England Patriots head into the event with the freedom to not be constrained by draft needs.
The Patriots filled the majority of their holes in free agency. They should at least look to come out of the 2021 draft with a quarterback, however.
Here’s who we wound up with:
Round 1, 15th Overall: DE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
With the top quarterbacks are off the board and not in range for a reasonable trade-up, our choices here were USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, a trade down or Phillips.
Phillips has a slightly concerning history. He briefly retired from football after suffering a third diagnosed concussion in 2018 but ultimately wound up transferring from UCLA to Miami. He also suffered a major wrist injury when he was hit by a car while riding a scooter and dealt with ankle and hand injuries early in his career.
He might wind up being the best defensive player in the draft, however.
Vera-Tucker would be the safe pick here. He can play guard or offensive tackle.
Phillips is the risky selection, but the Patriots don’t really have anyone like him on their roster. At 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, Phillips ran a 4.57-second 40-yard dash with a 7.13-second three-cone drill, 4.18-second short shuttle, 36-inch vertical leap and 10-feet, 5-inch broad jump at his pro day. He could be a more athletic version of Chandler Jones in New England’s defense.
Phillips was excellent as a pass rusher and an impact player against the run last season for Miami. He has the versatility to play with his hand in the dirt or as a stand-up edge rusher with the Patriots.
Trade: 46th and 96th overall picks to Chicago Bears for 52nd, 83rd overall picks.
Round 2, 52nd Overall: WR Dyami Brown, UNC
We weren’t ready to take a quarterback yet at No. 46 overall, and we weren’t sure if one of the top passers would be available at No. 96 overall. So, we moved down six picks in the second round to move up 13 picks in the third round.
Brown has been compared to Buffalo Bills receiver Stefon Diggs. He averaged over 20 yards per catch and registered over 1,000 yards in each of his last two seasons with the Tar Heels.
At 6-foot-1, 189 pounds, Brown ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash with a 6.85-second three-cone drill, 35.5-inch vertical leap, 10-feet, 8-inch broad jump and 4.35-second short shuttle at his pro day.
Over half of Brown’s yards came on deep balls in 2020. PFF believes Brown could develop into a savvy route-runner, as well.
Round 3, 83rd Overall: QB Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
We’ll see if Mond is still available here. He could be gone in the 45-to-70 range. If Mond isn’t here, other potential options include Florida’s Kyle Trask, Stanford’s Davis Mills or Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman.
Mond fits the Patriots’ mold as a passer and has mobility to boot.
Round 4, 120th Overall: CB Ambry Thomas, Michigan
Thomas opted out for the 2020 season which could cause him to tumble down draft boards. He let up just 25 catches on 47 targets for 332 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in 2019 with the Wolverines.
The speedy cornerback ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at 6-feet, 191 pounds. The Patriots have drawn from the Michigan well often in recent years.
Round 4, 122nd Overall: LB Derrick Barnes, Purdue
Barnes is the prototypical big downhill thumper at linebacker. He’s a bit on the shorter side at just over 6 feet, but he has long arms (33 3/8-inch) for his height. He also has experience at defensive end.
Round 4, 139th Overall: OT Tommy Doyle, Miami (OH)
Doyle is an offensive tackle in the Nate Solder or Sebastian Vollmer mold at 6-foot-8, 320 pounds. He’s an impressive athlete for his size.
Round 5, 177th Overall: RB Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
Mitchell is undersized but quick and speedy and comes with receiving experience out of the backfield. He could wind up being the Patriots’ next third-down back.
Round 6: 188th Overall: DT Khyiris Tonga, BYU
The Patriots only have one prototypical nose tackle on their roster in Davon Godchaux. Tonga was a disruptive presence in the middle of the field for the Cougars.
Round 6, 197th Overall: S Darrick Forrest, Cincinnati
The Patriots need a developmental free safety on their roster with Devin McCourty getting up there in age. Forrest has speed and quickness to burn at 6-feet, 206 pounds with 4.41-second 40-yard-dash speed.
Round 7, 242nd Overall: C Jimmy Morrissey, Pittsburgh
The Patriots don’t mind undersized centers. They tried to take a developmental center in the seventh round of last year’s draft but Dustin Woodard retired before training camp. After unretiring, the Patriots released Woodard this spring. Morrissey fits into the same mold.