The New England Patriots ultimately had a successful offseason, improving their 2021 roster by splurging in free agency, but they did also lose their best offensive player to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Joe Thuney was signed away by the Chiefs in free agency, but New England was fortunate to have some built-in depth with 2020 rookie standout Michael Onwenu ready to step in at left guard. The Patriots still have right guard Shaq Mason on their interior offensive line, plus they re-signed center David Andrews and brought back top guard and center backup Ted Karras this offseason.
The Patriots could, however, use more depth at guard and center. They only have Marcus Martin and Najee Toran behind Mason, Onwenu, Andrews and Karras. Offensive tackle Justin Herron also could potentially fill in at guard in a pinch.
Guard and center are definitely not the Patriots’ biggest needs with a week-and-a-half to go until the 2021 NFL Draft, but it still wouldn’t be surprising to see New England select an offensive lineman early with offensive tackles Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown currently only signed through 2021. The Patriots could decide to move Onwenu back to tackle after this season and draft for the future at guard.
Let’s first take a look at the Patriots’ draft history at guard and center. New England typically values agility drills more heavily, and that makes sense. Patriots interior offensive linemen are asked to get out in space, pull and get to the second level to continue their blocks. Thuney and Mason are among the Patriots guards and centers also are faster than the average NFL player at those positions.
Based on New England’s average NFL Scouting Combine and pro day measureables among drafted interior offensive linemen, we created a metric to determine the best fit among 2021 NFL Draft prospects using their own pro day measurements.
Here are this year’s guard and center prospects sorted by DraftScout.com’s rankings.
These are the top 25 fits sorted by our metric:
First Round: OT/G Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
No, you’re not suffering from deja vu. Yes, Vera-Tucker was also our best fit at offensive tackle. We’re doubling down.
The former Trojan played guard before switching to left tackle in 2020. We could see him playing either position in New England, and he’s in the mix for the Patriots’ No. 15 overall pick.
Second Round: G/C Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater
Meinerz was a Senior Bowl standout, and the Patriots typically like to pick players from the top annual college All-Star game.
Meinerz is an incredible athlete for his 320-pound frame. He could serve as depth at guard or center, though the second round might be a little early to take an interior offensive lineman without tackle versatility.
Third Round: G/C Kendrick Green, Illinois
Green is a bit undersized at 6-foot-2, 305 pounds. He split his time between left guard and center at Illinois and didn’t allow a sack in 2020.
Fourth Round: OT/G/C Robert Hainsey, Notre Dame
Hainsey played multiple positions, including center, at the Senior Bowl. He was strictly a right tackle with the Fighting Irish and was a team captain as a junior and senior.
Fifth Round: OT/G Royce Newman, Ole Miss
Another Senior Bowl guy, Newman is slightly taller than the average Patriots guard at 6-foot-5. He played everything other than center in college.
Sixth Round: G Sadarius Hutcherson South Carolina
Hutcherson is a really interesting player. At 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, he started at left tackle as a junior, ran a 5.01-second 40-yard dash and was a team captain as a senior. He played every position other than center in college.
Seventh Round: C Jimmy Morrissey, Pittsburgh
The Patriots like to give undersized centers a chance, and Morrissey, at 6-foot-3, 303 pounds, fits the bill. He ran a 7.39-second three-cone drill at his pro day.