The New England Patriots still have one potential spot to fill on their interior defensive line even after signing three defensive tackles and bringing back Lawrence Guy in free agency.
The Patriots already had Byron Cowart, Bill Murray, Akeem Spence and Nick Thurman heading into the offseason. They then signed Henry Anderson, Davon Godchaux and Montravius Adams, brought back Lawrence Guy and Carl Davis, cut Beau Allen and lost Adam Butler to the Miami Dolphins.
Anderson, Godchaux and Guy are essentially guaranteed spots on the Patriots’ roster, while Cowart, Murray, Spence, Thurman, Adams and Davis currently are set to compete for a fourth spot. The Patriots should look to bring in more competition in the draft, however, especially after losing Butler, who served as New England’s interior pass rusher.
Here’s a look at what the Patriots typically value when drafting defensive tackles (size and length over athleticism):
We devised a metric to rate each 2021 NFL Draft prospect’s fit in New England. Here are the top defensive tackle prospects by their draft ranking:
Here they are ranked by our “Fit” metric, which standardizes and weights pre-draft testing measurables.
Now, let’s pick the best fit for New England in each round of the 2021 NFL Draft:
First Round: Christian Barmore, Alabama
Barmore is here by default since he’s the only defensive tackle rated by most sites with a first-round grade. He hits most of the Patriots’ athletic thresholds and is the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the class. At 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, Barmore should be able to hold up on early downs against the run, as well.
Second Round: Daviyon Nixon, Iowa
Nixon has ideal length at 6-foot-3, 313 pounds with 35 1/8-inch arms. He also tested very well for his size.
Nixon was inconsistent as a player and declared after his junior season. Bill Belichick knows Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz well, so he should get some trustworthy intel on the young defensive tackle.
Third Round: Alim McNeill, North Carolina State
McNeill is a really fun prospect. He has an ideal build for a nose tackle at a squat 6-foot-2, 317 pounds, and the speed and quickness that allowed him to run a 5-second 40-yard dash shows up on tape.
We included McNeill over top fit Milton Williams because of the former’s size. Williams is one of the best pound-for-pound athletes in the 2021 NFL Draft class, and if the Patriots are looking for an interior pass rusher, then he very well might be their guy. McNeill is a more traditional fit, however.
Fourth Round: Tyler Shelvin, LSU
Another nose tackle prospect, players with Shelvin’s 6-foot-2, 350 pound frame are hard to find. He can be immovable in the middle of a defense.
Fifth Round: Bobby Brown, Texas A&M
Brown is a pretty similar prospect to Nixon. He’s young, big, long, athletic and inconsistent. His upside is high, but the team that drafts him will need to be patient.
Sixth Round: Khyris Tonga, BYU
With just 31-inch arms, Tonga lacks ideal length for the NFL. He was disruptive in the middle of BYU’s defense, however.
Seventh Round: TaQuon Graham, Texas
Graham has the length and athleticism that teams covet. He’s slim for a run-stuffer at 292 pounds and never quite flashed as a pass rusher in college.