Analyzing Patriots’ Eight-Player 2021 NFL Draft Class By The Numbers

What can advanced stats tell us about the Patriots' 2021 draftees?


May 4, 2021

In an effort to learn more about the New England Patriots’ 2021 NFL Draft class, we took a by-the-numbers deep dive into each of their eight new draftees.

All measurables and testing numbers were taken from players’ pre-draft pro days. Percentiles courtesy of Mockdraftable. All pressure rates, snap distribution and other advanced metrics via Pro Football Focus.

Let’s jump in:

First round, 15th overall
2020 stats: 311-for-402 (77.4 percent), 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns, four interceptions in 13 games (all starts)
Career stats: 413-for-556 (74.3 percent), 6,126 yards, 56 touchdowns, seven interceptions in 39 games (17 starts)

Mac Jones

— Jones is coming off one of the best seasons ever by a collegiate quarterback. He set NCAA records for completion percentage and passer efficiency rating — BYU’s Zach Wilson was a distant second in both categories among 2020 signal-callers — while also leading the nation in yards per attempt (11.2) and adjusted completion percentage (84.2 percent).

— Though he spent four years at Alabama, Jones started just 17 games, sitting for 2 1/2 seasons behind Jalen Hurts and fellow 2017 recruit Tua Tagovailoa. That’s the fewest college starts by a Patriots-drafted QB since Matt Cassel in 2005 (zero). Jones lost just one of those starts (48-45 to Auburn in the 2019 Iron Bowl) and went a perfect 13-0 in his final season.

— In Alabama’s three postseason games (SEC Championship, College Football Playoff semifinal and CFP final), Jones threw for 14 touchdowns with one interception, completed 79.7 percent of his passes and averaged 10.0 yards per attempt against the 11th-, fourth- and third-ranked teams in the country.

— Jones was nearly flawless in the red zone in 2020, throwing 20 touchdown passes with zero interceptions inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Patriots quarterbacks threw a total of six red-zone touchdowns last season.

— Jones’s 1.00 percent interception rate in his final college season was the second-lowest by a Bill Belichick-era Patriots draftee. Only Danny Etling (0.73 percent) was lower.

— On passes inside 10 yards, Jones posted a sterling 85.1 percent completion rate, the best in the nation. He also ranked first nationally in passing yards on deep balls (1,355), completing 58.9 percent of those. Seventeen of his touchdown passes traveled more than 20 yards in the air.

— Jones rushed for just 42 total yards and two touchdowns in his college career, but his pro day numbers show he’s a better athlete than he’s given credit for. His in-the-pocket mobility is advanced.

Second round, 38th overall
2020 stats: 37 tackles, 9 1/2 tackles for loss, eight sacks, three forced fumbles, three passes defended in 12 games (five starts)
Career stats: 63 tackles, 15 1/2 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles, five passes defended in 24 games (six starts)

Christian Barmore

— Barmore was the best pass-rushing interior lineman in college football, posting an FBS-best 91.5 PFF pass-rushing grade in 2020. His 65 pressures over the last two seasons led all Power Five D-tackles.

— Barmore held up well against the run, too. His 13.3 percent run stop rate ranked first among D-tackles listed in PFF’s 2021 draft guide.

— The Notre Dame and Ohio State offensive lines simply could not block Barmore. He tallied 10 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, eight run stops and 12 pressures in Alabama’s two College Football Playoff games. His PFF pass-rush grade over those two games (91.3) was “by far” the best ever by an interior defender in the CFP.

— Alabama deployed Barmore all over their defensive front. He lined up in the A-gap on 82 snaps, in the B-gap on 298 snaps, over the tackle on 82 snaps, outside the tackle on 15 snaps and off the ball on one snap.

— Despite his top-end production — his eight sacks last season led all Crimson Tide defenders — Barmore still is relatively inexperienced. He started just six games in college and played 747 defensive snaps in college. He should continue to ascend as he receives more reps.

— Don’t sweat Barmore’s less-than-stellar times in the change-of-direction drills. He moves extremely well for a man his size.

Third round, 96th overall
2020 stats: 24 tackles, 10 1/2 tackles for loss, 5 1/2 sacks in six games (five starts)
Career stats: 99 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 16 1/2 sacks, one forced fumble, one pass defended in 33 games (25 starts)

Ronnie Perkins

— Perkins was a steadily disruptive presence in the Sooners’ defense, tallying five-plus sacks and eight-plus TFLs in each of his three seasons. He started for 2 1/2 of those seasons.

— Only one FBS edge defender posted PFF grades above 90 in both pass defense and run defense last season: Perkins.

— Perkins’ 24.7 percent pass-rush win rate in 2020 ranked sixth among FBS edge rushers and third among drafted players behind first-rounder Kwity Paye and fourth-rounder Jordan Smith.

— With that body of work, why did Perkins fall to the end of the third round? His size and lackluster pro day probably scared some teams away. He also was suspended six games for a positive drug test (reportedly marijuana), causing him to miss Oklahoma’s 2019 bowl game and the first five games of 2020.

Fourth round, 120th overall
2020 stats: 101 carries, 665 yards, seven touchdowns; 18 catches, 211 yards in six games (five starts)
Career stats: 165 carries, 1,180 yards, 13 touchdowns; 28 catches, 298 yards in 19 games (five starts)

Rhamondre Stevenson

— At 231 pounds, Stevenson is the heaviest running back the Patriots have drafted under Belichick, surpassing Stevan Ridley (225). The last three backs they selected (James White, Sony Michel, Damien Harris) all were 216 pounds or lighter. Stevenson also was the second-heaviest back in this year’s draft behind Alabama first-rounder Najee Harris (232).

— Stevenson did not test well in drills that measure explosiveness (note his poor ranks in the jumps and splits) but has very good quickness for a bigger back (78th percentile short shuttle).

— That blend of power and quickness made Stevenson difficult to bring down. He forced an average of 0.36 missed tackles per carry last season, the fifth-best mark in the FBS. Only second-round pick Javonte Williams had both a higher forced missed tackles rate and more rushing attempts in 2020.

— Thanks to a six-game suspension (for the same offense as Perkins, his former college teammate) and a late arrival at Oklahoma, Stevenson logged just 193 touches for the Sooners. Belichick noted this lack of mileage during his post-draft video conference, saying the 23-year-old back has “a lot of good football in front of him.” Stevenson also carried the ball 290 times at Cerritos Community College, where he averaged 191.9 rushing yards per game in 2018 before transferring to OU.

Fifth round, 177th overall
2020 stats: 26 tackles, two tackles for loss, 1/2 sack in five games (all starts)
Career stats: 91 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, four sacks, one forced fumble, one pass defended in 19 games (15 starts)
Measurables: Did not test at pro day (knee)

Cameron McGrone

— A torn ACL ended McGrone’s final collegiate season last November and could prevent him from suiting up for the Patriots as a rookie.

— McGrone had zero missed tackles in his injury-shortened season. He had nine in 13 games (10 starts) in 2019.

— Coverage is not McGrone’s strong suit. He posted a PFF coverage grade of 46.5 (out of 100) and a passer rating against of 123.3 last season.

— At just 20 years old (21 in June), McGrone is the Patriots’ youngest draftee.

Sixth round, 188th overall
2020 stats: 41 tackles, three tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one interception, seven passes defended in 10 games (all starts)
Career stats: 131 tackles, eight tackles for loss, one sack, two forced fumbles, one interception, 19 passes defended in 46 games (22 starts)
Measurables: Did not test at pro day (wrist)

Joshuah Bledsoe

— Belichick applauded Bledsoe’s versatility. In his final season at Missouri, the defensive back played 421 snaps in the slot, 129 in the box, 70 on the defensive line, 27 as a wide corner and 19 as a deep safety. That distribution fluctuated, too: In 2018, Bledsoe played more than 150 snaps at free safety.

— Bledsoe led all Missouri defenders in passes defended in each of the last two seasons but allowed a passer rating against of 102.5 in 2019 and 111.9 in 2020.

— Bledsoe appeared in 46 of a possible 48 games over his four seasons at Missouri and started every game in 2019 and 2020.

Sixth round, 197th overall
2020 stats: Six starts at left tackle
Career stats: 15 starts at left tackle, 12 starts at right tackle

Will Sherman

— Sherman was a three-year starter at Colorado, playing left tackle in 2018 and 2020, right tackle in 2019. He did not play any collegiate snaps at any of the three interior O-line spots, but Belichick floated the idea of potentially moving him to guard given his size profile.

— Sherman allowed two sacks, two QB hits and no hurries in 210 pass-blocking snaps during the Buffaloes’ COVID-shortened 2020 season. He surrendered two sacks, one hit and 11 hurries in 2019 (477 snaps) and two sacks, no hits and 19 hurries in 2018 (447 snaps).

Seventh round, 242nd overall
2020 stats: 19 catches, 260 yards, two touchdowns in four games (all starts)
Career stats: 109 catches, 1,671 yards, 13 touchdowns in 40 games (30 starts)

Tre Nixon

— Nixon’s pro day workout wasn’t quite as mind-blowing as former UCF teammate Jacob Harris’s, but he tested very well, ranking in the 73rd percentile or better in the 40, broad jump, three-cone and bench press. Fast, quick, explosive and strong — a desirable skill set for a late-round flier.

— Nixon averaged 15.3 yards per catch during his college career, which he split between Ole Miss and UCF.

— Nixon started all 13 games for UCF in 2018 (40-562-4) and 2019 (49-830-7). A dislocated collarbone in the Knights’ 2020 season opener limited him to four games as a senior.

— Drops were an issue for Nixon. He had four on 25 catchable targets in 2020 and seven on 56 catchable targets in 2019. Nixon also hauled in just seven of his 21 contested targets over the last two seasons.

Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images
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