The New England Patriots have put the 2021 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror. This three-day stretch was arguably the most important draft in recent memory for Bill Belichick and Co. and, to their credit, they answered a number of key questions leading up to OTAs, training camp, and, of course, the regular season. With all that said, it's very rare for a club to fill every single hole on the roster over the course of a single draft, so there were naturally going to be some areas left on the cutting-room floor. Here, we're going to be diving into one thing that the Patriots absolutely got right over draft weekend and then highlight an area that still could need some improvement. Ready? Let's hit it.
What the Patriots got right
This one's pretty straightforward. New England entered the draft with one major question and that centered around the quarterback. Prior to Thursday's first round, there was no long-term answer under center, which has been the case since Tom Brady departed last offseason. That need was recognized by the club and it wasted no time addressing it by selecting Alabama's Mac Jones with the No. 15 overall pick -- the first selection of their 2021 draft.
Of course, the jury is still out on how Jones will actually perform at the NFL level but it was encouraging to see New England take a legit swing at trying to solidify the quarterback spot for the foreseeable future. Had the Patriots attempted to find a diamond in the rough on Day 2 and fully committed to Cam Newton for the 2021 season, it's safe to assume that the majority of folks would consider that a fool's errand. While Jones was the last of the top-five quarterbacks available to New England in that first round, he does have traits that should translate well to Foxborough. His high football IQ and proficiency as a pocket passer can allow the Patriots to run an offense more similar to the passing attack they deployed with Tom Brady, which has proven to be quite successful for Josh McDaniels over his tenure.
Again, we still have no clue if Jones will be able to carry the torch for New England as QB1 heading into the future, but you have to give the Patriots credit for taking this stab in the first round, which is something Bill Belichick had never done during his run with the club prior to this move.
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What the Patriots didn't do
You could easily point to wide receiver as a need that the Patriots failed to really fill over the course of the draft. Yes, they brought in UCF receiver Tre Nixon, but the seventh-rounder shouldn't be expected to be a player that can leap atop the depth chart and become a significant figure in the passing game. Instead of targeting receivers like LSU's Terrace Marshall Jr. or Rondale Moore out of Purdue, the Patriots elected to address the front seven, trading up in the second round to select Alabama's Christian Barmore. That may prove to be the right call, but the Patriots are still looking for a legit No. 1 wide receiver to pair with free agent tight end's Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith in the passing game. By the club not addressing this need with more aggressiveness, this could be a strong indication that they are confident in Jakobi Meyers and/or N'Keal Harry taking a leap this season while also injecting Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor into the mix.
One other sneaky need that many thought New England could address at some point in the draft was cornerback. Beyond 2021, that spot in the Patriots secondary is extremely murky as Stephon Gilmore currently has just one year remaining on his contract while J.C. Jackson is signed through this season on a second-round tender. Both corners could conceivably be gone in a year's time, so it was curious to see if the Patriots would be proactive by acquiring a prospect they could mold for one of those roles in 2022. Similar to the receiver spot, I do wonder if the Patriots not drafting any corners is a sign of confidence that Gilmore -- who has been the subject of trade rumors this offseason -- will have his contract situation straightened out, ensuring he'll be around this season and possibly beyond.