The Patriots drafted Cameron McGrone with the expectation that the former Michigan linebacker may miss his entire rookie season. A fifth-round pick in this year's draft, McGrone is recovering from a torn ACL injury sustained during Michigan's victory over Rutgers on Nov. 21.
New England coach Bill Belichick informed the media of McGrone's current status this week. The 6-foot-1, 234-pound linebacker tallied 26 tackles in five games for Michigan last season before sustaining the injury. In 16 games with the Wolverines, McGrone recorded 91 tackles (11 for loss) to go with three sacks and a forced fumble.
"We're not really sure what the expectation of availability is for him, but we're prepared certainly to not have him available this year," Belichick said, via ESPN's Mike Reiss. "There are no false expectations here. He should have a good recovery and be a good player; we'll just have to see what the timing is on that."
While Belichick had never previously drafted a player who was expected to miss his entire rookie season, there are examples of other teams doing so. Perhaps the most significant example occurred in 2003, when the Bills spent the 23rd overall pick in the draft on running back Willis McGahee, who was recovering from a severe knee injury sustained during Miami's national championship game loss to Ohio State. After sitting out his entire rookie season, McGahee won NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors after rushing for over 1,100 yards for the Bills in 2004. He went on to enjoy a 10-year playing career that saw him run for over 1,000 yards with three different franchises.
With McGrone recovering, the Patriots' inside linebacker corps will continue to be anchored by Ja'Whaun Bentley and Dont'a Hightower. Bentley, a 2018 fifth-round pick, recorded 91 tackles in 13 starts in 2020. Hightower, a two-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots, is back after opting out of the 2020 season.