The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, and it ended with the New England Patriots making five selections before seemingly calling it a day and not making any signings in free agency. Those five players, meanwhile, were mostly added with the intention of bolstering the overall depth at some positions. New England may not have made any “big” moves, but it still found some developmental talent on Day 3.
Please click here for a full pick-by-pick recap of the moves New England made and the draft class in full. In the meantime, let’s clean out the notebook from what happened over the course of the 154 selections between the fourth and seventh rounds on Saturday and what it means for the Patriots and the rest of the league.
Patriots value per-snap contributions
New England invested primarily in developmental talent on Saturday, with most of them no locks to make what projects to be a deep 53-man roster in September. One exception is fourth-round running back Rhamondre Stevenson, whose draft status should help him make the team as a future early-down back and thus potential heir to Sony Michel.
The Patriots investing in Stevenson came despite him seeing only limited opportunities at Oklahoma. He spent just two seasons at the school after having started his college career at Cerritos College, and finished his career with 165 rushing attempts and 28 receptions. Nonetheless, the Patriots are apparently feeling good about the potential he showed whenever given the chance to prove his value.
As head coach/general manager Bill Belichick pointed out, Stevenson was not the only Patriots draft pick to fall into this category.
“He’s been a productive player, any opportunities he’s had.Sort of like [Christian] Barmore,” Belichick said about the young back and New England’s second-round defensive tackle.
“Barmore’s number of snaps were maybe not as high as some other players, but certainly his production on a per snap basis was high, as was Stevenson’s. We look forward to working with him. I think Stevenson’s best football is in front of him. He’s big. He can run. He can catch. He’s certainly going to need a lot of work on some of the other finer points. That’s what we’re here for. I’m sure he’ll be ready to get to work and do it.”
Even if players did not get considerable exposure at their previous stops, New England seemingly puts a high value on per-snap contributions.
‘Trader Bill’ is having a quiet day…
The Patriots are usually one of the most active teams in the league when it comes to swinging draft day trades. This year, however, there was just one of them: the only time New England moved around the board came when the club traded up in the second round to bring the aforementioned Christian Barmore aboard.
Other than that, there were no trades with the team staying put in all five of its slots on Saturday. This is quite the change from last year, where the Patriots made just one of their 10 picks — linebacker Anfernee Jennings in the third round — in their originally allotted position.
…as does the quarterback position
After an early run at the quarterback position that also saw New England invest in a passer — Mac Jones out of Alabama was taken 15th overall — the position had a quiet final six rounds of the draft. While three QBs were taken off the board on Friday, only two were selected over the final four rounds on Saturday: the New Orleans Saints picked Ian Book (Notre Dame) in the fourth round (4-133) while the Indianapolis Colts later added Sam Ehlinger (Texas) in the sixth (6-218).
In total, 10 quarterbacks were picked in the 2021 draft.
A late-round run on long snappers
The third day of the draft is usually when special teamers come off the board. That happened again on Saturday, with four specialists being drafted. Kicker Evan McPherson (Florida) and punter Pressley Harvin III (Georgia Tech) were selected in the sixth and seventh rounds by the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively.
The biggest run on specialists actually came at the long snapper position. While long snappers usually go undrafted, two heard their names called on Day 3 within a few selections of each other. The Carolina Panthers’ selection of Alabama long snapper Thomas Fletcher (7-222) was followed by the Washington Football Team adding Michigan’s Camaron Cheeseman just three positions later (7-225).
New England dips into the Michigan well again
While the New England-Alabama pipeline is well established and saw two more players transfer from the Crimson Tide to the Patriots, the organization has recently also taken a lot of interest in players from the University of Michigan — especially on the defensive side of the ball. After drafting Chase Winovich and Josh Uche in back-to-back years, the club now added an ex-Wolverines linebacker for the third draft in a row.
“I was overcome with emotion. Just all the hard work put in to this point and to finally get my name called, it just means so much,” said fifth-round selection Cameron McGrone. “Now getting the chance to be around some of my former teammates, that’s going to mean a lot to me too. Just to see some familiar faces is a blessing. Josh hit me up just to tell me congratulations and same with Chase. Just overall a blessing.”
Even though McGrone might not get a chance to play alongside his teammates this year — he is still recovering from a season-ending ACL injury and thus a candidate for the physically unable to perform list — he will now become the fourth Michigan product on the roster: the rookie will join the aforementioned Winovich and Uche as well as offensive lineman Michael McDermott.
Even with Tom Brady no longer on the team, the Wolverines have good representation in New England’s locker room.
Patriots double up on their double-up
When the Patriots picked Rhamondre Stevenson in the fourth round, they made him the second Oklahoma player picked by the team this year; New England had also opted to bring in edge linebacker Ronnie Perkins in Round 3. Bill Belichick and company thus completed yet another double-up after already bringing Alabama teammates Mac Jones and Christian Barmore aboard in Rounds 1 and 2.
Picking players from the same school in the same draft class has actually happened fairly frequently since Belichick took over as the Patriots’ de facto general manager in 2000. The Perkins-Stevenson reunion was the 16th such instance over the last two decades:
- 2001: Notre Dame (DB Brock Williams, TE Jabari Holloway)
- 2002: LSU (QB Rohan Davey, DE Jarvis Grenn)
- 2003: Texas A&M (DE Ty Warren, WR Bethel Johnson)
- 2005: Fresno State (G Logan Mankins, S James Sanders)
- 2006: Florida (WR Chad Jackson, DE Jeremy Mincey)
- 2007: Miami FL (S Brandon Meriweather, DT Kareem Brown)
- 2010: Florida (LB Jermaine Cunningham, LB Brandon Spikes, TE Aaron Hernandez)
- 2011: TCU (OT Marcus Cannon, CB Malcolm Williams)
- 2013: Rutgers (CB Logan Ryan, S Duron Harmon, LB Steve Beauharnais)
- 2014: Florida (DT Dominique Easley, G Jon Halapio)
- 2015: Arkansas (DE Trey Flowers, TE A.J. Derby)
- 2016: N.C. State (G Joe Thuney, QB Jacoby Brissett)
- 2018: Georgia (OT Isaiah Wynn, RB Sony Michel)
- 2020: Michigan (LB Josh Uche, G Michael Onwenu)
- 2021: Alabama (QB Mac Jones, DT Christian Barmore)
- 2021: Oklahoma (DE Ronnie Perkins, RB Rhamondre Stevenson)
The Patriots choosing two or sometimes three players from the same school in one draft is no rarity, but until this year it has not happened twice in the same draft.