With the NFL Draft in the books, there is a lot going on around the New England Patriots and the rest of the league. Let’s use this forum right here to go through some of the stories that have emerged over the last few days: time for our Sunday Patriots Notes.
1. How will the Patriots replace Ernie Adams? The biggest story of Bill Belichick’s post-draft press conference on Saturday was not the players his team had selected previously that day, but his announcement that research director Ernie Adams would not be part of the draft process — and possibly the team as a whole — next year. A cornerstone of the Patriots since his arrival alongside Belichick in 2000, Adams had a hand in seemingly every part of the organization.
Now, the Patriots will have the difficult task to replace him. While it will be difficult to fill the shoes of somebody with that much experience and knowledge, New England actually does have some candidates in the fold already. While it will take a team effort to take over Adams’ responsibilities, these three men certainly appear to be in line to do just that:
- Matt Patricia: New England’s former defensive coordinator returned this year after an unsuccessful stint as the Detroit Lions’ head coach. The Patriots, however, seem to be using him in a different capacity in his second stint. He was part of the draft and free agency operation, and seems to be taken over a bigger role behind-the-scenes. Patricia, much like Adams, could serve a hybrid role on the staff.
- Evan Rothstein: Rothstein arrived in New England alongside Patricia, having worked alongside him in Detroit. He held the title of Head Coach Assistant/Research & Analysis over the last three years, and was even used as the stand-in defensive coordinator at one point during the 2020 season. For more on Rothstein, please check out this story on him from earlier this year.
- Richard Miller: Officially listed as Director of Research, Miller is responsible for a number of jobs: managing the Patriots’ salary cap, player and statistical trend research, financial and strategic planning, and assisting the personnel department with draft, free agency and pre-game analytics. Long story short, the long-time Patriots employee — he is coming off his 25th season with the club — is doing it all.
As can be seen, New England has plenty of options when it comes to replacing Adams. It would not be a surprise if all of them, and other staff members or potential hires, will be tasked with taking over the role of the Patriots’ man of mystery.
An earlier version of this story identified Matt Lindsay as a possible candidate as well. However, Lindsay left New England earlier this offseason.
2. Patriots quickly jumped on Mac Jones in Round 1. File this under “Small Details about the 2021 NFL Draft”. New England had a 10-minute window to make a move at No. 15 in the first round on Thursday, but the team did not take long to hand in the card with Alabama quarterback Mac Jones’ name on it: the clock jumped to No. 16 with 5:59 still left.
Obviously, the Patriots already knew Jones would be available by the moment the New York Jets traded up to the 14th overall selection. Still, New England could have taken a lot more time to go over its eventual options — from players to possible trade-down offers. In the end, Bill Belichick and company decided to stay put and invest in the young passer.
3. It looks increasingly likely Stephon Gilmore and N’Keal Harry will be back in 2021. Trade speculation plays a big role in every pre-draft process, and there were some rumblings about three moves in particular that the Patriots might make. The team moving up in the first round to grab a quarterback was a popular rumor, as was the idea of trades involving cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver N’Keal Harry.
As of today, though, both are still on the team. Obviously, a lot can still happen between now and the start of the season in four months — whether it is contract negotiations (Gilmore) or on-field performance (Harry), New England could still try to move one or both of them at one point in the future — but neither getting moved during the draft increases the odds of them remaining with the team in 2021 after all.
4. Stephon Gilmore shares some thoughts on pressure. Speaking of Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots’ star cornerback took to social media during the first round of the draft to share some thoughts on players picked on Day 1. The 10th overall selection in 2012, Gilmore wrote that late-round success stories might be popular but that early-rounders doing their jobs at the high level expected of them tend to fly under the radar.
Everyone want to talk about the undrafted player or the late round pick what about the first round pick that comes in with so called all the pressure and been balling every since they been in the league. Now that’s getting it out the mud just saying ♂️
— The Gilly Lock (@BumpNrunGilm0re) April 29, 2021
While trying to read into the statement would be a mistake, there is plenty of potential to read between the lines. Gilmore, after all, is entering the final season of his five-year contract with the Patriots and is looking for a new deal either in New England or elsewhere.
5. Mac Jones as the better Tua Tagovailoa? For the second year in a row the University of Alabama produced a first-round quarterback. After Tua Tagovailoa was picked by the Miami Dolphins with the fifth overall selection last year, Mac Jones joined the Patriots as pick No. 15 earlier this week.
It remains to be seen who will eventually turn out to be the better quarterback for his respective team, but there are some interesting comparisons to be drawn. NFL film analyst Brett Kollmann did just that during a recent live mock draft on his YouTube channel, offering an interesting perspective on the two former Crimson Tide teammates.
“I do have particular things that I don’t like about Mac Jones’ game, but I still think he’s a very good prospect. I still think he’s a very good quarterback. I have a higher grade on Mac than I did on Tua last year,” Kollmann said.
“I did a film room on it where I was like, ‘Hey, here’s what Tua does well. He’s not really special athletically. Doesn’t have a great arm. Not super big. If you’re giving him an offense he can operate he can absolutely do that.’ Mac Jones, I think, is that but with a better arm. He does everything that Tua does but with a better arm. Now his arm is not nearly as good as [Lance] Wilson, [Trey] Lance, [Justin] Fields, [Trevor] Lawrence … but at least it’s a better arm than Tua.”
It will be interesting to see how the careers of the two quarterbacks will develop over the coming years, but based on this informed opinion Patriots fans should feel good about the ex-Alabama passer their team has in the fold.
6. Shades of 2014. New England is usually always among the most active teams in the league on the trade market, averaging 4.1 draft-day trades per year since 2010. This year, however, was different: the Patriots swung only one deal, to jump from No. 46 to No. 38 in the second round and pick Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore.
Over that aforementioned 11-year span, only once did the Patriots not make at least two draft day trades: in 2014, a transaction with the Jacksonville Jaguars was the only one made by the club. Back then, New England sent its third-rounder to Jacksonville for picks in the fourth and sixth rounds. Those selections eventually turned into offensive linemen Bryan Stork and Jon Halapio.
Stork ended up starting 21 games over two seasons — including Super Bowl 49 — before injury concerns led to his departure. Halapio never played in a single game as a Patriot (but later found some success with the New York Giants). New England will have to hope that Barmore will have more of a long-term impact than those two did.
7. A look ahead to next year’s draft. With the 2021 draft in the books, now is a perfect time to look ahead at next year’s version and the Patriots’ draft capital. In total, New England currently holds seven picks — one in each round but the fifth, as well as two in the seventh:
- Round 1
- Round 2
- Round 3
- Round 4
- Round 6
- Round 7 (via Las Vegas as part of the Trent Brown trade)
- Round 7 (via Houston as part of the Ryan Izzo trade)
The fifth-rounder was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders as part of the Trent Brown trade earlier this offseason, which also resulted in a seventh returning. The Patriots also earned another seventh-rounder for tight end Ryan Izzo, moved to the Houston Texans in March. New England’s own pick in the final round, meanwhile, was sent to Miami as part of the trade that brought wide receiver Isaiah Ford on board last November.
As for potentially adding picks through the league’s compensatory process, the Patriots should not expect to be awarded any next year. They were the biggest spenders in free agency this year, more than canceling out the departure of long-time starting left guard Joe Thuney.
8. The Aaron Rodgers saga brings back some New England memories. The draft was not the only big story of the weekend. According to multiple reports, the Green Bay Packers and their star quarterback Aaron Rodgers are at a crossroads in their relationship. While Rodgers is coming off one of the best seasons of his career that ended with him earning league MVP honors, he apparently is not happy with the team’s commitment to him.
All of this reportedly stems from the selection of quarterback Jordan Love in the first round last year, with Rodgers not pleased with how the situation was handled. While it remains to be seen what will happen — a trade or retirement are options — the whole situation brings back memories of how Tom Brady handled the addition of Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round back in 2014.
By all accounts, Brady was an exemplary teammate but did his play on the field do the talking when it came to his long-term outlook. The future Hall of Famer promptly delivered arguably the greatest four-year stretch of quarterback play between 2014 and 2017, eventually contributing to New England’s decision to part ways with Garoppolo via trade.
The Rodgers-Love situation seems to be headed in a different direction, though, with a standoff between team and player looming. Time will tell how the issues will be revolved, and whether or not the 37-year-old will be taking his talents elsewhere anytime soon.