The New England Patriots are entering the third and final day of the 2021 NFL Draft with few obvious needs on their roster but five selections to spend. What will they do? That is anybody’s guess, but they do have the flexibility to move around the board and target their guys in order to address the few spots on the roster that might benefit from additional young depth.
Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at some potential targets for the Patriots as the draft will be coming to an end.
RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis: A slightly undersized running back who had solid production as both a runner and a pass catcher out of the backfield, Carter would give New England some insurance in case either James White or Sony Michel — or both — leave via free agency next year. New England loves to give its mid-round running backs a year to sit, and Carter would join a situation that would allow him to do just that.
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC: New England made some healthy investments in the wide receiver position this offseason, but they could benefit from adding some young talent to compete against the likes of N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers. St. Brown would do just that given that he can line up both on the perimeter and in the slot — all while bringing the necessary physicality to the table to make an impact on running plays.
WR Jaelon Darden, North Texas: Jaelon Darden has considerable upside and a skillset that the Patriots simply did not have the last two years. His speed and abilities in the open field make for a potentially dangerous weapon with “big play” written all over him. While Darden has his limitations due to a 5-foot-8, 175-pound frame, he can be an effective role player at the next level with the potential to become a true game-changer.
OT James Hudson, Cincinnati: New England has not selected an offensive tackle yet, which means that they will likely bank on upside and future starting ability. Hudson has just that, and would learn behind the scenes in 2021 before possibly being pushed into a starting position the following year — if Isaiah Wynn and/or Trent Brown leave — or the number three spot as a swing option.
LB Cameron McGrone, Michigan: The Patriots have gone to the Michigan well in back-to-back years now, but both Chase Winovich and Josh Uche were safer projections at the next level than McGrone. That being said, if the team feels confident about his upside and medicals he might be worth a mid-round flyer to add to an off-the-ball linebacker corps that currently consists of Dont’a Hightower and plenty of question marks.
LB Dylan Moses, Alabama: Moses is a gamble, but one that could yield tremendous results. His ceiling is that of a starting-caliber move linebacker at the NFL level, while his floor is that of a player slowed down by injury who is forced to play hesitant as a result. If New England brings him in, the hope would be that some time behind the scenes would help him reach his potential and eventually even become Hightower’s heir.
CB Avery Williams, Boise State: The late rounds of the draft are the time to take fliers on potential and high upside. Williams falls into that category. Given his special teams prowess in combination with New England’s long-term uncertainty in the kicking game the team bringing him in would be the least of surprises in this year’s draft. He just screams “Patriot,” maybe even more so than any other player available.
K Evan McPherson, Florida: Re-signing Nick Folk was a good move by the Patriots but at age 36 he offers little as a long-term solution at place kicker. While New England failed to secure just that last year when Justin Rohrwasser was picked, McPherson is a much safer projection to the NFL and could be the guy to eventually succeed or maybe even unseat Folk.
All in all, though, plenty of quality players will be available for the Patriots throughout the remaining four rounds of the draft and into rookie free agency.