NFL

NFL draft: The 50 best players available for the Patriots on Day 3

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Over the first two days of the 2021 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots filled their biggest need on offense and bolstered their defensive front seven: quarterback Mac Jones was added on Thursday, with defensive tackle Christian Barmore and edge linebacker Ronnie Perkins joining him one day later. Despite those additions, however, there are still some spots on the roster that might benefit from seeing more depth and developmental youth added.

Luckily for the Patriots there is still plenty of talent available as a look at the top 50 selections remaining on friend of Pats Pulpit Arif Hasan’s Big Board shows:

Second-round talents (2)

Interior defensive line

Daviyon Nixon (Iowa)

The Patriots upgraded their defensive line not just in free agency but also by drafting arguably the best defensive tackle in this year’s class, Alabama’s Christian Barmore, in the second round. New England should therefore not be expected to add another interior lineman early on Day 3 — which is exactly where Dixon is expected to come off the board.

Inside/move linebacker

Jabril Cox (LSU)

As the highest-rated player remaining on the board, Cox offers intriguing athleticism and size. While he is a work in progress, he would give the Patriots a matchup-flexible developmental player to possibly groom behind Dont’a Hightower and be developed into a more prominent role further down the line.


Third-round talents (14)

Running back

Michael Carter (North Carolina), Kenneth Gainwell (Memphis)

Both Carter and Gainwell offer some upside in the receiving game and could therefore help New England fill the change-of-pace role previously occupied by Rex Burkhead. And with James White headed towards unrestricted free agency as well after this season, bringing in a player early rather than late could be the team’s plan.

Wide receiver

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC), Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

This year’s wide receiver class is a deep one as evidenced by the fact that both St. Brown and Wallace have potential to carve out roles in New England early in their respective careers. They fit the general mold of what the Patriots want from their wideouts, with St. Brown in particular a player to keep an eye on.

Tight end

Brevin Jordan (Miami FL)

The Patriots are well set at the position and have no need to invest in another tight end at any point in the draft. Don’t count on Jordan ending up in New England even though he does have some upside as a pass catcher.

Offensive tackle

James Hudson (Cincinnati)

After not picking an offensive tackle on Day 2, the Patriots will likely not find any clear-cut upgrades over the depth options currently on their roster. Instead, a player like Hudson would serve as competition against Justin Herron, Korey Cunningham and Yodny Cajuste.

Interior offensive line

Trey Smith (Tennessee), Deonte Brown (Alabama)

If the Patriots want to add developmental depth to their interior offensive line, the fourth round might be a solid area for them to do so — especially if Smith and Brown are still available when the team is on the clock at No. 120. While recent mid-round offensive line picks such as Hjalte Froholdt or Yodny Cajuste have not worked out (so far in Cajuste’s case), New England has proven itself more than capable when it comes to developing Day 3 linemen. Just look at Michael Onwenu and, to a lesser degree, Justin Herron.

Interior defensive line

Jay Tufele (USC), Tommy Togiai (Ohio State)

As noted above, the Patriots investing in a defensive tackle on Day 2 on top of their free agency acquisitions makes the addition of another player at the position and unlikely outcome. While both Tufele and Togiai would fit in well with the Patriots’ scheme, they have identified Barmore as their rookie DT of choice.

Outside/edge linebacker

Quincy Roche (Miami FL), Rashaad Weaver (Pittsburgh)

Drafting Ronnie Perkins in the third round added even more depth to New England’s already deep defensive edge. Accordingly, players such as Roche and Weaver — both expected to become early selections on Day 3 — will highly likely not end up with the Patriots.

Safety

Hamsah Nasirildeen (Florida State), Jamar Johnson (Indiana)

Even though the New England defense added Dugger in the second round a year ago, it might need more depth given that the future elsewhere is in question beyond 2021: both Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips are headed for unrestricted free agency, with the former a candidate to possibly announce his retirement. Picking a developmental option in the mold of Nasirildeen or Johnson might therefore be a sound investment at this point in the draft.


Fourth-round talents (25)

Running back

Chuba Hubbard (Oklahoma State), Rhamondre Stevenson (Oklahoma)

With both James White and Sony Michel currently not under contract beyond the 2021 season, New England might decide to bring some developmental depth at running back in on Day 3. Both Hubbard and Stevenson project better in the Michel/early-down role, though, than that played by White.

Wide receiver

Seth Williams (Auburn), Jaelon Darden (North Texas), Cade Johnson (South Dakota State)

After not selecting a wide receiver on the first two days, New England could find some intriguing talent in Round 4. Darden in particular is a player who projects well into the Patriots’ scheme and could become a competitor for the slot role.

Offensive tackle

Stone Forsythe (Florida), D’Ante Smith (East Carolina)

As noted above, adding offensive tackle depth might be on the team’s wish list for Day 3. Both Forsythe and Smith would provide just that even though neither should necessarily be expected to become a difference-maker early in their careers based on their raw nature and projected draft status.

Interior defensive line

Tyler Shelvin (LSU), Marvin Wilson (Florida State), Malon Tuipulotu (USC)

Even though Shelvin and Wilson have intriguing size and talent to fill the nose tackle spot in New England, the aforementioned addition of Barmore essentially takes the position off the list of needs. That does not mean the Patriots will categorically not address the spot, but the value would have to be very favorable for that to happen.

Outside/edge linebacker

Jordan Smith (Alabama-Birmingham), Chris Rumph II (Duke), Cameron Sample (Tulane)

With Perkins in the fold, New England has limited need to add more bodies to the edge position. The roster is a deep one at that spot, and resources would probably be better spent elsewhere.

Inside/move linebacker

Dylan Moses (Alabama), Cameron McGrone (Michigan)

The inside/move linebacker role remains a need heading into Day 3, and both Moses and McGrone project as tremendous fits for New England’s scheme. Moses in particular is a player to watch, not just because of the Alabama connection: he played some impressive football before injuries started to slow him down. A healthy Moses, though, has the upside to develop into a starter-level defender.

Cornerback

Shaun Wade (Ohio State), Robert Rochell (Central Arkansas), Thomas Graham Jr. (Oregon), Israel Mukuamu (South Carolina), Trill Williams (Syracuse)

New England not adding a cornerback at this point in the draft likely means that Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson are expected back in 2021. Nonetheless, the team could try to add some developmental options to groom before one or both leave in free agency next spring.

Safety

Ardarius Washington (TCU), Talanoa Hufanga (USC), Tyree Gillespie (Missouri), Caden Sterns (Texas), James Wiggins (Cincinnati)

As mentioned above, the safety position is one of uncertainty beyond this year. Luckily for the Patriots there are plenty of viable options that project to be available on Day 3.


Fifth-round talents (9+)

Running back

Kylin Hill (Mississippi State), Demetric Felton (UCLA)

Hill and Felton both offer some upside as receiving options, and might therefore find themselves on New England’s radar. Felton in particular is worth mentioning given that he already had some pre-draft contact with the organization.

Wide receiver

Simi Fehoko (Stanford), Shi Smith (South Carolina)

If the Patriots want to go wide receiver on Day 3, Jaelon Darden and Cade Johnson project to be the best available options. That said, both Fehoko and Smith could have some value as well: Fehoko as a big-bodied perimeter target; Smith as a potential special teams contributor and inside receiver.

Interior defensive line

Jaylen Twyman (Pittsburgh), Bobby Brown III (Texas A&M)

Same story, different round: It seems unlikely New England adds more defensive tackle depth after already drafting Christian Barmore in Round 2. Unless players start to slide and the value becomes too good, the Patriots appear to be set at the position.

Outside/edge linebacker

Elerson Smith (Northern Iowa)

You can essentially copy paste the paragraph about interior defensive linemen in here. All you would need to do is replace Barmore’s name with Ronnie Perkins’.

Inside/move linebacker

Derrick Barnes (Purdue)

New England’s sweet spot for off-the-ball linebacker prospects appears to be the fourth round group of Dylan Moses and Cameron McGrone, with Barnes projecting more as a special teams presence than a defensive contributor early in his career.

Cornerback

Shakur Brown (Michigan State)

Brown has some athletic skill to work with, but he should not be expected to become a contributor early in his career. Still, if the Patriots feel they can groom him behind the scenes before giving him a bigger role in 2022 and beyond, they might just pull the trigger if he is available.

Best of the rest: RB Jermar Jefferson (Oregon State), RB Jaret Patterson (Buffalo), WR Cornell Powell (Clemson), WR Sage Surratt (Wake Forest), WR Tamorrion Terry (Florida State), Dazz Newsome (North Carolina), G David Moore (Grambling State), CB Kary Vincent Jr. (LSU), CB Keith Taylor (Washington)

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