NFL

The challenges the Patriots’ draft class will face at the next level

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The eight newest members of the New England Patriots will have no time to celebrate hearing their names called during the 2021 NFL Draft. After all, the process of getting ready for the upcoming season awaits — a process that starts significantly later than that of their more experienced teammates.

A quick turnaround is not the only issue New England’s first-year acquisitions will have to face as Bill Belichick pointed out during one of his post-draft media availability sessions. While he spoke specifically about quarterback Mac Jones, the issues raised by the Patriots’ head coach can also be applied to his fellow first-year players.

“This is a different level,” Belichick said about the jump his team’s draft selections will have to make.

“The things that happen in the National Football League … we have more time, we have more scheme, the players are more advanced physically, they have much more experience, and so what’s going to happen at this level is going to be more complex and faster and more difficult than what happened at the last level, just like going from high school to college. That takes some time, that takes some adjusting to.”

While Jones is the most prominent of the Patriots’ rookie class due to his status as not just a first-round selection but a quarterback as well, he is not the only one facing the transition from the college to the pro game over the coming weeks and months.

Defensive tackle Christian Barmore, linebackers Ronnie Perkins and Cameron McGrone, running back Rhamondre Stevenson, defensive back Joshuah Bledsoe, offensive lineman William Sherman, and wide receiver Tre Nixon will go through the same experiences. Belichick is obviously well aware that all of them will need proper coaching in order to build a successful foundation for their NFL careers.

“We need to coach all the other players as well. I just see this as a big process going forward for all of us. But we’re anxious and excited to get it moving,” Belichick said.

“We’re getting closer. We’re a couple weeks through the offseason program and in a couple more weeks we’ll be able to start activities with the players on the field and get to rookie minicamp and get to rookie development program and just move things further ahead. In the meantime, we’ll do what we can do in other ways virtually and so forth.”

Even though the Coronavirus pandemic still impacts life in New England and round the entire league, this year’s rookie class should be in a much better position than last year’s when it comes to properly being brought up to speed. After all, the NFL will allow rookie minicamps to take place this year after canceling them in 2020.

The three-day session will take place either during the first of second week after the draft. This camp will be followed by a rookie developmental program starting with Phase 2 of voluntary offseason workouts on May 17 and running until July 2.

The goal through all of this is a simple one: get the players as well prepared as possible for wait awaits during the summer and into the regular season.

“We’re just going to have to see, like we do with every new player, every new draft choice, how [decision making and anticipation] transfer to the National Football League, to the speed, to the athleticism and instinctiveness and awareness of the players that any player’s competing against on the other side of the ball, whether it’s quarterback or any other position,” Belichick added.

“We’ll see how all those things play out, and look forward to helping the rookies, the new players, this year come in and learn and become familiar with terminology, with techniques, whether it be rules or things that are different in the college game coming from the pro game, try to help them with all those things and see how they do with it. So, really, at this point the process is a lot more about going forward than it is about looking back.”

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