Underrated Prospects Patriots Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 5, 2021

Underrated Prospects Patriots Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    It's been an eventful offseason for the New England Patriots, and things aren't over yet. While the team made some big additions to its roster via free agency, the 2021 NFL draft will provide another opportunity to bring in players to build around moving forward.

    After a down season in 2020, the Patriots own the No. 15 overall pick in this year's draft (which is set for April 29-May 1), a much earlier first selection than it's used to having. It will be the first of 10 picks New England has this year, seven of which will come on the third day, when the final four rounds take place.

    So while there's been a lot of speculation about what the Pats will do with their first selection—and whether they could trade up to secure a top quarterback—they also have a lot of late picks that could help shape their franchise for the future.

    Here's a look at some underrated prospects New England should consider taking during the second and third days of the upcoming draft.

Jamie Newman, QB, Wake Forest

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    Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

    Unless the Patriots trade up in the first round, it may be difficult for them to select one of the top five quarterback prospects in this year's class. It's possible that the first four players off the board will be quarterbacks, and there could be other teams also looking to move up.

    Even if New England misses out on one of those quarterbacks, it should still address the position in a later round. Cam Newton signed a one-year deal for the second offseason in a row, but he's unlikely to be New England's long-term solution under center.

    Jamie Newman is an intriguing prospect because he didn't get much of an opportunity to showcase his skills during his college career. He attended Wake Forest from 2017-19, with his junior campaign being his best (2,868 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions). He then transferred to Georgia, but he never played for the Bulldogs, opting out of the 2020 season that was played amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    However, Newman has plenty of potential, and he could end up being a steal, especially if he's not drafted until the middle rounds. So if the Patriots are in a position at that point in which they still haven't drafted a quarterback, Newman could be a strong option to consider, even if he may not be a starter immediately.

Josh Imatorbhebhe, WR, Illinois

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    New England's receiving corps was one of its roster's biggest holes last season, and it's been improving the unit this offseason. Not only did it bring in Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, but the passing game also got a boost with the additions of tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.

    But the Patriots likely aren't done adding playmakers who can help their quarterback (whether that's Newton or a rookie) have better results than Newton had in 2020. And Josh Imatorbhebhe could be a late-round steal who helps to make that happen.

    Imatorbhebhe is likely to still be on the board when the third day of the draft begins, but that doesn't mean he won't be an impact player in the NFL. After transferring from USC, Imatorbhebhe became a key part of Illinois' offense the past two seasons, recording 55 receptions for 931 yards and 12 touchdowns in 17 games over that span.

    One of the biggest ways Imatorbhebhe improved his draft stock was with his showing at Illinois' pro day in March when he recorded a vertical jump of 46.5 inches. That performance may not have come at the NFL Scouting Combine (which was canceled this year), but it's impressive nonetheless.

    After addressing some other needs in the earlier rounds, the Patriots would be wise to add another wide receiver with a late pick, giving them a youngster who can develop and improve over the next few seasons.

David Moore, OG, Grambling State

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    The Patriots lost a key member of their offensive line shortly after free agency began, as guard Joe Thuney opted to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs. And while New England has added to other position groups, it has yet to address its lack of depth on the interior offensive line.

    That's something the Pats should look to do in the draft, even if it's not until a later round. Should that be the route they take, then David Moore could be a player who fits well into New England's plans.

    Moore didn't get much attention last season while playing for Grambling State, an FCS program, but he impressed at the Senior Bowl earlier this year, which helped improve his draft stock. The 6'3" guard hasn't played since 2019, as Grambling State's season was pushed back into the spring and Moore opted not to play while preparing for the draft.

    If the Patriots selected Moore, it's possible he wouldn't be a starter for them in 2021. But he could compete with Mike Onwenu for a job, which could help both of them improve in the long run and would add depth to New England's roster.