Prospects for Patriots to Avoid in 2021 NFL DraftApril 12, 2021
Prospects for Patriots to Avoid in 2021 NFL Draft
It's been an eventful offseason for the New England Patriots. That's what happens when the team goes 7-9 and misses the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season.
The Pats clearly don't want to be out of the postseason picture for long, as they were one of the most active teams in the NFL early in free agency. And because of that, they've overhauled their roster and filled many of their holes with some of the best players who were available on the market.
But New England isn't done. It still has the opportunity to add to its roster during the 2021 NFL draft, which will be held April 29-May 1. The Patriots will also be on the clock much earlier than they have been in recent years, as they own the No. 15 overall selection.
While it appears the Pats have made moves that will help them improve in 2021, they also need to keep the long-term future in mind, which is another reason why the draft is so important. If they want to build another dynasty, it will likely require them to make the right decisions with their draft picks.
Here are several players who New England should avoid taking during this year's draft.
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Patriots' starting offensive line should already be in place for the 2021 season, even though they lost guard Joe Thuney in free agency. They're set at the tackle spots, with Isaiah Wynn on the left side and Trent Brown, who they acquired in a trade with the Raiders this offseason, on the right.
It's possible New England will want to add depth to its offensive line at some point in the draft, but that shouldn't be what it's looking to do in the first round. So although Darrisaw is a solid prospect who could be one of the best players on the board when the Pats are on the clock at No. 15, they shouldn't think about taking the former Virginia Tech tackle.
Wynn (25) and Brown (27) are young enough that New England could be set in those spots for more than just next season. Could Darrisaw end up being an upgrade over either of those players? Possibly. But the Pats still have spots on their roster they need to address, so they don't have the luxury of drafting the best available player regardless of position.
Darrisaw has a lot of potential, and he could develop into a strong NFL tackle. It just shouldn't happen with the Patriots.
Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
In recent years, the Patriots have not had much success drafting wide receivers. They've had quite a few busts at the position, and while it's still too early to say that about 2019 first-round pick N'Keal Harry, he has yet to make a major impact on New England's offense.
This year, the Pats would be wise to not use another first-round selection on a wide receiver. They may be picking too low to add any of the top three receivers anyway (LSU's Ja'Marr Chase and Alabama's DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle), so Bateman could be the best one on the board at that point.
Bateman has good size and good hands, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's a future star.
"The production looks good on paper, but I was at a couple of his games in 2019 and I just wanted to feel [his presence] more," a Midwest scout for an AFC team told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein.
New England added to its receiving corps by signing Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, and it should still take a chance on a wide receiver later in the draft. But it can't afford to keep using top draft picks on receivers who may not give it the production it was hoping for, which could end up being the case with a prospect like Bateman.
Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State
While the Patriots have brought in some pass rushers already this offseason via free agency (most notably Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy), it can never hurt to have depth at those positions. It's always nice to be able to rotate in fresh players to keep the pressure on opposing quarterbacks at all times.
But should the Patriots use one of their first picks in the 2021 draft on an edge rusher? Probably not. They could be in the market for a quarterback, and there are some other defensive positions (linebacker, cornerback) that could benefit from a boost more than the pass rush.
Even if New England seeks a pass rusher early, it shouldn't take Oweh, who had a strong showing at Penn State's pro day but didn't have a sack in his final season with the Nittany Lions. As Zierlein noted, Oweh is "still raw and lacking desired starting experience."
That's not the type of player the Patriots should be looking to add early in the draft, as their prior offseason moves indicate they're trying to have success now. So it would be more beneficial to add a more experienced pass rusher in a later round.