Through their spending spree in free agency, the Patriots were able to fill a number of roster holes that plagued them in 2020. With most of their immediate needs addressed in March, the team can take a true long-term approach when the draft begins April 29.
Obviously every draft is about the future, to some extent. But under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have been especially adept at using picks to help sustain their success. That has faded in the last few years, however, and left the team with the numerous roster flaws they’ve developed over the last couple of seasons.
As we move through their biggest draft needs for 2021, you might notice a pattern. A lot of these needs aren’t related directly to this upcoming season, but 2022 and beyond.
“Moving on a year too early instead of a year too late” is a popular Patriots adage, with a number of key players entering the final year of their contracts, and/or nearing retirement. Given their abundance of draft picks and relative lack of needs, the Pats have a chance to get ahead of the curve in the 2021 draft. Not only by fortifying their roster but by, ideally, letting the next core learn from the current one. That could set the kids up to hit the ground running when they step into major roles.
Of course, another famous Patriots adage is to take the best player available, rather than “drafting for need.” However, that may not mean what it seems on the surface. After all, it conflicts directly with another noted Belichick-ism, “it’s not about collecting talent, it’s about building a team.”
If the Patriots truly approached the draft with the intention of taking the player with the most raw talent with each pick, they’d end up with a lot more kickers and running backs. Determining the “best” player likely factors in how that player fits in the context of the roster, and how much and how soon they’ll be able to contribute.
That’s where need comes in. If you have multiple young players with multiple years remaining on their contracts at a certain position, a player from that position is less likely to be considered the “best” option on the board, because it’s going to be incredibly difficult for them to find playing time during their rookie deal.
Keeping all of that in mind, here’s a look at the state of and every Patriots positional group heading into the draft, ranked in order of need.
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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.