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2021 Patriots Draft: Think Ahead to 2022

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
April 26, 2021 at 7:00 am ET

2021 Patriots Draft: Think Ahead to 2022(PHOTO: Winslow Townson - USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: Apr 26, 2021 07:00
🕑 Read Time: 4 minutes

This upcoming Draft is not about 2021, but 2022.  According to Greg Bedard of Boston Sports Journal, the Patriots have 29 Free Agents in 2022.  I don’t feel all 29 players will make the 53 man roster, but that is almost as many players in a contract year as they had last year.  They will have $160K tied up in contracts for 2022 and the Cap is expected to $200M in 2022.   So they won’t have the money available to sign Free Agents that they had in 2021.

Don’t expect any rookie draft pick to have any impact on the 2021 team.  I have always loved Bill Parcell’s quote about rookie Terry Glenn, a reporter asked about Glenn’s play in the pre-season, and Parcell’s replied “He is like a ball in high grass … lost!”  That is how Belichick treats rookies too.  It takes a year for them to get acclimated to the speed of the Pro Game.  Last season was an exception.   Kyle Dugger played a lot early in the season because he grasped the concepts and quickly processed the information.  With his physical tools, he should have a great 2022 season.

The second player that played a lot was Michael Onwenu.  The surprise of the 2021 season, the sixth round selection, #182 overall (what is it about 6th round Michigan picks) started all 16 games at either, LG, RG, or RT.  Per Pro Football Focus, Onwenu was the 3rd highest ranked rookie behind ROY Justin Jefferson and Washington pass rusher Chase Young.  Onwenu allowed only three sacks (26) and one penalty (T-73) over 927 snaps (35).  The numbers in parentheses are overall in the league, not just rookies.  In weeks 15 and 16 against Miami and Buffalo, Onwenu allowed no pressures in either game.  His best game was actually at LG.  Many Patriots draftniks think the Patriots need to draft a Tackle because Tent Brown is on a one-year contract and don’t believe the Patriots will exercise the 5th year option on Isaiah Wynn.  I believe the Patriots will re-sign one of them and move Onwenu back to RT.

The need for 2022 will be either LG or T.  I have been pushing for unheralded Division III LG/ C Quinn Meinerz.  I saw him dominate the DTs in the Senior Bowl practices.  His Pro Day numbers were all in the top 10 all-time for an interior offensive lineman.  In the final Senior Bowl practice, Meinerz broke his hand and continued to practice.  He begged Miami coach Brian Flores to play in the game but was overruled by the medical staff.  He couldn’t Bench Press at the Pro Day because of the broken hand, but his previously documented number was 30 reps at 225#.     I’m afraid the Patriots scouts will not evaluate Meinerz high enough because of the lower level of competition.  Bill Belichick has stated that he will be more in sync with his scouts and not ignore their recommendations.  I hope that the O Line coaches Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo, who attended Meinerz Pro Day, can convince Belichick to take him.  I think passing on Meinerz, who has the possibility to be a long-term fixture on your O line would be a big mistake.

Cornerback is a big need in 2022.  Both Stephon Gilmore and JC Jackson are Free Agents in 2022.  I have to pick a CB high in this draft to replace one of them.  If the Patriots QB has been taken before their selection at 15, look to see if either of the top two CB’s, Patrick Surtain or Jaycee Horn are available.  If both have been taken, look for a trade (s) down to take a CB.  The goal would be to acquire more draft capital to trade up into the top 75.

An interesting point was brought up by Miquel Benzan @PatsCap in his Q&A session.  Benzan answered a question about Stephon Gilmore’s compensation should he leave via Free Agency next year.  The Patriots would only receive a 5th round compensation because Gilmore is a 10-year veteran.

I think the Patriots still need two Wide Receivers, one being a slot receiver to replace Edelman and another Big Receiver with speed to replace N’Keal Harry, who could be a draft-day trade.

The tier two QB’s will all be gone by pick 75.  My pick would be Davis Mills.  He has the size, completion percentage over 60%, and good TD to INT ratio.

Dont’a Hightower is close to retirement.  A replacement ILB is also a need for 2022.

At running back, Damien Harris is solid, but I don’t see the Patriots exercising Sony Michel’s option.  They may take two RB’s, one a receiver out of the backfield, maybe a power back for the run game behind Harris.  James White is on a one-year contract.  He is betting that he has a good year and there will be more money available for Free Agents in 2022.

Devin McCourty will not be here forever, so a Free Safety that can fill his position in 2022, will be another need.

This is a poor draft year for DTs.  There are a couple of late-round Nose Tackles that might interest the Patriots.  They have signed Davon Godchaux, Montavious Adams, and Carl Davis.  Adams and Davis are on one-year contracts.  Maybe neither make the team?  Davis played well when he is healthy.  He has a history of concussions.  This is another position that needs support for 2022.

Special teams are always on Bill Belichick’s mind.  Matthew Slater is also getting up there in age and getting a player to take his place should also be a priority for 2022.  Avery Williams, CB, Boise State, is the perfect replacement for Slater.  He will get a year of learning under Slater.   Another player I like for the Patriots that has all 4 ST units in his resume is Michigan FB Ben Mason.  I think Mason could beat out Jakob Johnson for the starting FB role.  Brandon Bolden is 31 and getting a running back that can play special teams is a priority.  This might be an opportunity for a UDFA to make the team.

Notice I didn’t mention Quarterback?  Any quarterback taken will be for 2022, not this year.  A former consultant to the Patriots and Belichick confidant, Mike Lombardi dropped this little gem, “If the Patriots don’t have a quarterback rated as a top 15 pick, then they will pass and move on to another player that has a top 15 evaluation.”   Do not expect them to trade up for a QB.   Cam Newton is signed to a backup contract.  He may in fact be the starter for 2021 (I hope not).  There may be room to trade for another QB before the start of the season, whether or not they draft a QB.

So all in all, this draft is to support the 2022 season!  Think ahead!

Julian Edelman Media Star

It didn’t take long for Edelman to find a new gig.  Edelman has signed on with the Inside the NFL crew for their weekly show.  Inside the NFL is moving from Showtime to Paramount +.  Edelman also signed an agreement for his production company Coast Productions with CBS/Viacom.

About Mark Morse

Merrimack Valley native and lifelong fan of the New England Patriots. My earliest memories of the Patriots were attending as a child with my dad, the off-season practice at Phillips Academy. I was at the Patriots game at Harvard Stadium in 1970 where Bob “Harpo” Gladieux was called out of the stands by the stadium announcer over the PA to play in the game. Analyzing the draft since ESPN first started to televise it in 1980 and former writer for the Lowell Sun Newspaper.

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