NFL Draft: Will the Patriots Get Defensive with the Number 15 Pick?

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The 2021 NFL Draft will be conducted next week, with the first round to be held on Thursday April 29th.  The Patriots currently hold the Number 15 pick, and with a glaring hole at quarterback, and with five quarterbacks expected to be selected within the Top 15, there is much speculation the Patriots will either trade up or draft a QB at 15 should one of the Top 5 fall to them.

 Penn State Linebacker Micah Parsons       Photo courtesy of si.com

But quarterback isn't the only position where the Patriots have a need.  They filled a lot of those needs with their recent haul of free agent signings (tight end, edge rusher, safety), however, there are still needs on the defense, primarily at linebacker and cornerback.  The Patriots lacked speed and athleticism in their linebacker corps in 2020, thanks to the free agent defections of Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and the opt out of D'onta Hightower for COVID reasons.  Van Noy has returned to the Pats after being released by the Dolphins, and Hightower is expected to come back as well. but both are a year older and not getting any younger and faster.

There is also uncertainty at the cornerback position.  2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore is in the final year of the five year, $65 M deal he signed with the Pats in 2017.  This season Gilmore is slated to earn $7M in 2021 with a $323,521 roster bonus, while carrying a cap hit of $16,244,355.  Gilmore was unhappy with his deal last season, which led to an unofficial hold-out before his deal was restructured.  

Speculation is Gilmore may be traded on draft night if he is still unhappy with his contract.  If he remains with the Pats, he is still 31 years old and one year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent.  Either way, the Patriots may be looking for his replacement in this year's draft.

The Patriots historically having the number 15 pick is unusual territory for the Patriots.  They have only had four picks in the Top 20 since 2001.  

2001 - #6 - Richard Seymour

2003 - #13 - Ty Warren (traded up from #14)

2008 - #10 - Jerod Mayo (traded out from the #7 pick)

2011 - #17 - Nate Solder

Of the group, Seymour, Mayo and Solder each went on to have long NFL careers, with Seymour meriting Hall of Fame consideration.  With the exception of Solder, all were defensive players.  If this is any indication, Bill Belichick will more than likely target a defensive player if he stays at 15, and if one of the Top 5 QBs is not there.  Of course there is always the possibility the Patriots trade out of the first round completely to garner picks later in the draft or in future years.

Assuming the Pats don't trade up or out, there's a good chance an elite linebacker or cornerback will be available when they pick at 15.  In addition to the Top 5 QBs, there are also impact offensive players likely to be selected in the first 14 picks, such as Jalen Waddle, Devonta Smith, and Kyle Pitts.  Throw in an offensive or defensive lineman into the group, and there is a strong possibility one of the following top rated linebackers or cornerbacks will be on the board come the 15th pick.

Micah Parsons - Linebacker - Penn State - 6'-3"  245 lbs

Parsons has the size, speed and athleticism to be an immediate impact in the NFL at either the inside or outside linebacker position.  There is concern with off-field issues and posts on social media.  Parsons also opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns, so he hasn't been on a football field since the 2019 bowl season.  These issues could see him drop to 15 or even further on draft night.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - Linebacker - Notre Dame - 6'-1" 215 lbs

Owusu-Koramoah has the athleticism and instincts to be a three down defender.  He has shown the ability to take on the run and deliver big hits on ball carriers, and to also drop back into coverage.  He's slightly undersized for a traditional linebacker, and could projects more as a linebacker/safety hybrid.

Alabama Cornerback Patrick Surtain II / Photo courtesy of profootballnetwork.com

Patrick Surtain II - Cornerback - Alabama - 6'-2" 202 lbs

Surtain was a bona fide shutdown corner in the SEC during his days in Alabama.  He has the size and speed to do the same in the NFL, not to mention an NFL pedigree inherited from his father, former Dolhin DB Patrick Surtain.  It's doubtful Surtain II makes it to 15, but if he does, don't forget the Bill Belichick/Nick Saban Alabama connection.  

Jaycee Horn - Cornerback - South Carolina - 6'-1" 205 lbs

Another son of a former NFL player (former Saint and cell phone user Joe Horn), Jaycee Horn has the size and speed to match up with NFL wide-outs.  He's not quite ready to step in for Gilmore on Day 1, but could develop into a number one corner with a little polishing.

Caleb Farley - Cornerback - Virginia Tech - South Carolina - 6'-2" 197 lbs

Farley has the length, but needs to add some muscle to take on NFL receivers and ball carriers.  He started out at Virginia Tech as a receiver and converted to defense in his sophomore year, and with his limited experience as a DB, he has the more upside than either Surtain II or Horn.  Like Parson, Farley opted out of the 2020 and will need further development before he's ready to step into a starting role.

Keep an eye on these five players on draft night.  It's doubtful Surtain II will last to fifteen, but he is the only player I would expect the Patriots will trade up to try to acquire (if all the QBs are gone).  If all are gone by the time the Patriots are on the clock, don't be surprised if Belichick once again trades out and stockpiles some picks for later rounds.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: NFL Draft: Will the Patriots Get Defensive with the Number 15 Pick?
NFL Draft: Will the Patriots Get Defensive with the Number 15 Pick?
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