Pro Football Focus released their Top 101 players of the 2021 season list and five Patriots are featured on the list as the awards and nods continue to roll in after New England's 10-7 season.
Shaq Mason comes in as the highest-ranked Patriot at 35th, after playing 957 snaps (97 percent) at right guard. Mason signed a five-year contract extension in 2018 and still has two years remaining on the lucrative deal. "Mason has been a run-blocking monster since his college days in a triple-option offense at Georgia Tech," writes Sam Monson in the article. "He recorded an 87.2 run-blocking grade this season and allowed 16 pressures across 589 pass-blocking snaps despite blocking for a rookie passer."
Mason was ranked 50th in 2020's rankings by PFF.
Pending unrestricted free agent J.C. Jackson is the second-highest rated Patriot at 71st, which seems low considering how many interceptions Jackson has made to start his career, tying an NFL record with 25 over his first four seasons. Jackson is sure to cash in this offseason and his status is one of the biggest burning questions that the Patriots must face this offseason.
"In 2021, he allowed a 47.8 passer rating into his coverage, just marginally higher than the 45.7 figure he has ceded for his entire NFL career," writes Monson. "Just 51.0% of passes thrown into his coverage were caught by the intended receiver, and he tallied 12 pass breakups to go along with eight interceptions."
Jackson was unranked in 2020's rankings.
In third place at 75th comes center David Andrews, who signed a four-year deal to return to New England last offseason and was once again a key cog and leader up front.
"Andrews played 1,149 snaps for the Patriots in 2021, allowing 18 pressures from 654 pass-blocking snaps when including the playoffs," wrote Monson. "He surrendered only one sack all season and recorded good grades as both a run-blocker and pass-protector."
In fourth place at 84th comes Michael Onwenu, who went from left guard to right tackle to third blocking tackle over the course of the season. After starting all 16 games in 2020, Onwenu had just eight starts in 2021 and saw his snaps decrease from 926 to 648. PFF remains extremely high on Onwenu even though he has yet to land at a permanent starting position. His future status, and those of pending free agents Ted Karras and Trent Brown, seem very much connected.
"This past year, he played both left guard and right tackle for at least 200 snaps and allowed 11 pressures over 340 pass-blocking snaps," wrote Monson, who also expressed confusion as to how Onwenu was the odd man out on the line after such a fantastic rookie year. Onwenu was ranked 60th in 2020's rankings.
Finally, at 90th comes defensive back Adrian Phillips, who has been a perfect fit in New England, earning himself a contract extension near the end of last season. A versatile safety, Phillips role evolved even more in his second season with the Pats, playing over 100 snaps along the defensive line, inside the box, in the slot and at free safety, while just missing out (97 snaps) in kick coverage. He can play just about everywhere and does it at a high level, while his pick-six against his former team in the Los Angeles Chargers was a season highlight for the team.
"Phillips notched four picks and five pass breakups to go along with 31 defensive stops and a forced fumble in 2021," highlighted Monson. Phillips was also unranked in 2020.
With four of the five Patriots all under contract for 2022, there's reason for optimism that New England is building up their talent core. But the status of Jackson is a huge question mark and likely the first shoe to drop this offseason.