The draft is now just days away so it's time to weigh in with our mock draft. Although many see the Patriots aggressively moving up to take a quarterback, it takes two to make a deal so sitting tight and grabbing a top defensive player may make more sense.
Without further ado, here's Patriots Unfiltered's 2021 mock draft:
Numbers game – Nothing in the NFL ever seems to be easy. Even an innocuous adjustment like the rule change implemented last week that now allows certain players to don a wider variety of numbers. Kansas City brought the proposal forward because fewer numbers were available to certain positions where some teams have fewer to offer due to number retirements and increasing practice squad sizes.
So, the NFL now will allow linebackers to wear Nos. 1-59 and 90-99 while defensive backs now can don anything from 1-49. Running backs and wide receivers will also be able to don single digits. Evidently this tweak has threatened to upset the competitive balance of the game – at least based on the response from Tom Brady and perhaps Bill Belichick as well.
Brady lamented the change by claiming the process of identifying who to block has now become much more difficult. The theory is a linebacker wearing No. 2 will be overlooked due to his unusual number. I'm not really sure how that works, though. Defensive linemen are still bound to their higher digits, and defensive backs have always been able to wear numbers from 20-49. So, as an example, when Adrian Phillips (wearing No. 21) or Kyle Dugger (35) creep into the box and serve as linebackers, does Brady have trouble identifying the MIKE (or middle linebacker, which is used to help set the protections for the offensive line) because no one wearing No. 55 was there? Phillips, Dugger and countless other defensive backs have lined up as linebackers in the past, and no one seemed to cry foul with regard to the protections in those situations. Now, instead of 21 being in the box it could be No. 2, and suddenly quarterbacks are in danger. Seems silly to me.
Pro Football Focus reported last week that the Patriots were one of the few teams that voted against the change, and that Belichick himself was vehemently opposed to it. It will be interesting to hear the coach's reasoning for the opposition in the future.
Thanks, but no thanks – At least that's my view of a potential trade for Atlanta's Julio Jones. Several outlets reported the Falcons have been receiving calls on the 32-year-old, seven-time Pro Bowl wideout. Peter King of FMIA said the Patriots were one team that could be in the mix.
Given the age and injury history, the price to obtain Jones won't likely be that high. Perhaps a second-round pick would get the job done. Although Jones is a tremendously talented receiver, arguably the best of his generation, the Patriots would be better served to find younger options who could theoretically be part of the future. As the roster continues to undergo a rebuild, finding young players – as they have for the most part in free agency – would seem to make more sense. No knock on Jones, who certainly would fill the vacant role of No. 1 receiver immediately.
Now, if the Patriots can manage to find a quarterback in the coming days, my tune may change.
Speaking of quarterback … -- Chatter continues to include the Patriots desire to move up Thursday night and grab a quarterback. It all makes sense, of course, given the team's uncertainty at the position and the potential for a talented passer to drop toward the back half of the top 10. But it's hard to escape the thought that if the Patriots were truly trying to make a bold move, would everyone in the media know about it? That doesn't seem to be the way Belichick has conducted his business over the past 20-plus years, many of which have seen him execute some really big trades without a hint of notice ahead of time. Just a thought.