The New England Patriots have a few needs in the 2021 NFL Draft, not least of which is at wide receiver. That explains why the team is being linked to not one, but two elite pass catchers with their first couple of selections.
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With the 13th Pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, The Patriots Select…
Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle, according to both WalterFootball and DraftSite and yours truly, is an exceptional fit for a Patriots offense that is desperately in need of a playmaker in the passing game.
Waddle doesn’t have the kind of stats that scream Heisman candidate or Fred Biletnikoff award winner, but he might be the receiver out of the upcoming draft who has the best NFL career. He was just ruled out for the remainder of the Crimson Tide’s season, his junior campaign, but he will likely have finished his college career with 103 receptions for 1,965 yards and 17 touchdowns.
He has game-breaking speed, excellent route-running capabilities, and he hails from one of the best programs in the country–which has traditionally been a bit of a pipeline for the Patriots.
Barring a move out of the first round, or a high-risk selection of a quarterback, you’d almost expect the Patriots to take Waddle if he’s available. Here’s what WalterFootball correspondents wrote about Waddle in their mock passage:
The Patriots have the worst receiving corps in the NFL. The only viable, young player they have at the position is Jakobi Meyers. Jaylen Waddle looks to be the next great Alabama receiver to enter the NFL. He’s one of the quickest players in college football.
With the 44th Pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, The Patriots Select…
Houston’s Marques Stevenson doesn’t have the same name recognition that Waddle does, but he makes up for it with pure, flat-out speed. Draft Site likes him for the Patriots’ second-round pick.
The 6-foot, 190-pound bullet out of Shreveport, Louisiana is the kind of take-the-top-off-the-defense threat that you see with guys like prime versions of Brandin Cooks or even former Carolina Panthers great Steve Smith.
Stevenson is projected to be a second-rounder, but if he blows up the NFL Combine as some might expect, he could rise on every team’s draft board. The sensibility in taking two wide receivers this high is there, but the likelihood of Bill Belichick doing something this straightforward seems almost impossible.
Other Areas of Need
Belichick would have some reason for not going after two receivers this high in the draft. The team has obvious needs at linebacker and edge defender.
There is talk Dont’a Hightower may retire and not return from his absence due to COVID-19 concerns. If that’s the case, the team must address their issues in the middle of their defense. It has been exposed in a major way as it’s clear the difference between a player like Hightower and his replacement JaWhaun Bentley.
The Patriots also desperately need a pass rusher. While Chase Winovich has been decent when he’s getting on the field consistently, the team still needs someone who can help consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks.
If the Patriots take one receiver and fill one of these other voids with the other of their two early picks, that would make sense.