After months of endless anticipation, the 2021 NFL Draft is here! To celebrate, let’s take one final look at how the Patriots’ draft could go based on a number of different circumstances. For these exercises, we will use Pro Football Focus’s Mock Draft Simulator while controlling only the Patriots. - We will use the same picks for the other 31 teams in each of the four separate mock drafts. - 

Many Pats fans are focused on the team trading up and nabbing the QB of the future in Round 1, but we’re going to begin our mock simulator series with one that will have Patriots Nation letting out a collective groan - Part I: Patriots trade back from 15th overall.

Amazingly, Bill Belichick has only traded out of the first round three times - 2009, ‘13 and ‘20. So while he’s often trading back in the draft, it’s actually a rarity for the Pats to move out of the first round entirely, and I don’t think that will be the case this year, either.

Here is how the first round has played out through picks 1-14:

  1. QB, Trevor Lawrence (JAX); 2. QB, Zach Wilson (NYJ); 3. QB, Trey Lance (SF); 4. TE, Kyle Pitts (ATL); 5. OT, Penei Sewell (CIN); 6. WR, Ja’Marr Chase (MIA); 7. WR, DeVonta Smith (DET); 8. WR, Jaylen Waddle (CAR); 9. LB, Micah Parsons (DEN); 10. CB, Patrick Surtain II (DAL); 11. T, Rashaun Slater (NYG); 12. QB, Justin Fields (PHI); 13. T, Christian Darrisaw (LAC); 14. EDGE, Kwitty Paye (MIN).

Reaction: A bit of a surprise given what happened at the quarterback position. The Falcons ultimately chose Lance at 3rd overall before Fields came off the board as the fourth QB, but not before falling nine more spots to Philadelphia at 12th. This leaves a couple intriguing options on the board, but most importantly, it leaves the Pats with the perfection ammunition to facilitate a trade back in the first round - QB Mac Jones is still on the board.

With Jones still available, two teams come calling that could use an improvement to their current situations at QB - Washington, who owns the #19 pick, and Chicago, who owns the #20 pick.

For argument’s sake, let’s just say Washington wins the bidding war by default of being the higher pick. Bill moves back four picks and sends one of the Patriots’ two picks in three selections in the fourth round (#120) to Washington. In return, he picks up their 2nd rounder this year (#51) and their 2022 2nd round pick.

*Trade* - Patriots trade the #15 pick and #120 pick (4th round) to the The Team. The Team trades the #19 pick, the #51 pick (2nd round) and a 2022 2nd round pick.

Washington slides up and nabs Mac Jones, followed by LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to Arizona, CB Caleb Farley to Oakland and DT Christian Barmore to Miami at 18th.

Now, let’s look at the top-players available for the Pats to select at 20th overall:

- CB Jaycee Horn (South Carolina), EDGE Jaelen Phillips (Miami [FL]); S - Trevon Moehrig (TCU); WR Rashod Bateman (Minnesota); CB Greg Newsome II (Northwestern); T Elijah Vera-Tucker (USC).

Analysis: while the edge rusher Phillips makes the decision interesting for Bill, and he can always be tickled by an offensive lineman, the choice is rather obvious…

“With the 19th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select: CB Jaycee Horn, (South Carolina)”

Just like that, the Patriots have started the draft on a winning note, acquiring multiple picks and taking a player many believe to be the second-highest rated cornerback in the draft. The 6’1” corner allowed an opponent QB rating of just 54.9 and had two interceptions in 2020 SEC play. Some project Horn as comparable to Green Bay’s Jaire Alexander at the NFL level.

Up next: Round 2, Pick #46 -

The sixth quarterback is already off the board, with Kyle Trask going 39th overall to Carolina as what would appear to be an insurance policy to Sam Darnold. Wide receiver Rondale Moore was among notable picks, with the former-Purdue star falling to Denver at 40th overall.

On the board - QB Kellen Mond (Texas A&M); QB Davis Mills (Stanford); WR Elijah Moore (Ole Miss); T Walker Little (Stanford); T Dillon Radunz (North Dakota St.); S Elijah Molden (Washington); LB Jamin Davis (Kentucky); EDGE Ronnie Perkins (Oklahoma).

Analysis: This pick comes down to whether Bill feels he can pass on a QB here and be able to snag one in another five spots with the 51st overall pick which the Pats acquired from Washington. And, well, Bill knows how to read the virtual room…

“With the 46th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select: WR Elijah Moore, (Ole Miss)”

Bill uses the pick to finish off the wide receiver room which, even following free agency and further pronounced by the retirement of Julian Edelman, was left a little lacking. The 5’8”/185lbs WR comes to Foxboro after setting an Ole Miss program-record with 86 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games during his junior season.

Up next: 2nd Round, Pick #51 -

Just like the mad genius seemingly always does, it looks like Belichick knew what the other four teams in front of him were going to do. Neither the Chargers, Raiders, Cardinals, nor Dolphins took a QB.

Still on the board -

- No point.

- Analysis: Obvious.

“With the 51st overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select: QB Kellen Mond, (Texas A&M)”

Could this guy be the destined QB of the future? A mid-round selection who could potentially do a little of what both Brady and Newton’s greatest strengths were. The 21-year-old was a Heisman Finalist last year and one of just three QB’s in SEC history to pass for 9,000 yards and rush for 1,500 yards. Mond can study behind Newton for a year, before getting handed the keys in 2022, where he could use his knowledge of a Pro-style system to guide the Patriots to years of sustained success, a la the Brady years (you know, just not as good).

Up next: 3rd round - conditional, Pick #96 -

On the board -

LB Jamin Davis (Kentucky); S Jamar Johnson (Indiana); CB Kelvin Joseph (Kentucky); G Kendrick Green (Illinois); CB Tay Gowan (UCF); T Brady Christensen (BYU).

Analysis: This is another pretty easy one…

“With the 96th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select: LB Jamin Davis, (Kentucky)”

PFF’s big board has Davis as the 41st ranked prospect. With the linebacker still sitting there 55 picks later, that’s just not a value Bill can pass up. Could Davis be the next to join the celebrated lineage of Patriot linebackers from McGinest, Bruschi and Vrabel to Mayo and Hightower? He’ll certainly have time to learn as he enters an already deep position room.

Up next: 4th round, Pick #122

On the board - S Jamar Johnson (Indiana); CB Kelvin Joseph (Kentucky); G Kendrick Green (Illinois); CB Tay Gowan (UCF); T - Brady Christensen (BYU).

Analysis: Somewhat of a surprise here as all names are still the familiar ones atop the leaderboard from last we saw at #96. This seems like a prime place for Bill to grab a seventh offensive lineman to shore up the depth of the unit. A quick peek at the Pats’ depth chart shows no real area of need along the offensive line, as the six-highest options all have versatility. That allows Bill to pick the best player…

“With the 122nd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select: T Brady Christensen, (BYU)”

The 6’6” Christensen earned a rating of 96.0 during 13 games in his junior season in Provo according to PFF. All told, he played in 38 games and allowed just three sacks over the course of 1,403 passblock attempts in his three-year collegiate career, good for a 99.8 percent protection rate. The Pats’ O-Line can now deal with multiple injuries and potentially go seven-deep with starter-level production across the board.

In what seems like a timeless classic, Bill moved down the board in the first round and was able to acquire an extra 2nd round pick in next year’s draft while still select five players in the top-122:

- 16th overall: CB Jaycee Horn (SC); 46th overall: WR Elijah Moore (Ole Miss); 51st overall: QB Kellen Mond (A&M); 96th overall: LB Jamin Davis (KT); 122nd overall: T Brady Christensen (BYU).