Bill Belichick entered the 2021 NFL draft with a fairly short list of needs. After all, the New England Patriots filled most of their roster holes via free agency. And by securing Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick, Belichick solved his biggest remaining problem.
What followed after he found a new franchise quarterback? In typical Belichick fashion, he took a gamble in the second round by targeting a specific player. This time, though, the unusual way the draft board fell gave the Patriots a chance to land a potential star at a critical position.
Offense was the theme of the first round of the 2021 NFL draft
The first round of the 2021 NFL draft saw plenty of blue-chip players get selected early. Trevor Lawrence officially became the new face of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The New York Jets predictably hitched their wagon to BYU’s Zach Wilson.
San Francisco finally ended months of rumors by taking Trey Lance with the third overall pick. The Patriots and the Chicago Bears also secured high-profile quarterbacks with superstar upside.
Thirteen other offensive prospects also got selected on Day 1. In fact, the first seven players off the board all play on that side of the ball, including Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase, and Jaylen Waddle. By the time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came on the clock at pick No. 32, three more pass-catchers, two running backs, and five offensive linemen had become first-rounders, too.
Overall, 18 offensive players got picked during the opening night of the draft. And on the defensive side, cornerbacks and linebackers dominated the mix. Luckily for Belichick, that meant a prospect teeming with All-Pro potential remained available heading into Day 2.
Bill Belichick took advantage of the board to steal a potential defensive star
The Patriots didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the way the draft board fell. Slated to pick 46th overall, they traded two fourth-rounders to move up to No. 38 to select another former Crimson Tide star. Despite possessing first-round ability, Christian Barmore did not hear his name called Thursday. However, he still became the first defensive tackle taken thanks to New England’s calculated gamble.
“It’s pretty unusual for the first interior defensive lineman to be drafted at that point in the draft,” Bill Belichick said during his post-draft press conference Friday. “We traded up, felt good about acquiring that. We look forward to working with Christian. He’s played a number of different positions in Coach [Nick] Saban’s defense.”
An All-American in his final year at Alabama, Barmore tips the scales at 6-foot-4, 310 pounds. Strong, explosive, and versatile, he has all the tools to develop into a top-flight interior lineman. If he buys into the system and stays focused, the Philadelphia native will add a dynamic element to a position group that has experienced a significant overhaul this offseason.
Christian Barmore brings Pro Bowl upside to a much-improved Patriots defensive line
The Patriots struggled mightily to defend the run in 2020. Surprisingly, only six teams surrendered more rushing yards than Belichick’s squad. Most of that had to do with poor personnel. This year, though, New England should have no trouble shutting down opposing running backs.
Belichick not only retained Lawrence Guy but he also signed Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson to bolster the team’s defensive tackle depth. Byron Cowart, Montravius Adams, Carl Davis, and Akeem Spence round out a deep group that now has Barmore in the fold, too.
So what does the rookie bring to the table? Unlike most of the Patriots’ other defensive tackles, Barmore boasts big-time pass-rush ability. After recording two sacks and six tackles for loss as a redshirt freshman, he took his production to another level during Alabama’s latest championship campaign with eight sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in 11 games.
Barmore showed he could dominate playing in the toughest conference in college football. If he continues to develop his skills and stays engaged at all times, he has the upside to become of the top players at his position.
Will that happen? Nothing is guaranteed. Barmore does have some boom-or-bust to him. But if Belichick’s buddy down in Tuscaloosa gave the talented defensive tackle his blessing, there’s a good chance the Patriots added a future Pro Bowler Friday night.
All statistics courtesy of Sports Reference.