The draft was be held in Las Vegas on the Strip in the area adjacent to Caesars Forum two years after it was initially scheduled. The 2020 NFL draft was turned into a virtual event because of COVID-19.
Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player New England selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 29 overall: Cole Strange, OG, Chattanooga
My take: Strange projects to start at left guard, and if he follows in the footsteps of 2005 first-rounder Logan Mankins (32nd) or 2016 third-rounder Joe Thuney (78th), this will be a solid pick that addresses one of the team's obvious needs (albeit one created by trading veteran guard Shaq Mason). Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, a former New England scout, had identified Strange before the draft as an ideal Patriots fit because of his toughness, aggressive playing style and movement skills. One question: Did the Patriots overdraft him? Strange was viewed by some draft analysts as a second- or third-round pick ... which was actually what was said about Mankins back in 2005.
Starting O-line: The Patriots' top offensive line projects as left tackle Isaiah Wynn, Strange at left guard, center David Andrews, right guard Mike Onwenu and right tackle Trent Brown. That assumes, of course, that Strange quickly adapts to the system.
Cornerback regrets? After starting cornerback J.C. Jackson departed in free agency, the Patriots had a chance to draft his replacement at No. 21 overall -- Washington's Trent McDuffie -- who wasn't projected to be available at that point by many draft analysts. But they instead followed through on a trade, moving back to No. 29 and picking up third-round (94) and fourth-round picks (121). The Chiefs took McDuffie at No. 21 with the pick acquired from the Patriots. If he goes on to become a shutdown corner, that could hurt from a New England perspective.
Round 2, No. 50 overall: Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor
My take: Speed. The Patriots need more of it, and the 6-foot-2, 181-pound Thornton is one of the fastest players in the draft. Although media analysts projected Thornton as more of a mid-round pick, the Patriots not only saw it differently, they traded their second-rounder (54) and fifth-rounder (158) to move up four spots to select him. That shows how much conviction they have in Thornton, who took a late "top 30" visit to Patriots headquarters leading up to the draft. His speed will complement the top four of DeVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor at receiver, and he also projects to be a top candidate to return kicks. This pick brings back memories of when the Patriots traded up for speedy wide receiver/returner Bethel Johnson in the second round of the 2003 draft.
Round 3, No. 85 overall: Marcus Jones, CB, Houston
My take: The 5-foot-8, 174-pound Jones is a versatile defensive back with corner and safety experience, and also a top punt and kickoff returner. Nagy had highlighted Jones as a Patriots fit by saying: "He's a fun player to watch, a lot of energy, a lot of burst. One of the highest compliments you can give a DB is that he's just a 'baller' -- you can stick him anywhere. He's sticky in coverage [and] can mirror anyone. ... He's very much like [Patriots Hall of Famer] Troy Brown, just more slanted [towards] defense." Jones should be on the game-day roster as a returner and will be a candidate to contribute right away on defense in sub packages.
What's next: The Patriots traded away their second third-round pick (94) to Carolina in exchange for a late fourth-rounder (137) and a 2023 third-rounder. So that leaves them with the following picks on Saturday -- three fourth-rounders (121, 127, 137), three sixth-rounders (183, 200, 210) and a seventh-rounder (245). One of the intriguing questions will be if a punter is on the radar. They could also stand to look at a linebacker, among other positions.
Round 4, No. 121 overall, Jack Jones, CB, Arizona State
My take: The 5-foot-10, 171-pound Jones was a pre-draft visitor -- reflecting he was a target the Patriots wanted to add -- and he seems to highlight how scouting is a multiple-year process. Jones was a five-star recruit coming out of high school in 2016 and had many scholarship offers, and things didn't work out for him at USC based on academics. He went to junior college, then Arizona State, and the Patriots seem to be banking on bringing him back to the days when he was a sought-after recruit. Based on his more recent credentials, Jones was considered more of a late-round pick. As a fourth-round pick, he should make the Patriots' roster along with fellow rookie CB Marcus Jones, with Jalen Mills, Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, Shaun Wade, Terrance Mitchell and Joejuan Williams the other corners on the roster.
Round 4, No. 127 overall, Pierre Strong Jr., RB, South Dakota State
My take: More speed. Director of player personnel Matt Groh noted that to get faster, you need to find speedy players, and Strong qualifies after running a 4.37 time in the 40-yard dash -- tied for the best time from any running back at the NFL combine. This pick, coupled with the second-round selection of Thornton, highlights a clear strategy from the team in the draft. The Patriots viewed their team speed as deficient. Strong comes from a lower level of competition and should have some time to grow behind the scenes with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson ahead of him on the depth chart.
Round 4, No. 137 overall: Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky
My take: The 6-foot, 215-pound Zappe, who threw 62 touchdown passes last season and had the highest Wonderlic score among QBs this year, projects to bump Jarrett Stidham off the roster. Could he potentially threaten veteran Brian Hoyer, too? That seems unlikely, but given how Hoyer earned the No. 2 spot as an undrafted free agent in 2009, it can't be dismissed. This pick falls into the category of "It's never bad business to draft and develop QBs," as it's the most important position on the field. The one risk for the Patriots is if they prioritized it over a player who might have a more immediate impact on the field.
Round 6, No. 183 overall: Kevin Harris, RB, South Carolina
My take: This is often right around the cut-off point where a rookie could make the roster or ultimately find himself on the practice squad, and this seems like a pick where the Patriots stayed true to the board for the best player available despite running back not being a major need. Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and fourth-round pick Strong Jr. project as locks to make the roster, with veteran passing back James White still recovering from hip surgery. The power-running Harris will vie for a roster spot with J.J. Taylor and Devine Ozigbo, and should have the inside track based on his draft status.
Round 6, No. 200 overall: Sam Roberts, DT, Northwest Missouri State
My take: The 6-foot-4, 293-pound Roberts has long arms (31.5-inch) and projects as an interior sub-rusher who can create disruption in passing situations (and potentially on the field-goal block team). Albeit playing at a lower level of competition, he totaled 18.5 sacks in 38 career starts to go along with 47 tackles for a loss. Roberts isn't a lock to make the roster -- last year's sixth-round pick at 197, offensive lineman Will Sherman, spent his rookie season on the practice squad -- but he has some promising pass-rushing traits to possibly develop.
Round 6, No. 210 overall: Chasen Hines, G, LSU
My take: The 6-foot-2, 327-pound Hines has NFL-caliber size, with a powerful build similar to 2020 sixth-round pick Mike Onwenu. Those physical traits are rare, and at this point in the draft, teams often are drafting traits with the hope they can be harnessed into something greater. Hines will be vying for a roster spot with a handful of backup linemen, such as 2021 sixth-round pick Will Sherman, and should land on the practice squad at the least. A team can never have enough linemen.
Round 7, No. 245 overall: Andrew Stueber, OT, Michigan
My take: Stueber is a native of Darien, Connecticut, so this is a homecoming of sorts (the region is often split between Patriots and Giants fans). ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said he likely slipped to this point in the draft because there isn't a standout trait that makes scouts say "wow," but he described Stueber as an efficient blocker who was a leader on Michigan's solid O-line. The 6-6, 325-pound Stueber will vie for a backup roster spot at right tackle or guard, and at the least, should find a spot on the practice squad.