2021 NFL Draft: New England Patriots team needs

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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Chazz Surratt, 2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft prospect Chazz Surratt #21 of the North Carolina Tar Heels (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

Off-ball linebacker

2020 Starters: Ja’Whaun Bentley, Josh Uche

A position group that struggled with depth and forced into action safeties Adrian Phillips and Terrence Brooks into action as rangy outside linebackers who looked much more comfortable in pass-coverage than run-defense. The loss of Dont’a Hightower to a COVID-19 opt-out was felt throughout the course of the season, but Ja’Whaun Bentley did a sufficient job replacing his ability to break downhill against the run.

Alongside Bentley, former Michigan edge and 2020 draft selection Josh Uche shifted up to the second level of the defense and showed promise as a run-stuffer who can also make his presence felt in the pass-rush with an effective speed-rush on stunts and twists.

Moving forward though, New England needs to find an inside linebacker who can more consistently match in pass-coverage against the mismatch nightmares roaming the NFL.

Thankfully, the 2021 NFL Draft can be defined by the next-gen mold for the NFL linebacker with sideline-to-sideline speed and the ability to match athletic tight ends and receiving-backs in space.

This is a defensive-dynamic desperately needed for the New England Patriots that has only been filled by safeties such as standout rookie Kyle Dugger. With a new acquisition in the center of their defense, Uche can slide back down to his natural position on the edge and become even more impactful as a pass-rusher.

Potential Solutions

First round: Zaven Collins, Tulsa

Day Two: Chazz Surratt, North Carolina

Day Three: Grant Stuard, Houston