The New England Patriots will have their highest first-round pick in a while when the 2021 NFL Draft opens later this year.
A win over the New York Jets in Sunday's Week 17 finale at Gillette Stadium, combined with the results of the late afternoon games, has slotted the Patriots into the No. 15 pick in the first round of the upcoming draft. New England finished the 2020 season with a 7-9 record and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
The last time the Patriots selected in the top 20 of the first round was 2011 when they took left tackle Nate Solder at No. 17 overall. It proved to be a tremendous pick. The most recent top 15 selection made by New England came in 2008 when the team chose linebacker Jerod Mayo at No. 10 overall -- a pick acquired in a previous trade.
Only once have the Patriots made a pick at No. 15. They used it in 1983 to draft quarterback Tony Eason. Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino was selected by the Miami Dolphins 12 picks after Eason.
The Patriots have many roster issues to address in the 2021 draft, and several of those areas are on offense. New England arguably had the worst group of skill position players in the league this season. The Pats received very little production from tight ends and the wide receiver talent/depth is severely lacking.
Quarterback is another position the Patriots might target in Round 1. BYU's Zach Wilson and North Dakota State's Trey Lance are the top quarterbacks who could be available when New England is on the clock at No. 15.
The Patriots are projected to have 11 picks in the 2021 draft overall, including compensatory selections. The league has not yet announced the compensatory picks.