It came as little surprise that the Patriots opted to spend some of their fourth-round draft capital to trade up. And it came as little surprise that the Patriots opted to target Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore as they made that move.
The surprise? That Barmore was there in the first place.
In a weak defensive tackle class, Barmore was the consensus top player. The Athletic ranked him No. 1 among interior defensive linemen and 20th overall. Pro Football Focus had him as the top-ranked defensive tackle and their 12th overall player in the class. NBC Sports Edge ranked Barmore as the top interior defensive lineman and the 20th player overall.
In talking to scouts and evaluators prior to this year's draft, I was told Barmore was easily a first-rounder talent-wise. The tape is not an issue with him. It was easy to see his size (6-foot-4, 310 pounds, 34-inch arms) and explosiveness create problems against two of the nation's best offensive lines in last season's college football playoff. He was the most dominant player on the field at times against Ohio State and Notre Dame offensive lines loaded with NFL talent.
"Big, tough, good instincts, good anchor," said one AFC defensive coach of Barmore. "Sudden. He's disruptive. He's versatile. He could fit in any scheme."
And yet he lasts to pick No. 38. Why?
In scouting circles, there are some concerns about the level of maturity Barmore will bring to his next team. "How does he handle adversity?" wondered one evaluator ahead of draft weekend.
However, it is worth noting that Alabama coach Nick Saban vouched for Barmore publicly when asked by Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot if Barmore was resistant to coaching.
“We never had any issues here with him at all when it came to structure, whether it was football or academics,’’ Saban told Cabot. “He always worked hard in the offseason program, and he did whatever everybody told him to do. We were were very structured in regards to academics, and he worked very hard at that.’’
“I never had a problem with him. He’s a good kid,” Saban added.
Barmore is an ideal fit for what Bill Belichick wants in a 3-4 defensive end. We identified Barmore as the best player at that spot when it came to fitting Belichick's wish list of traits laid out for Browns scouts all the way back in 1991.
"All-around player. Big, strong and can run," stated Browns scouting notes dug up by former Ravens scout and current NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah.
"These are the hardest guys to find. Would rather have the big strong guy than the faster guy to stop the run first and can substitute in for the pass-rush. 1: You cannot get knocked off the line. 2. Size over speed at defensive end. 3. Pressure up the middle for the QB can cause more problems than guys running around the corner. 4. Frame and growth potential are very important."
Barmore checks every box there. It's part of the reason why he led our Prototypical Patriots series at his position this year.
Given that there probably aren't many open 53-man roster spots for rookies on the 2021 Patriots, it makes sense that Belichick would be willing to give up two fourth-rounders in order to nab a first-round talent in the second.
In New England, Barmore will join a list of interior defensive linemen led by Lawrence Guy, Byron Cowart and recent free-agent pickups Henry Anderson and Davon Godchaux. After being one of the thinnest position groups on the team a season ago, over the course of this offseason it looks like it has turned into a position of strength.