New NFL Network 2021 mock draft has Patriots moving up for elite WR

/ by Nick Goss
Presented By John's Sewer

Most of the 2021 NFL Mock Drafts published over the last few months include the New England Patriots trading up in the first round to select one of the top five quarterback prospects.

It makes a lot of sense, too. The Patriots need a long-term answer at quarterback in the post-Tom Brady era and this year's draft class is loaded with excellent talent at the position.

But we shouldn't just assume the Patriots will move up in Round 1, and we also shouldn't assume that if they did trade up it would definitely be for a quarterback.

Curran: Does DeVonta Smith's wispy frame rule him out for Patriots?

There are plenty of exciting players at other positions who are projected to be top 15 picks, including three wide receivers -- LSU's Ja'Marr Chase and the Alabama duo of Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith.

NFL Media's Peter Schrager released his latest mock draft earlier this week and he projects the Patriots to move up three spots from No. 15 to No. 12 in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. With that selection, Schrager has the Patriots taking Smith.

Here is Schrager's explanation for the trade up and pick:

"Everyone seems to think Philadelphia is looking to trade up into the top 10, but I believe the Eagles are a prime team to trade down, looking to squeeze out another first-round pick for next year -- giving them potentially four in 2022 -- or an additional second-rounder in 2021. New England gives up its second-round pick (No. 46) to move up three spots for the Heisman-winning, Nick Saban-endorsed star WR1."

2021 NFL Draft Highlights: Devonta Smith

The Patriots need an injection of high-end talent at wide receiver, there's no doubt about that. N'Keal Harry has failed to meet expectations since being drafted in the first round in 2019. Jakobi Meyers had a solid sophomore season in 2020 but isn't a true No. 1 wideout. Julian Edelman recently retired. Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne were signed in free agency, but these veterans are no lock to be long-term contributors in New England.

Smith just won the Heisman Trophy after an incredible season for the Crimson Tide. He tallied 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. He dominated against elite competition in the nation's top conference -- the SEC. Smith caught 12 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game versus Ohio State and didn't even finish the game due to injury.

The concern with Smith is his size. He reportedly measured at six feet and 160 pounds this week, which is far from ideal size for an NFL wide receiver. That said, weight wasn't an issue when he was torching defenses in the SEC with pinpoint route running:

It's also not uncommon for smaller wideouts to have very productive careers. Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer noted a very interesting comparison for Smith with the following tweet: 

Smith is one of the most interesting prospects in this first round because of his size. If he begins to slide and lands outside the top 10, the Patriots should strongly consider moving up to get him. The talent and production in college was quite impressive.