After last season's virtual draft, Cleveland played host to festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.
Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player New England has selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 15 overall: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
My take: For 21 years, coach Bill Belichick has stressed that two of the most important characteristics he looks for in quarterbacks are accuracy and decision-making. Those are Jones' strengths, which is why those who have a background in the team's system -- such as former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis -- believed he was the perfect fit among this year's QB prospects.
The Patriots now have a chance to get back to a functional passing game that more closely resembled what they executed under former signal-caller Tom Brady.
Why no Fields: For those disappointed that the Patriots didn't make a more aggressive move for Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, they obviously didn't have the same conviction about him as a prospect. History will judge if they are correct, as the Chicago Bears jumped them from pick No. 20 to No. 11, and gave up the hefty price of a 2022 first-round pick to do so. It's hard to imagine the Patriots would have paid that price, and the hunch is Jones was their target anyway (how quickly they turned in the draft card might have tipped that off).
QB room: Jones has a chance to start as a rookie, joining a room that includes Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham. He was deemed among the most pro-ready prospects, with scouts noting how quickly he picked up the offense at the Senior Bowl this year.
Round 2, No. 38 overall: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
My take: The Patriots must have had a high grade on Barmore -- at the first-round level -- based on their aggressive move to draft him. Giving up their second-round pick (No. 46) and two fourth-rounders (No. 122 and No. 139) to move up eight spots speaks volumes. Barmore (6-5, 310) is a disruptive interior rusher who projects to fill the void created by Adam Butler's free-agent departure. The Patriots have restocked and improved their defensive line -- from signing free agents Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson, to bringing back captain Lawrence Guy -- in one of the more overlooked, but important storylines of their offseason.
Round 3, No. 96 overall: Ronnie Perkins, DE, Oklahoma
My take: Perkins (6-3, 247) wasn't expected to be available late in the third round. A reported failed drug test limited him to six games in 2020 and might have factored into his slide. He joins an edge group that includes Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Deatrich Wise Jr., Chase Winovich, Anfernee Jennings, Tashawn Bower and Rashod Berry. As long as the issues that kept Perkins off the field are put behind him, he should help as a pass-rusher, and also could factor into the special-teams mix because he runs well.
This was a case where the Patriots probably would have preferred to fill a more pressing need (e.g. receiver), but the value on the board was just too good for them to pass up. Matt Miller, who has been contributing to ESPN's draft coverage, rated Perkins as his 40th overall prospect.
Round 4, No. 120 overall: Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma
My take: A big, physical back whose style sparks thoughts of LeGarrette Blount, the 5-foot-11, 227-pound Stevenson is an intimidating runner. The Patriots were unlikely to pick up Sony Michel's fifth-year option for 2022 regardless, but the arrival of Stevenson likely confirms that decision.
The Patriots have top back Damien Harris, Michel, passing back James White, Stevenson, J.J. Taylor and core special teamer Brandon Bolden at running back, which looks to be a nice combination of quality and depth. Stevenson also has experience on special teams, which could give him an edge in a competitive situation for a roster spot on game day.
Round 5, No. 177 overall: Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan
My take: This marks the third straight year the Patriots have picked a Michigan defender, with McGrone (6-foot-1, 236 pounds) following Chase Winovich and Josh Uche. McGrone, coming off a torn ACL in November, fits as an off-the-line linebacker in the team's scheme, but Belichick hinted that he might not be ready medically in 2021, saying: "We're prepared to not have him available this year." The team's off-the-line linebacker personnel now is comprised of Dont'a Hightower, Ja'Whaun Bentley, Uche, Raekwon McMillan, McGrone and Terez Hall. Hightower, Bentley and McMillan are all scheduled to be free agents after the 2021 season.
McGrone entered the draft after his redshirt sophomore season, and is viewed as a player who has a lot of growth ahead of him, having played only 19 games.
Round 6, No. 188 overall: Joshuah Bledsoe, S, Missouri
My take: A versatile player who has experience in the slot and safety, Bledsoe adds a developmental safety behind starters Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips, with 2020 top pick Kyle Dugger also projected to make a jump with an expanded role. Bledsoe's special teams experience and success had to also be appealing to the Patriots. Scouts describe him as an aggressive player, and his mental aptitude in helping align the defense at Missouri would seem to fit well with the Patriots move-the-chess-pieces-around-on-a-weekly-basis approach.
Round 6, No. 197 overall: William Sherman, OL, Colorado
My take: The Patriots struck gold with sixth-round OL Mike Onwenu last year and hope it's another bonanza with Sherman, who has some similarities to Onwenu from the standpoint of being a thick-bodied prospect with some tackle/guard flexibility. If the Patriots project Sherman at tackle, he'd join the group of Isaiah Wynn, Trent Brown, Justin Herron, Korey Cunningham and Yodny Cajuste. At guard, he'd add a layer of depth behind Onwenu, Shaq Mason and Ted Karras. When also considering the promising rookie season of Herron, the 2020 sixth-round pick from Wake Forest, this is an area the Patriots have been on the ball of late.
Round 7, No. 242 overall: Tre Nixon, WR, UCF
My take: The 6-foot, 187-pound Nixon originally attended Mississippi, and had also been recruited by Alabama and Georgia before transferring to Central Florida. So he was a big-time high school prospect coming out of Viera High School in Florida but didn't have a big-time college career. So this is a pick that focuses on some of Nixon's exemplary traits that initially made him a top recruit (e.g., 6.81 time in the 3-cone drill), and the Patriots will work to develop those in hopes of finding another late-draft gem at receiver like they did with Julian Edelman (232nd) in 2009. Nixon joins a receiver group comprised of Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Kristian Wilkerson, Isaiah Zuber and Devin Smith.