ESPN Draft Expert Predicts Patriots Will Get Top-5 Talent at No. 15

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The media has focused most of its New England Patriots draft talk on a quarterback, but ESPN’s Todd McShay has Bill Belichick and Co. snatching up a linebacker at No. 15. Before Patriots fans who are hungry to see the team’s offense improve blow a gasket, keep in mind, we’re not talking about just any linebacker. 

McShay projects the Patriots will draft Penn State’s freakishly athletic linebacker, Micah Parsons. The 21-year-old has been called a Top-5 prospect by, and while drafting him wouldn’t give the Patriots a weapon to improve on offense, his presence could go a long way toward tightening up the middle of the defense.

The Patriots ranked 26th in the NFL in run defense in 2020.

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McShay’s Mock Draft

McShay’s latest mock draft has a few trades happening ahead of the Patriots’ selection. Predictably, he has Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence headed to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 1, with the New York Jets taking BYU’s Zach Wilson at No. 2. At No. 3, McShay has the Carolina Panthers trading with the Miami Dolphins to move up to take North Dakota State’s QB, Trey Lance. 

Continuing what McShay believes will be a crazy run on quarterbacks, the Atlanta Falcons take Ohio State’s Justin Fields. As McShay moves away from the quarterbacks, the Cincinnati Bengals snag the best offensive tackle in the draft by taking Oregon’s Penei Sewell.

Next, the Philadelphia Eagles make LSU’s JaMarr Chase the first wide receiver taken at No. 6. Surprisingly, the Detroit Lions take Heisman-Trophy-winning wide receiver, DeVonta Smith out of Alabama at No. 7. Many expect Smith to be the first wideout off the board.

At No. 8, McShay has the Dolphins, who switched spots with Carolina, taking Smith’s college teammate Jaylen Waddle. A run on cornerbacks starts at No. 9–but continuing the Alabama theme–with the Denver Broncos drafting second-generation defensive back Patrick Surtain II.

At No. 10, the Dallas Cowboys draft cornerback Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech. At No. 11, the New York Giants get Daniel Jones a significant weapon in Florida tight end, Kyle Pitts. 

In the first move that would potentially impact the Patriots, the Chicago Bears move up after a trade with the San Francisco 49ers. The Bears take Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, who draft prognosticators often mock to the Patriots.

At No. 13, the Los Angeles Chargers get someone to protect the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Justin Herbert, in Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater. In a peculiar prediction, McShay sends talented USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 14.

Quite honestly, Miami FL’s dynamic edge rusher Gregory Rousseau would have made more sense. Finally, the Patriots take Parsons. Here’s what McShay said about the predicted Parsons pick:

No, one of the top five quarterbacks isn’t available, but this isn’t a bad consolation prize for coach Bill Belichick. Parsons — my No. 4 prospect overall — slides to the No. 15 pick here because of unique circumstances following a rush on QBs and wide receivers. Dont’a Hightower will be back after opting out of the 2020 season and Chase Winovich has been disruptive off the edge, but Parsons gives Belichick a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker who can do a little bit of everything. And if the team moves on from Hightower after the 2021 season when he is set to be a free agent, Parsons would be the QB of this defense going forward. As for QB of the offense, it doesn’t seem to be in New England’s nature to trade up for one. Watch the free-agent market closely and keep an eye on what happens with former Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo, but if it comes down to the draft, the Patriots might have to look to Day 2 if all five QBs are indeed off the board.

McShay’s rationale makes some sense, but it’s hard to imagine the Patriots ignoring their need for a wide receiver with playmaking ability and bypassing Pitts’ dynamic college teammate Kadarius Toney. Still, the prospects of capturing a talent like Parsons is intriguing.

You might be wondering how a prospect as talented as Parsons could slip to the Patriots at No. 15. Well, there are a few factors. 

How Could Parsons Slip?

Perhaps the biggest reason Parsons might be available is the heavy emphasis on quarterbacks in the draft’s Top 12 picks. In McShay’s mock, quarterback-hungry teams picked five of them within the first dozen selections. Few people will tell you Jones is a better overall prospect than Parsons, but because of the importance of having a franchise quarterback, the Bears may well be willing to move up to draft him. 

The large number of quarterbacks taken in this mock is bound to push some talented players down the board. In this scenario, the Patriots benefit from the slide of non-quarterback prospects. 

Secondly, some talent evaluators and character vetters have labeled Parsons a potential problem. A lawsuit filed against Penn State named Parsons as a participant in a hazing incident where a former player, Isaiah Humphries, accused Parsons, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Jesse Luketa of harassing him as an initiation into the Nittany Lions’ football program. 

According to Humphries, the players would say things like, “I’m going to Sandusky you.” This references the disgraced former Penn State assistant coach and convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky, whom the state of Pennsylvania sentenced to 30 to 60 years after he was found guilty on 45 of the 48 counts against him for sexual abuse. 

Former Nittany Lions great, Washington Football Team star, and mentor to Parsons, LaVar Arrington has defended his mentee’s character. However, the bad press has seemingly had an impact on his draft stock. We’ll see if this continues through the NFL draft. If so, there is a chance he could drop even lower than No. 15.

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