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Patriots Mock Draft: Projecting each of New England’s 10 picks in 2021

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Patriots Mock Draft: Projecting each of New England's 10 picks in 2021

The Patriots are sitting on 10 picks for the 2021 NFL Draft. The big question for them on April 29 is whether they will trade up to get a quarterback in the first round.

For now, New England selects first at No. 15 overall with seven picks through the seventh round on Day 3. The team went defense-heavy in 2020 and will have more considerations there this year, but it also should be looking out for more offensive impact after a busy free agency.

With all that in mind, here are Sporting News’ projections for the Patriots’ draft haul:

MORE NFL DRAFT: Complete 7-round mock | Top 100 big board

Patriots mock draft 2021

Round 1, No. 15 overall

  • Micah Parsons, ILB, Penn State (6-3, 245 pounds)

The Patriots, if they stay put, should be happy about this rangy, versatile playmaker. Dont’a Hightower is 32 and has one year left on his deal. Ja’Whaun Bentley also becomes a free agent in 2022, too. Parsons would be plugged in as a near future and long-term starter.

Round 2, No. 46 overall

  • Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss (5-9, 184 pounds)

The retirement of Julian Edelman calls for a more immediate replacement. Moore can dominate the slot in the same way with some outside capacity for big plays.

Round 3, No. 96 overall (compensatory)

  • Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF (6-0, 186 pounds)

Robinson has the frame and coverage skill set to do multiple things well in Bill Belichick’s defense. The Patriots are on the verge of doing an age-based secondary rebuild.

Round 4, No. 120 overall

  • Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan (6-0, 191 pounds)

The Patriots can go back-to-cornerback with good success in this class.. Thomas can do the job to help the depth in outside coverage at first and also be a big contributor on special teams.

Round 4, No. 122 overall (from Cardinals through Texans)

  • Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State (5-10, 214 pounds)

Hill is a grinding no-nonsense back ho can boost the Patriots’ power running game as a swing replacement for Rex Burkhead with his ability to also play on third down.

Round 4, No. 139 overall (compensatory)

  • Jaelon Darden, WR, North Texas (5-8, 174 pounds)

The Patriots can finish an overhaul of their recieving corps after drafting Moore here and signing Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor after getting limited returns from N’Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Meyers. While Moore can start in the slot with his size, Darden has intrigue as a diminutive dasher who can raise their big-play potential whenever he gets the ball in his hands.

Round 5, No. 177 overall (compensatory)

  • Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M (6-3, 211 pounds)

Mond is an experienced college starter with enough athleticism to be a promising quick-developing dual threat behind Cam Newton. He’s confident and efficient playing off a good supporting cast. Should the Patriots not get a QB early, targeting him as a sleeper at some point makes a ton of sense.

Round 6, No. 188 overall (from Texans)

  • Malik Herring, EDGE, Georgia (6-3, 275 pounds)

Herring is made to help the Patriots as a 3-4 end with his strong build and great hands for additional support against the run with a dash of pass-rush skills.

Round 6, No. 197 overall

  • Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU (6-2, 325 pounds)

The Patriots can double up some on solid depth for their line rotation as Tonga would be the ideal needed backup to new nose tackle Davon Godchaux.

Round 7, No. 242 overall

  • Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee (6-1, 210 pounds)

One more receiver? After two small targets early, the Patriots should like like Palmer’s size and hands as a technical route-runner. He would be more of development backup for the outside.

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NFL schedule 2021: When is Tom Brady returning to New England to face the Patriots?

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NFL schedule 2021: When is Tom Brady returning to New England to face the Patriots?

For the first time in his 21-year NFL career, Tom Brady is going to get a chance to play against the Patriots. Because of the way the NFL’s rotating schedule works, the teams from the NFC South will be playing all four of the teams from the AFC East this year.

That, of course, means that Brady’s Buccaneers will be taking on Bill Belichick and the Patriots during the 2021 campaign. Needless to say, the stakes will be high in that game as both members of the long-time coach/quarterback duo will look to out-duel one another on the field.

By virtue of the 2021 NFL schedule release, we now know when Tampa Bay is traveling to New England for the contest. And luckily, fans won’t have to wait long to see a game that many never thought we’d see.

MORE: Full Buccaneers schedule for the 2021 season

Here’s everything to know about Tom Brady’s return to New England, including the date, time and TV channel for the contest.

When is Tom Brady playing against the Patriots?

  • Date: Sunday, Oct. 3
  • Kickoff Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: NBC

Tom Brady will be returning to New England to play the Patriots in Week 4 of the NFL season. The Oct. 3 game will be shown on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and will be one of the marquee matchups of the season.

It won’t just be Brady’s return to New England either. Tight end Rob Gronkowski also will be in action against his former club for the first time in ’21. That will mark two likely Hall of Famers who are set to suit up against New England for the first time. Belichick will certainly cook up some plays in an effort to slow them down.

It’s unclear who the Patriots will be starting at quarterback by that point in the season, but it seems likely that it will either be Cam Newton or Mac Jones. If it’s Jones, then the first-round rookie will have a chance to endear himself to Patriots fans early if he can beat the team’s former star and earn Belichick and the Patriots some bragging rights.

The Buccaneers will be on the second game of a two-week road trip and will have just taken on the Rams in Los Angeles before this contest. It may not be easy for them to go coast-to-coast for this matchup, especially given how tough an opponent the Rams may be. Meanwhile, the Patriots will be coming off a home game against the Saints, which should be easier for them to bounce back from in the post-Drew Brees era.

No matter what happens in this game, it’s sure to be great. Brady and Belichick are two of the NFL’s ultimate competitors, and this could be the only time they face off as they enter the twilights of their careers. They’ll each be sure to bring their A-games to this matchup of all-time greats.

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Broncos schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

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Broncos schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

The Broncos, despite finishing 5-11 and falling into last place in the AFC West last season, are giving coach Vic Fangio a chance to redeem himself in 2021. Denver hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015 — the season which ended with the team winning Super Bowl 50.

John Elway hired a GM, George Paton. But the Broncos, much to everyone’s surprise, didn’t go all in trying to replace third-year second-rounder Drew Lock at quarterback, settling to bring Teddy Bridgewater in the mix (for now). While the offense is hoping to perform better with the many talented pieces it already has around the QB, the defense continues its rebuild for Fangio.

Here is a complete breakdown of the Broncos’ 2021 schedule, including dates, start times and analysis.

NFL OFFSEASON 2021:
Team-by-team draft grades | Latest power rankings

Denver Broncos schedule 2021

Week Date Opponent Kickoff time  TV
1 Sept. 12 at Giants 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
2 Sept. 19 at Jaguars 1 p.m. ET CBS
3 Sept. 26 vs. Jets 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
4 Oct. 3 vs. Ravens 4:25 p.m. ET CBS
5 Oct. 10 at Steelers 1 p.m. ET Fox
6 Oct. 17 vs. Raiders 4:25 p.m. ET CBS
7 Oct. 21 at Browns 8:20 p.m. ET Fox/NFLN/Amazon
8 Oct. 31 vs. Washington 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
9 Nov. 7 at Cowboys 1 p.m. ET Fox
10 Nov. 14 vs. Eagles 4:25 p.m. ET CBS
11 BYE
12 Nov. 28 vs. Chargers 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
13 Dec. 5 at Chiefs 1 p.m. ET CBS
14 Dec. 12 vs. Lions 4:05 p.m. ET Fox
15 Dec. 19 vs. Bengals 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
16 Dec. 26 at Raiders 4:25 p.m. ET CBS
17 Jan. 2 at Chargers 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
18 Jan. 9 vs. Chiefs 4:25 p.m. ET CBS

The Broncos looked up to everyone in the division last season. The Chiefs are still daunting and the Chargers have some worthy buzz. Las Vegas provides the slight opening for Denver to get out of the cellar.

Outside of the AFC West six games, the Broncos join those rivals in also playing all of the AFC North and NFC East. The Jaguars and Jets are the extra last-place games in the AFC. The depleted Lions are a helpful simliar reprieve as the 17th opponent, from the NFC North.

MORE: Strength of schedule for all 32 teams in 2021

Broncos strength of schedule

The Broncos, on paper, have the sixth easiest schedule in the NFL, tied with the Dolphins. Denver’s opponents combined to go 127-143-2 last season, or a .471 winning percentage. A lot of that comes from Jacksonville, the two New York teams and Detroit.

Despite that, the Broncos still face returning playoff teams in six of their 17 games.

Toughest tests: The Broncos’ road schedule is brutal with trips to Cleveland and Pittsburgh offsetting a date in Jacksonville. They also have to play in Dallas and go to the Giants.

It’s a little different at home, where the Chiefs, Ravens and Washington represent the Broncos’ three toughest games out of nine total.

Biggest breaks: The Broncos get the “earned” breaks of the Jaguars, Jets and Lions, three teams in simliar situations. There also are the Bengals, Eagles and Raiders coming to Denver.

Bottom line: The Broncos are a mixed bag with offensive limitations and defensive overhauling. Fangio needs to win now after being saved despite his team’s dismal performance in 2020. 

If the QB situation changes dramatically, then it would be OK to consider the Broncos doing a complete 180 into contention. But in the current state, there’s little from Lock’s or Bridgewater’s recent play that inspires.

Record prediction: 6-11

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Giants schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

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Giants schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

The Giants are hoping for a breakout third season with quarterback Daniel Jones in 2021. New York finished second in the NFC East at 6-10 under new coach Joe Judge last season, an improvement from 4-12 the previous season.

With better health, led by running back Saquon Barkley, and upgrades in personnel all around, the Giants are more confident that they can jump into first place in Year 2 with Judge. Here is a complete breakdown of the Giants’ 2021 schedule, including dates, start times and analysis for all 17 games.

NFL OFFSEASON 2021:
Team-by-team draft grades | Latest power rankings

New York Giants schedule 2021

Here is the New York Giants’ complete schedule for 2021.

 

Week Date Opponent Kickoff time TV
1 Sept. 12 vs. Broncos 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
2 Sept. 16 at Washington (Thursday) 8:20 p.m. ET NFLN
3 Sept. 26 vs. Falcons 1 p.m. ET Fox
4 Oct. 3 at Saints 1 p.m. ET Fox
5 Oct. 10 at Cowboys 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
6 Oct. 17 vs. Rams 1 p.m. ET Fox
7 Oct. 24 vs. Panthers 1 p.m. ET Fox
8 Nov. 1 at Chiefs (Monday) 8:15 p.m. ET ESPN
9 Nov. 7 vs. Raiders 1 p.m. ET CBS
10 Nov. 14 Bye
11 Nov. 22 at Buccaneers (Monday) 8:15 p.m. ET ESPN
12 Nov. 28 vs. Eagles 1 p.m. ET Fox
13 Dec. 5 at Dolphins 1 p.m. ET Fox
14 Dec. 12 at Chargers 4:05 p.m. ET Fox
15 Dec. 19 vs. Cowboys 1 p.m. ET Fox
16 Dec. 26 at Eagles 1 p.m. ET Fox
17 Jan. 2 at Bears 1 p.m. ET CBS
18 Jan. 9 vs. Washington 1 p.m. ET Fox

The Giants have an interesting slate beyond their six division games against the Cowboys, Eagles and Washington. The other complete NFC division is the South, while the interconference rotation brings up the AFC West.

As a second-place team, the Giants also get the NFC wild-card Rams and Bears on top of the Super Bowl 55 champion Buccaneers. From the AFC, the Dolphins are the 17th opponent.

MORE: Strength of schedule for all 32 teams in 2021

Giants strength of schedule

The Giants, thanks to their weak division, are tied for the eighth-easiest schedule in the NFL with the Bills and Colts. New York’s 2021 opponents had a combined 2020 record of 128-142-2, a winning percentage of .474.

The two games against Washington lead the contests against returning playoff teams. The Rams, Bears, Chiefs, Saints and Buccaneers make it seven out of 17 games.

Toughest tests: The Giants get the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Saints on the road. The Bears, Chargers and Dolphins round out the nasty non-division away slate. Of the home games, the Rams are easily the toughest foe.

Biggest breaks: The NFC East should be better, but the division still provides their most favorable games. The Falcons, Panthers, Raiders and Broncos are a welcome quartet of contests to soften the blows at home.

Bottom line: Jones has everything around him to be more successful winning games. The Giants’ defense is in the next stage of its rebuild. Should Jones raise his passing and running, New York will have a real chance at an NFC playoff berth, either as East champs or fringe wild card.

Record prediction: 8-9

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