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Former NFL Exec Slots Smith to Patriots

The New England Patriots could use a wide receiver like DeVonta Smith in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft

Mock draft season is in full force right now with the 2021 NFL draft a little more than three weeks away, and former NFL executive Mike Tannenbaum offered his version Tuesday.

Unlike some who predict what teams will do, Tannenbaum went about his exercise indicating what he would do if he was in a decision-making position as he once was with the New York Jets and later the Miami Dolphins.

And Tannenbaum's move for the Patriots with the 15th overall selection would be to take 2020 Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, the wide receiver from the University of Alabama.

In Tannenbaum's mock, Smith would be the third wide receiver selected after Ja'Marr Chase (6 to Miami) and Jaylen Waddle (7 to Alabama).

"Finally, it's time for Smith," Tannenbaum wrote about the Patriots' pick. "Sometimes it becomes essentially a coin flip for one guy versus another, and one obviously has to lose out. Smith just kept losing the coin flip for me, but he has a ton of value here. Julian Edelman is turning 35, and there's still room for playmakers in the wide receivers room after the Patriots signed Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. If Smith is gone, cornerback could be in play too."

To be sure, wide receiver is a major need for the Patriots. We ranked that position second on our list of priorities following the first wave of free agency, behind only quarterback.

And the Patriots certainly could end up taking a quarterback in the first round, whether they trade up to get one or one of the five first-round projections at the position ends up lasting up to 15.

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But this was not the first Smith was mocked to the Patriots. SI NFL Senior Reporter Albert Breer did the same thing in a recent mock draft.

Landing Smith at 15 no doubt would provide an immediate boost to the New England offense, giving his incredible production at Alabama.

In fact, the only concern with Smith as an NFL prospect has to do with his frame. He was listed at 6-1, 175 at Alabama, though he reluctantly revealed at a recent Pro Day he weighed 170.

“It is a serious concern," former NFL and college head coach Jim Mora Jr. said. "You have to balance that against the amazing talent that he brings to the table. The elusiveness, the speed. One of the things about DeVonta is he’s hard to hit. At least he was in college. Now that's all going to change in the NFL; he's going to take a shot. It's also a grueling, grueling schedule. (It) is an absolute grind, and you've got to have something, some meat on your bones. You've got to have some endurance to be able to handle that grind.

"But I'll tell you what, you've watched DeVonta play, I've watched DeVonta play, not many people touch him, he's got a certain element of toughness and he's a little bit like Gumby. Like when you hit him, you don't break him, he just kind of changes his configurations. I love the talent. I love the competitiveness. I love the fact that he played in the toughest conference in football and excelled and didn't get hurt a lot. But I'm gonna tell you what, it would be a huge discussion in my draft room.

"And this is where people go, why do you want to know the circumference of his wrist, why do you want to know the circumference of his knee or his ankle? You want to know because you want to know if he's brittle, or he's got thick bones and is just light, you want to know what the growth potential is. You're going to bring your strength and conditioning coach is going to be a big part of this conversation. Your training staff, your doctors will be a big part of this conversation because if you do take this guy you've got to make sure that he's going to stay healthy. There's no guarantees for anyone in the NFL, but when you're talking about somebody that's wispy like DeVonta, there's a bigger risk.

"I can just tell you this, there's some serious discussions going on because you turn on the tape, he’s as electric as they get. He earned that Heisman.”