One of the highest-profile NFL Draft experts has released his first 2021 mock draft, and his pick is in for the Patriots at No. 15.
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah mocked Micah Parsons, a linebacker out of Penn State, to the Patriots in his first predictions of the offseason Friday. Parsons is the first linebacker off the board in Jeremiah's mock, and he would join Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower as the only linebackers taken in the first round under head coach Bill Belichick.
For those hoping the Patriots would address their needs at quarterback, receiver or tight end, Jeremiah doesn't think they'll be able to do so sitting at No. 15.
The top four quarterbacks – Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and Justin Fields – were all off the board after the Panthers' 8th overall selection in Jeremiah's mock. Alabama receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are projected to go 7th and 11th, respectively, while LSU wideout Ja'Marr Chase is slotted to go third overall to the Dolphins and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts 12th overall to the 49ers.
With the top skill position players off the board by the middle of the first round, Jeremiah said he expects Belichick to pick a player who addresses the Patriots' lack of speed on the defensive side of the ball. Jeremiah touts Parsons as an "explosive, versatile playmaker," and seems to think he's a better fit with New England than Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah or Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins, both of which he picks to go later in the first round.
Parsons opted out of the 2020 college football season in early August, back when the Big Ten's season was supposedly delayed until the start of 2021.
In his two seasons with the Nittany Lions, Parsons racked up 191 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and five passes defended. Parsons was named a consensus All-American in 2019, one year after he was named a freshman All-American.
The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, and he has long been praised for his speed and agility as a pass rusher. Parsons is 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, giving him a frame similar to Hightower's when he was drafted by New England in 2012.
New England has made three first-round picks in the last five drafts, and all three – N'Keal Harry, Sony Michel and Isaiah Wynn – have been offensive players. Prior to this active streak, seven of the Patriots' previous eight first-round picks were defensive players.
Parsons coming to New England would seemingly represent a return to Belichick's comfort zone, and his ability to wreak havoc on the field would make him a valuable piece moving forward as well.