2021 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Jr. names non-QB options for Patriots in first round

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Kiper names non-QB options for Pats in first round of Draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

There's no doubt the New England Patriots' number one priority this offseason is the quarterback position. But what if they decide to go in a different direction in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft?

The Patriots currently possess the 15th overall pick, which almost certainly puts them out of reach from top-tier QB prospects like Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance. Barring a trade up the board to acquire one of those guys, Bill Belichick and Co. may opt to address another position of need.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. actually has the Pats moving up to get Lance in his latest NFL Mock Draft. If they decide to sit back and stand pat at No. 15, there are two other positions Kiper can see them shifting their focus to.

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On a conference call Monday, Kiper was asked which non-QB prospects could be options for the Patriots in the first round.

"If you don't force the quarterback and trade up, because I don't think there'll be one there at 15," Kiper said. "If they do go away from quarterback, I would think about a receiver."

The first name mentioned by Kiper? That would be Alabama standout wide receiver Jaylen Waddle.

Waddle falling to No. 15 would be somewhat surprising as well. The 5-foot-10, 183-pounder entered the 2020 season as arguably the top wideout in college football. He notched 28 catches for 591 yards and four touchdowns in six games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury that required surgery. If Waddle does land in the Patriots' lap, it'd be hard to pass up on a playmaker of his caliber considering the lack of firepower in New England's offense.

Cornerback is the other position Kiper believes Belichick may consider addressing.

"You could look at Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech, you could look at Patrick Surtain II from Alabama or Jaycee Horn from South Carolina," Kiper said. "Two of those three will probably be there, guaranteed one of those three will still be there."

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While all of these players could help the Patriots fill holes in their depth chart, Kiper says the QB still needs to be addressed one way or another.

"I still believe getting a quarterback, be it at the draft or somehow, someway...[the Patriots] have to close that gap on Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills," Kiper said.

Stanford's Davis Mils and Wake Forest's Jamie Newman were mentioned by Kiper as possible late-round QB targets.

The 2021 NFL Draft begins April 29. The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock.