NFL draft 2021: Guide with Patriots' list of picks, biggest needs

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NFL draft 2021: Guide with Patriots' list of picks, biggest needs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

When the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off in Cleveland in two weeks, 32 teams will have an opportunity to change the future of their franchise. 

With this year’s class featuring some of the most talented quarterback prospects in recent memory and a deep pool of wide receivers, the next Patrick Mahomes or DeAndre Hopkins could be sitting in the green room on April 29. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock expected to draft Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 overall. Here is everything else you need to know ahead of the draft:

When is the 2021 NFL Draft?

The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 29, when all 32 selections in Round 1 will be made. Rounds 2 and 3 take place on Friday, April 30, beginning at 7 p.m. ET, and Rounds 4 through 7 will be on Saturday, May 1, beginning at 12 p.m. ET.

What is the 2021 NFL Draft order?

After the 2021 NFL Draft order was finalized in mid-March, the San Francisco 49ers traded up to the No. 3 overall pick. The Miami Dolphins then traded the No. 12 pick they got from San Francisco to the Philadelphia Eagles for the sixth overall pick. More trades could shake up the order before the draft begins, but here’s how it stands as of now:

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Will this year’s draft be in person or virtual?

After the NFL held a virtual draft in 2020 due to COVID-19, this year’s draft will be held in person in Cleveland. Some of the top prospects will be there to take the stage when they’re selected, while others will appear from their homes. Lawrence declined an invitation to Cleveland and will watch the draft at Clemson.

Can fans attend the 2021 NFL draft?

Yes, fans are allowed to attend this year. A select group of fans who are vaccinated will be chosen by each of the 32 NFL teams and will be seated in the "inner circle" near the main stage. The league’s main website has more information on NFL Draft tickets and events.

How can I watch the 2021 NFL Draft?

The draft will be broadcast live on the NFL Network, ESPN and ABC on all three days.

How many draft picks do the Patriots have in 2021?

The New England Patriots have a total of 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, holding at least one selection in each of the seven rounds. 

The Patriots were docked their own third-round pick as part of the punishment for their illegal taping of the Cincinnati Bengals’ sideline in 2019. But they got back into Round 3 after landing the NFL’s highest compensatory pick (No. 96 overall) for Tom Brady’s departure to Tampa Bay. New England also picked up compensatory selections in Rounds 4 and 5.

Here is a list of all the Patriots’ 2021 draft picks:

  • First round: No. 15 (own pick)

  • Second round: No. 46 (own pick)

  • Third round: No. 96 (compensatory pick)

  • Fourth round: No. 120 (own pick)

  • Fourth round: No. 122 (from Cardinals through Texans)

  • Fourth round: No. 139 (compensatory pick)

  • Fifth round: No. 177 (compensatory pick)

  • Sixth round: No. 188 (via Texans)

  • Sixth round: No. 197 (via Cowboys)

  • Seventh round: No. 242 (own pick)

What are the Patriots' biggest needs?

The Patriots are a much-improved team from the end of the 2020 season thanks to their free-agent spending spree, but there are still some areas of the roster that need to be shored up.

It all starts at quarterback where the Pats appear to have their 2021 starter in Cam Newton but still lack a long-term answer at the position. That leaves open the possibility of Bill Belichick and Co. selecting a signal caller, maybe as early as the first round if any of Mac Jones, Justin Fields and Trey Lance begin to fall. If New England doesn't pounce on a quarterback in Round 1, Kyle Trask, Kellen Mond and Davis Mills are among the next names to keep an eye on.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots spent big on Matthew Judon and brought back Kyle Van Noy in free agency to help bolster their pass rush. But after tallying just 24 sacks in 2020, they might not be done looking to improve in that department.

We could see the Pats plan for the future in the secondary, as a pair of big names might not be long for New England. Devin McCourty will be 34 years old when the 2021 season starts and has one year remaining on his deal. They could soon need a replacement at cornerback also as two-time All-Pro Stephon Gilmore enters the final year of his contract.

Patriots’ draft needs: QB, CB, EDGE, S