New England Patriots: 3 biggest ‘what ifs?’ in recent draft history

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 25: Isaiah Wynn #76 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 25: Isaiah Wynn #76 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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The New England Patriots are picking No. 15 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, barring a last-minute trade-up, and that means there is even more pressure on Bill Belichick and the rest of the front office to nail this selection.

After a 7-9 season and a wild free agency cycle, New England still needs to add an impact starter to turn things around.

While Belichick has indeed earned his reputation as one of the best late-round drafters in the league over the last few years, that doesn’t mean that he is completely beyond reproach in that regard.

The N’Keal Harry pick in 2019 is one of several puzzling moments from the usually sharp coach/GM combination.

The Patriots have seen many of their best draft picks over the years ruined by both injuries, poor scouting, and an inability for the pick in question to assert themselves as a must-have part of New England’s future.

The Patriots need to cross their fingers and hope that they land the next Jerod Mayo or Richard Seymour in this draft rather than adding yet another draft mishap to a list that has started to grow sharply over the last few years.

These 3 NFL Draft “what-ifs” still haunt the Patriots ahead of the 2021 Draft.

New England Patriots
NASHVILLE, TN – SEPTEMBER 9: Ras-I Dowling #21 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

3. Drafting Ras-I Dowling 33rd overall in 2011

Dowling struggled with injuries during his final season at Virginia, but he looked like a solid pick for the Patriots, who selected him with the first pick of the second round in a stacked draft class. Players like Richard Sherman, Jason Kelce, and Justin Houston had yet to come off of the board when Dowling was picked.

Dowling recorded a whopping 11 tackles in his pro career, 10 of which came during his two-season stint with the Patriots. While injuries slowed his career, Dowling had questions about his physicality when he came into the NFL, and he didn’t show the Patriots he could rectify that issue.

Ras-I Dowling was a titanic NFL Draft bust for the Patriots

Dowling was stuck behind several quality cornerbacks during his time in New England, but a player with that much draft capital invested in them should be able to pick up some extra playing time here and there, and Dowling was rooted to the bench.

Still, the Patriots never got to see Dowling at his best, as a chaotic final season at Virginia helped set him up for a very tough road in the NFL. If he was fully healthy, perhaps he could’ve shown Belichick that he was worth keeping around.