In the 2021 NFL draft, the New England Patriots had the 15th selection in the first round, and with that pick, they took Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. New England very well might have been the only team interested in choosing Mac Jones anywhere near that high, but the pick made sense for Bill Belichick.
Jones was not (and remains not) overly athletic, but he was an accurate passer at Alabama and had a strong enough arm to resemble Tom Brady physically.
While this article is about who New England should have taken instead of Jones, I don't want to be crazy and say, "New England should have moved up to pick five and chosen Ja'Marr Chase!" Or, New England should have traded pick 15 and gotten a young Joe Montana in return. That kind of thinking is too easy and, well...lazy.
Instead, I will simply stay a pick 15 and name three players the Patriots had a position need for and should have taken instead of Jones. It also should be noted that the 2021 first round did not work out well for a lot of teams.
Remember that the New York Jets chose Zach Wilson at number 2. Regarding touchdown passes thrown and passing yards accumulated, Jones still ranks second in the draft class.
No. 1 - Patriots should have chosen guard Landon Dickerson
Even in 2021, the Patriots needed a guard. And in 2023, the issue was worse. Partly, this is due to Belichick seemingly not having a clue as to how to draft guards, as Cole Strange was chosen much higher than expected in 2022 and has been awful. New England could have just taken Dickerson, and the Alabama product would have helped stabilize the interior of the Patriots' offensive line for the foreseeable future.
Instead, Dickerson fell to the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round, where they chose him at number 37. Dickerson has been a full-time starter for three years and has made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Dickerson was the 16th-highest-graded guard in the NFL for the 2023 season.
While Strange gave up the same number of sacks (3) as Dickerson did this year, Dickerson's number of sacks came in 284 more pass-block snaps. Plus, taking Dickerson would have meant the Patriots did not have to choose Strange the following year. Maybe the Patriots would have, in theory, over-drafted Dickerson in 2021; what did they do with Strange in 2022, who many pundits had going in the third round or later?