Bill Belichick took a late-round swing on linebacker Cameron McGrone during the 2021 draft, a player with upside who might not be ready for his rookie season.
Following the draft, Belichick noted that he's preparing for the possibility McGrone, a fifth-round pick who tore the ACL in his left knee in late November, could miss the entire year.
"We're not really sure what the expectation of availability is for him, but we're prepared certainly to not have him available this year," Belichick said, via Mike Reiss of ESPN. "There are no false expectations here. He should have a good recovery and be a good player; we'll just have to see what the timing is on that."
In his 19 games at Michigan, McGrone proved to be an athletic linebacker who plays with instinct, is constantly around the ball, and an excellent open-field tackler. In the Patriots' perfect world, he'd eventually replace Dont'a Hightower in the middle of the defense.
The big issue with McGrone entering the NFL is injury. Not only is he currently rehabbing from an ACL that could jeopardize his first season, but he also tore the ACL in his right knee in high school. His lack of game action at Michigan due to the injuries leads to questions.
Belichick sounds comfortable waiting to see if the talent plays out.
Despite the Patriots conducting a 2021 draft without the traditional Belichick out-of-left-field selection, McGrone represents the latest swing the HOF coach has taken on an injured player. As Reiss denotes, New England has made several gambles on pre-draft injuries ranging from 2019's third-rounder Yodny Cajuste -- who hasn't played a snap -- to RB Sony Michel to WR Malcolm Mitchell to OT Marcus Cannon to the ultimate success story, TE Rob Gronkowski, and others in between.
Belichick is willing to bet a fifth-round pick that McGrone can contribute sometime down the line, even if he has to wait until 2022.
Tune in to the 2021 NFL Schedule release at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 12, on NFL Network, NFL.com and the NFL app.