BOSTON (CBS) — It’s early — very early — in the careers of Mac Jones and Christian Barmore. But the early — very early — returns indicate that Bill Belichick and the Patriots may have just had their most successful draft in a long time.

Of course, in a sport like football, 50 million things could happen to prevent that story line from ultimately coming true. But for now, the Patriots’ top two picks from this year’s draft are clear hits.

The first one is obvious, as Mac Jones has been under center from Week 1. While his statistics may not pop, his performance has surely impressed the graders at Pro Football Focus.

Through eight starts, Jones has an 84.0 grade from PFF. What’s more: He’s been their highest-graded quarterback since Week 5.

“Jones has been far and away the most consistent rookie quarterback this season, and his 81.6 passing grade laps the next closest rookie quarterback by 22.2 grading points,” Michael Jenner wrote while naming Jones to the PFF midseason all-rookie team. “While he may get the same criticism Tom Brady did for being a ‘check-down artist,’ Jones’ 8.0-yard average depth of target (aDOT) is actually the same as Patrick Mahomes‘ and Justin Herbert‘s this season.”

Jones, though, wasn’t the only Patriots rookie on that list, as defensive tackle Christian Barmore has made his presence known in his half-season in the NFL.

“While he’s still earned just a 52.0 overall grade, no defensive tackle in the class has come close to flashing as much as Barmore,” Renner wrote. “His 46 positively graded plays are eight more than any other defensive tackle in the class, and they rank 30th at the position in the NFL.”

The Patriots traded up to snag Barmore at 38th overall in this year’s draft, after the player with first-round talent ended up being available early in the second round. Belichick jumped at the chance to draft him, and Barmore’s impact has been growing weekly.

The Patriots haven’t had third-round pick Ronnie Perkins active for a game yet, but rookie Rhamondre Stevenson led the NFL in preseason rushing yards and touchdowns, and he’s given them 127 scrimmage yards (on 30 touches) and a touchdown thus far in four games played.

Certainly, the early returns on the Patriots’ 2021 draft are strong to quite strong.

CBSBoston.com Staff