With Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, and Jarrett Stidham still a relative unknown, it’s very possible the Patriots will take a quarterback in the NFL Draft.
The Patriots currently have the No. 23 overall pick, three picks in the third round, one in the fourth, four in the sixth, and three in the seventh. Of course it’s also possible the draft, which is scheduled for April 23-25, will be postponed or canceled, but as of Saturday, teams are preparing as though it will happen on time.
There are several paths the Patriots could take, and selecting a quarterback early is an option that’s gaining traction. Louisiana State quarterback Joe Burrow is viewed as the consensus No. 1 pick, and it’s unlikely the Patriots could pluck him away from the Cincinnati Bengals.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa is widely considered a top five selection in terms of talent, but there are concerns over a season-ending hip injury he suffered in November. Though there’s still some uncertainty about his future, Tagovailoa is fully cleared, and his doctor is optimistic.
“I am extremely pleased,” Tagovailoa’s doctor, Lyle Cain, told Yahoo! Sports reporter Eric Edholm. “If you told me four, almost five, months ago now that he’d be where he is now, I think I would have been very happy. I think he’s done extremely well for where he started out.”
Experts have mixed opinions on whether it would be wise for the Patriots to trade up for Tagovailoa. Here’s where they stand:
Ben Volin believes trading for Tagovailoa is worth the gamble, if possible.
Boston Globe reporter Ben Volin published a piece Thursday with the headline: “Time for Patriots to make a big play for Tua Tagovailoa in the draft.”
Volin pointed out that the most popular destination for Tagovailoa in draft projections has been the Miami Dolphins, who hold the No. 5 pick. As Volin notes, the Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina Panthers, and Jacksonville Jaguars are also in the mix, at 6, 7, and 9, respectively.
“But I think there’s another quarterback-needy team that we should be taking more seriously as a landing spot for Tua,” Volin wrote. “The Tom Brady-less, suddenly rebuilding New England Patriots.”
Volin, who said “the stars seem to be aligning,” noted that it would be “just like Bill Belichick” to swoop in and snag Tagovailoa in a big, bold move. He said the Detroit Lions, who are coached by former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, are expected to be open for business with the No. 3 pick.
With college prospects now banned from visiting NFL teams due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with doctors being unable to examine players on those trips, Tua Tagovailoa will remain the draft’s top medical mystery, with teams being unable to get the look at him that they wanted.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 20, 2020
He pointed out that it would take some work to complete a trade with the Lions, Dolphins, or another franchise, largely because the Patriots don’t have as much to offer as other teams when it comes to draft picks. The Patriots, however, have what many other teams don’t, in a bevy of proven veteran players.
Volin highlighted Julian Edelman, Dont’a Hightower, and Joe Thuney as possible trade pieces. He believes it might be time for the Patriots to gamble.
“Tua is the guy the Patriots should want,” Volin wrote. “And between Belichick’s relationship with Saban and his relationship with the Lions, the Patriots could have what it takes to get him.”
Eric Mangini is skeptical that it will happen.
Former Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Mangini said Tagovailoa and the Patriots could be a “really good fit,” and Belichick’s relationship with Saban would help provide sound information on his worth, but he’s not sure the Patriots would go through with such a risky trade.
"I find it very hard to believe that the Patriots would give up tremendous draft value to go get Tua. It's not what they do. … They're in the business of trading back more than trading up." — Eric Mangini pic.twitter.com/QWHAAMXZDm
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) April 3, 2020
“I find it very hard to believe that the Patriots would give up tremendous draft value to go get Tua,” Mangini said on FS1. “It’s not what they do. … They’re in the business of trading back more than trading up.”
He said it’s hard to imagine the Patriots giving up what they’d need to give up in order to pluck Tagovailoa away from other potential suitors. Though it’s a juicy possibility, it ‘s not likely in Mangini’s eyes.
Patriots.com writers have differing opinions.
The Patriots.com writers were mixed. Mike Dussault said they should trade up if they can, while Paul Perrillo argued doing so is not prudent.
Dussault, who noted that Stidham has shown promise, said the Patriots should consider making a play if Tagovailoa falls out of the top five. While it would cost a “king’s ransom,” Dussault said Tagovailoa is a “special player” who could ensure another decade of stability at the position if he stays healthy.
“It would be expensive,” Dussault wrote, but if the Patriots could get within striking distance of locking up a generational quarterback, I think they should pull the trigger.
— Tua. T 🇦🇸 (@Tuaamann) March 24, 2020
Perrillo doesn’t view it the same way. He said Stephon Gilmore is the only Patriots player other teams might be interested in as part of a package for such a high pick, and he doesn’t think giving up Gilmore is wise.
He also thinks Tagovailoa is is an excellent college quarterback whose skills won’t necessarily translate to the NFL. He cited his size (6’1, 218) and injury history as main reasons why.
“As much as I love the idea of being aggressive when it comes to the draft, I don’t think Tua is worth the risk,” Perrillo wrote.
Around the Home panelists don’t think it’s plausible.
On Around the Home, otherwise known as Around the Horn, Jackie MacMullan, Mina Kimes, and Ramona Shelburne shared their opinions.
MacMullan said it’s not Belichick’s modus operandi. She believes Belichick likes Tagovailoa as a player, but she doesn’t expect it to transpire.
“This isn’t going to happen,” MacMullan said, “because he’s not going to get past the Dolphins at 5. There’s just no way.”
Kimes said she understands the premise of a trade with the Lions, because Patricia seems determined to turn Detroit into the “wearing a T-shirt with abs painted on it, instead of working out, version of Patriots North.”
She doesn’t think even Patricia would go for it, however, noting that the Patriots would likely have to throw in a future first-round pick as well, which they wouldn’t do.
Shelburne, who covers the NBA, provided a broad outlook. She said Tagovailoa is a player the Patriots would have to be extremely sure about him to give up that much to get him. This year, she said, isn’t the year to do that, because there’s no way to truly get to know a player except via video chat.