Patriots

10 quarterbacks the Patriots could take in the 2021 NFL Draft

Trevor Lawrence is almost certainly unattainable, but there are many other realistic options.

Alabama's Mac Jones was one of the most dependable players in college football this season. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

As the NFL regular season ends, and the offseason begins, it’s clear the Patriots need to dramatically improve in many areas if they want to re-emerge as a perennial playoff team.

Perhaps the most pressing need – and one that can be addressed in a variety of ways – is the quarterback position. The Patriots could keep Cam Newton, turn to Jarrett Stidham, trade for a QB, or acquire a player such as Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, or Ryan Fitzpatrick, among others, in free agency.

They could also take a quarterback in the NFL Draft, and their chances of finding a star are higher this year than usual because they aren’t a playoff team. As of Tuesday, they’re slated to have the No. 14 pick, and there should be many viable options available at that point.

Here’s a look at some QBs the Patriots could draft (scheduled for April 29-May 1), to either rely on right away or develop for the future. Some have not declared yet, and may return for school, but all are players to keep tabs on at this point.

Possible first-rounders

Unless the Patriots make a franchise-altering trade – which is highly unlikely but isn’t out of the question – Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will be long gone by the time New England is on the clock.

Lawrence is projected as the No. 1 pick, by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but there’s still plenty of talent at the position once he’s off the board.

Justin Fields, Ohio State

There’s a slim chance the Patriots could end up with Fields, but it is within the realm of possibility – either via trade or if he slips way further than expected.

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Fields, a 6-foot-3, 228-pound QB, accounted for 51 touchdowns in his first year as a starter. He’s only lost once in 20 games at Ohio State and has thrown for 15 touchdowns in six contests this season.

ESPN: “Fields’ downfield accuracy and ability to create plays under pressure make him one of the top quarterbacks in the class.”

Zach Wilson, BYU

CBS Sports projects BYU’s Zach Wilson as the No. 4 overall pick, so it’s unlikely the Patriots would have a chance at him via a traditional draft pick. However, trading up to draft Wilson is more feasible than doing so for Lawrence, so it shouldn’t be ruled out as a possibility.

Wilson, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound junior, is second in the NCAA with 33 touchdown passes and third in yards (3,692). He completed 73.5 percent of his passes and averaged 11 yards per completion.

Sporting News: “Wilson has had an exceptional season with his accuracy and downfield passing to quickly emerge as a threat to be the third QB off the board after Lawrence and Fields.”

Trey Lance, North Dakota State

North Dakota State only played one game in 2020, but Lance has flaunted his undeniable talent throughout his career.

The 6-foot-4, 226-pound QB has never lost a college game, and he threw for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns in his only full season as a starter.

ESPN’s Todd McShay has him as the third-best QB and slotted at No. 12 in his latest rankings. Colleague Mel Kiper Jr. has him as the fifth-best QB and at No. 16 overall. That could be right around where the Patriots draft, so Lance is likely a realistic target.

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As of earlier this month, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had the Patriots taking him in the first round.

The Draft Network: “He can extend plays with his legs and needs to be accounted for in the zone ready game. He’s competitive and will chase the ball carrier down on turnovers.”

Mac Jones, Alabama

Kiper Jr. and McShay are split on Jones, as Kiper Jr. has him 15th and McShay puts him at No. 27.

Jones (6-foot-3, 214 pounds) has certainly impressed this season, racking up 3,739 passing yards and 32 touchdowns while completing a staggering 76.5 percent of his passes and throwing just four interceptions.

He still has some business to tend to this season, as Alabama pursues a national title, so it’s currently unclear whether he’ll return to school or enter the NFL Draft. Jones finished second to teammate DeVonta Smith in the AP Player of the Year voting.

247 Sports: “Could next season’s draft produce a record number of first-round quarterbacks? Alabama’s Mac Jones is arguably the group’s fastest-riser.”

Kyle Trask, Florida

Trask is a fifth-year senior, and he’s 22, so he’s one of the most experienced players in the bunch.

At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Trask is physical and punishing. He could be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy after setting a Florida record for most touchdowns thrown in a season (43) and becoming the first Southeastern Conference history to throw at least three in nine consecutive games.

Not all pundits are high on his NFL potential, questioning his athleticism and obliviousness to pressure, among other concerns.

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Yahoo!: “Trask’s athleticism leaves something to be desired, which might limit the number of teams that will give him a high grade. Although he possesses some subtle pocket movement that allows him to shuffle amid pressure to make throws, Trask is not someone whom scouts believe can extend plays in the NFL and operate off-schedule.”

Later-round picks

It’s possible the Patriots will address a different need early and pluck a QB later. If they do, here are some potential sleepers.

Shane Buechele, SMU

He’s seventh in the NCAA with 3,095 passing yards, and has a rating of 152.9, but has struggled with accuracy at times throughout the course of his career.

Buechele threw 11 interceptions as a freshman and 10 last year, but he lowered that number to six this season.

Pro Football Focus: “One can’t help but love the way Buechele plays the game. He’s got a gunslinger mentality through and through.”

Jamie Newman, Georgia

Newman’s situation is a unique one. He threw 26 TD passes at Wake Forest in 2019, transferred to Georgia, then opted out this season due to COVID-19 concerns.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Newman finished second in the ACC in total offense yards per game as a redshirt junior and was fifth in the conference in passing yards per game that year, yet he hasn’t played in quite a while.

Sports Illustrated, via an NFL scout: “Everyone’s going to have their own opinion on why he left (for the season), which sucks for him. Most other scouts I talk to are all over the place on him, but the fourth to sixth round has been the most common response.”

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Ian Book, Notre Dame

Book (6 feet, 206 pounds) has consistently impressed at Notre Dame, but some NFL scouts question whether his talent will translate to the next level.

He’s 30-4 in his career as a starter and has helped the Fighting Irish reach the college football playoffs, and Kiper Jr. ranks him as the ninth-best QB in the class. Some question his mechanics and accuracy, and say he’s a bit undersized, but they praise him for getting creative and masking some of his weaknesses.

Dane Brugler, The Athletic: “Book had late-round grades from several teams over the summer, mostly teams who value athleticism at the position. His ability to escape pressure and extend plays is a skill and the strength of his game.”

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

Pickett (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) had a game earlier this year in which he threw for over 400 yards.

He’s been inconsistent throughout his career but has shown a skill set that could potentially translate to the NFL.

Pro Football Focus: “Some quarterbacks have sneaky arm talent when you see them throw a deep ball. Others flash it on every single throw. Pickett decidedly falls into the latter category.”

Sam Ehlinger, Texas

Ehlinger (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) is one of the most experienced players available.

He’s racked up 126 touchdowns in 42 starts at Texas since 2017, and both McShay and Kiper Jr. slot him as the 10th-best QB this year.

ESPN: “His dual-threat ability could be enticing for an NFL team.”

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