The New England Patriots, sitting with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, could face an uphill battle to land a blue-chip quarterback prospect in a star-studded class.
But that isn’t stopping them from doing their homework on the draft’s best signal-callers.
The Athletic’s Patriots staff writer Jeff Howe reports that the Patriots “have been heavily scouting” the class’ top five quarterbacks: Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones, and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
Howe said the Patriots don’t expect to have a legitimate chance at Lawrence, who’s widely expected to go first overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The same goes for Wilson, who could be a top-3 pick for either the New York Jets or Miami Dolphins (two of the Patriots’ AFC opponents). But a draft-day trade up for the likes of Fields, Jones, or Lance could be in play for New England if one of them doesn’t fall to No. 15.
ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper explored that possibility in his latest mock draft, in which he had the Patriots trading with the Denver Broncos at No. 9 overall to select Lance after the first four quarterbacks were taken within the top eight picks. In a previous mock, he predicted the Patriots would take Alabama’s Jones if he slid down to No. 15.
But with so many quarterback-needy teams drafting ahead of the Patriots, seeing a top quarterback fall to them could be unlikely. That suggests a trade up into a top-10 slot could be necessary to secure an elite prospect, and that would come with a hefty price tag.
“It would likely cost them the No. 15 pick and their 2022 first-rounder to move into the top 10,” writes Howe. “And if they’re interested in getting to the top 6-7, they might have to add a third-round pick to the package.”
Should the Patriots miss out on the draft’s top five prospects, Kiper suggested on a Monday afternoon media call that the team could still take a developmental quarterback after the first round. Kiper listed Stanford’s David Mills as a possible third-round target while tabbing Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman as the most intriguing of the late-round prospects.
Whether they address the position with their first draft pick or take a flier on a Day 3 option, the Patriots will almost certainly go into the 2021 NFL Draft looking to upgrade their quarterback room.
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