The countdown to the NFL Draft has now hit two days, and experts around the league are coming around to the idea that the New England Patriots could make a splashy move to select their quarterback of the future.
The Patriots have reportedly made exploratory calls to teams in the top 10 of the draft, with NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero speculating Bill Belichick might have his eye on Ohio State Justin Fields if Mac Jones goes third overall to San Francisco and the Atlanta Falcons pass on a quarterback at pick No. 4.
But more than a few draft analysts think New England could target the other potential faller in this Jones-to-49ers scenario: North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports and The Athletic’s Patriots reporter Jeff Howe predicted the Patriots will trade up to No. 7 overall to take Lance in their latest mock drafts. Both believe New England would have to send multiple picks, including the team’s 2022 first-round pick, to the Detroit Lions to seal the deal.
Jones’s proposed trade, outlined in his Tuesday morning mock draft, involves packaging next year’s first with the team’s 2021 second-round pick (No. 46 overall).
“I ran this projected trade by a few executives over the weekend asking if the Lions would make this deal with a Patriots team that gave them Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia. They all said yes,” Jones wrote. “Detroit gets its third first-round pick for 2022 when they most certainly won’t be competing in 2021, and New England gets a QB that may surprise them with how quickly he’s ready to take over.”
Meanwhile, Howe projects this year’s fourth-round pick (No. 120), along with the 2022 first, would be enough to sway the Lions.
There’s another key difference in the mock drafts: Jones has the Patriots choosing Lance over Fields after both slide — Fields ends up falling all the way to No. 14 — while Howe believes the Atlanta Falcons could take the Ohio State star at No. 4, leaving Lance as the final top-five quarterback on the board.
“Lance has every tool to become a franchise quarterback,” Howe says. “He is smart with the ball, with 42 touchdowns (28 passing) and no interceptions – only two balls hit a defender’s hands, according to NDSU coaches – during an undefeated FCS national championship season in 2019.
Lance has a rocket arm, a powerful, bullying running style, a great football mind, a leading personality and an unquenchable thirst to prove people wrong. And with his 21st birthday next month, Lance has a massive amount of room to grow. He won’t hit his prime until the midway point of his second contract.”
But if Lance did fall in the draft, draft analysts like NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah suggest he could fit in well with the Patriots.
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