Without tipping his hand about which quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft intrigue him, and without mentioning any of them by name, Patriots coach Bill Belichick showed Thursday during a Zoom media session that he’s paying close attention to the signal callers.
“Well, as always, there are some interesting players,” he said. “I think we talked earlier about the draft process, some players didn’t play, some played a full season, some played a partial season. So you know when you look at the players at that position, I think you see a lot of differences in the 2020 season, a lot of it’s by conference, but there are some other circumstances as well.
“It’s an interesting class, it’s an interesting group of guys. Some (are) very strong in some skills; some seem very strong in other skills. You know it’s definitely an interesting group.”
At least five quarterbacks are expected to be selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Mac Jones and Trey Lance.
Obviously, when talking about a quarterback who didn’t play, Belichick was talking about North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, who opted out of the 2020-21 season after only one game when it was postponed from the fall to spring because of the pandemic. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields played just eight games because of the Big Ten’s abridged COVID-19 season.
Two weeks before the draft starts April 29, Belichick was asked if he has a preferred style of quarterback and he expressed a willingness to be flexible depending on the player.
“I think whoever the players are, at whatever position you’re talking about, that if you want to enhance their skills, then you want to adapt a little bit of what your scheme is to do that,” he said. “So that’s really a decision that you have to make.
“We’ve had a couple of different styles of player at the position. And we try to do that in those examples.”
The odds seem slim that a quarterback worth taking in the first round will be available at number 15. Belichick talked about how he and his staff assess whether trading up or down makes sense depending on the players who get taken off the board or slip as the first round unfolds. He also seemed open to reaching a bit if he has to in order to get a player who might be a diamond in the rough compared to his performance before reaching the pros.
“If you see the player’s upside and development and growth, you pay a much higher price for the player than what his production shows, because you feel that in time or experience different system, or whatever combination of reasons are, that that player will perform above maybe what his production the on was in college,” Belichick said. “Could be injury-related, could be scheme-related, could be just the physical development of the player.
“So those are always things that you talk about. You’re obviously betting on the player’s development vs. what you might actually see from another player. But in some cases the upside might be greater; maybe the downside might be greater too. But at some point you decide to make that investment and then we all see how the player turns out.”
Could that mean an interest in Lance, who in addition to pretty much not playing in 2020 obviously faced different competition in the Missouri Valley conference? We won’t know until at least two weeks from now, and we might never know.