With a mere days until the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, there’s little clarity about what the Patriots will do with pick number 15.
The prevailing opinion for months has been that they would stand pat or they would trade up to grab a quarterback. Then NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said on the Move the Sticks podcast last week that New England has been doing its homework on Kyle Trask, which would mean the Pats could grab the Florida quarterback on the second day and could consider trading down in the first round to add more draft picks.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, though, thinks the Pats are hot on the trail of Ohio State’s Justin Fields and are hoping to trade into the top 10 to get him
And it sounds like Fields is now behind both North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Alabaman’s Mac Jones on the draft boards of teams in that top 10.
How high into the top 10 do the Patriots have the get? A lot of what the Pats do will be predicated on how other teams utilize their picks. There’s so much disagreement about which way San Francisco is leaning at No. 3. Todd McShay of ESPN wrote Monday — and other reports echoed the sentiment — that the 49ers’ choice is between Trey Lance and Mac Jones, with coach Kyle Shanahan favoring Jones and the 49ers personnel department pushing for Lance.
Other teams between the 49ers at No. 3 and the Pats at No. 15 that could factor into the quarterback hunt, plus teams behind the Pats (Washington?) could beat the Pats to the punch.
Despite Matt Ryan’s continued presence on the roster, the Falcons at number 4 might be in the mix, according to McShay. Although the Falcons might be leaning toward Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, McShay writes, some “are wondering if team owner Arthur Blank might step in and decide this pick has to be a QB. Atlanta might not be drafting this high again for a while, and it's a chance to potentially set the team up at the position for the next decade.”
The Falcons are also considering trading down, according to McShay, so it wouldn’t hurt if the Pats gave the Falcons a call. But the price to move up to No. 4 would be steep, as it was already set by what San Francisco gave Miami (two future firsts and a third). Peter King wrote Monday that’s why we haven’t seen another trade-up by the Pats or another team.
“The 49ers ruined the market by trading two ones to move nine spots,” King wrote one GM told him.
King also wrote that he didn’t have evidence the Pats were willing to meet that price in order to move up.
The Pats might have to trade up to as high as eighth to get Fields because a wild card in the quarterback shuffle could be Carolina, even after it traded for Sam Darnold. Both McShay and King wrote about this possibility, with King writing that he could see the Panthers taking Justin Fields and seeing how Darnold fares. Carolina might also be willing to trade down.
King also has Denver taking Lance at number 9 (in this scenario Jones goes to San Francisco).
Albert Breer wrote Monday that Fields and Lance won't get past the Panthers and Broncos, meaning the Pats would have to target . Cincinnati (No. 5), Miami (No. 6) and Detroit (No. 7), with Atlanta at No. 4 a long-shot possibility for a trade — though it's difficult to envision the Dolphins being willing to help the Patriots land their franchise quarterback. Breer also wrote Denver might deem one of the quarterbacks worthy of a trade-up from No. 9 to No. 7.
Bottom line: It looks like the Pats might have narrowed down their quarterback search to Fields or a second-day talent who could be mentored by Cam Newton. But this is all subject to change several times between today and Thursday.