A large subset of New England Patriots fans is in strong opposition to the prospect of Bill Belichick trading up in the 2018 NFL Draft for a quarterback.
We learned that Wednesday when NESN.com posted our first post-Brandin Cooks trade Patriots mock draft, which had New England trading its top three picks to the Cleveland Browns for the fourth overall pick. The Patriots selected UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen in this fictional scenario.
Some Patriots fans were nonplussed at the thought of that kind of trade, which begs the question: Should New England pull off such a deal?
Let’s make a pros and cons list.
Tom Brady is 41 years old. The Patriots need a young quarterback to groom as the future starter, and in theory, the best quarterbacks come off the board earliest. There’s a higher rate of success drafting quarterbacks earlier in the first round.
The Patriots have picks Nos. 23, 31, 43, 63, 95, 198, 210 and 219. The consensus top four quarterbacks in the draft — Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield — almost certainly will be gone by pick No. 23. So, if the Patriots want to draw from that list, they’ll need to package picks to move up the board.
The order in which those players are drafted is currently unknown, but Allen and Darnold are likely going first and second. Rosen likely will be the third player off the board, followed by Mayfield. If the New York Giants take a running back at No. 2 overall, then the Patriots potentially could trade with the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 to leapfrog the Denver Broncos for a passer.
If Rosen or Mayfield — or Allen or Darnold if they fall — are as good as advertised, then, in theory, the Patriots would be able to keep the figurative ball rolling once Tom Brady retires. There’s clearly not a perfect success rate with quarterbacks in the top of the first round, but it’s at least higher than selecting signal callers lower in the draft. Josh McDaniels proved he could groom a quarterback with Jimmy Garoppolo.
And as long as the Patriots don’t need to give away No. 63 and No. 95, then they still could come away with players to fill other needs. Offensive tackle Brian O’Neill could be available at the bottom of the second round, and there are athletic linebackers to be had at the end of the third round.
Even if the Patriots couldn’t fill all of their needs, they’re at least addressing the most important position on the roster. And quite frankly, the Patriots’ roster, outside of the left tackle position, looks pretty solid compared to the rest of the NFL right now. The Patriots are Super Bowl favorites, and that’s unlikely to change regardless of what they do in the draft.
The Patriots could use those four picks in the top 63 to inject youth into and fill other needs on their roster. The Patriots’ most critical needs are at quarterback and left tackle, but they could use a third linebacker, defensive end, tight end, running back, cornerback, guard, wide receiver and safety. The Patriots could fill most of those needs with their eight draft picks.
And while the Patriots wouldn’t get a top-flight quarterback, they could still pick between the second tier of Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph or the third tier of Kyle Lauletta, Luke Falk, Mike White, Kurt Benkert, Chase Litton, Logan Woodside, among others.
Jackson and Rudolph don’t feel like fits, but it’s certainly possible the Patriots could select either of them at Nos. 23, 31 or 43. Lauletta seems like the best fit outside the top four passers, and he could be had as late as the third round.
If there was a guarantee the Patriots would get Lauletta, then trading up might not be necessary. But Lauletta is a popular guy right now and could come off the board earlier than the Patriots value him.
If the Patriots keep their picks, they could get a linebacker like Leighton Van Esch at No. 23, a defensive end like Sam Hubbard at No. 31 or a hybrid edge defender like Lorenzo Carter at No. 31 or 43. Other guys in play for those top three picks are cornerback Jaire Alexander; offensive tackles Connor Williams, Mike McGlinchey and Kolton Miller; wide receivers DJ Moore and Christian Kirk; linebacker Rashaan Evans; tight ends Mark Andrews, Mike Gesicki and Hayden Hurst; safety Justin Reid and defensive end Rasheem Green.
The Patriots don’t need to trade up for a quarterback but don’t be so down in the dumps if that’s how they choose to spend their draft capital. If the Patriots elect to trade up, they know the risks involved, and they clearly will have fully vetted the player. ESPN’s Adam Schefter knows his stuff, and he’s saying it’s possible. Quarterback is the most important position on the field, and if you want the Patriots to maintain their success past Brady’s expiration date, then they need to address quarterback in this year’s draft. One would assume the player drafted higher will be better (otherwise he wouldn’t be drafted higher, ya know).
There’s obviously a lot to like about the Patriots accumulating a quarterback, offensive tackle, linebacker and either wide receiver, tight end or defensive back with their top four picks. But ensuring acquiring the right quarterback when you’re not specifically trading up to get him can be a risky proposition.
So, what’s the verdict? Don’t be distraught if there’s a trade up.
Thumbnail photo via Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports Images