After falling short of expectations set by the franchise in the 2020 NFL campaign, the Patriots likely are bound for an active offseason.
Addressing the quarterback position should be high on New England’s to-do list.
Cam Newton wasn’t a complete disaster in his first season with the Patriots. He also bought into the franchise’s method of operation and clearly is well-liked in the locker room. But Newton hasn’t performed at a level necessary for New England to be successful, meaning a change under center likely is on the horizon.
The Patriots could go in a few directions in hopes of fixing their quarterback issue. They could go down the veteran signal-caller route again, whether it be through free agency or via trade. Perhaps New England will finally see what it has in Jarrett Stidham. And then, of course, there’s the 2021 draft, in which the Patriots will pick higher in the first round than usual.
The top two or three QB prospects likely will be off the board by the time New England makes its first selection. Peter King kept this in mind when he projected who the Patriots might draft if they choose to use their first-round pick on a signal-caller.
“The Patriots obviously need to address quarterback in the offseason, and, at 6-8 with two games to go, they may be in no-man?s land on draft weekend to get one of the three best QBs in college football,” King wrote in his latest Football Morning in America column for NBC Sports. “A 7-9 team picks around 11 to 15. Maybe the shortened season of North Dakota State?s Trey Lance will push him down into the Patriot draft zone. Whatever, Newton?s crash to earth has made quarterback an urgent need for New England.”
Lance and the Bison saw their 2020 season cancelled due to the COVID-10 pandemic, which resulted in North Dakota State only playing one non-conference game. The university apparently is hoping to play a season in the spring, though Lance already has announced he would forego that campaign in order to prepare for the draft.
The 6-foot-4, 226-pound quarterback put together a sensational 2019 season, throwing for 2,786 yards with 28 touchdowns and zero (!) interceptions over 16 games. He also ran for 1,100 yards with 14 scores on 169 carries.
Lance has been lauded for his athleticism, competitiveness and ability to extend plays. But considering he only played 19 total contests for a subdivision program, there are obvious concerns about whether his game will translate to the highest level. Lance also has struggled to show consistent accuracy, a weakness that frequently surfaced for Newton this season.
Quarterback, of course, is the most important position in football, and the Patriots are in dire need of a shake-up. But New England also has plenty of other pressing needs, and it could hurt the franchise in the long run if it reaches for a signal-caller in the draft next spring.