We recently highlighted 10 veteran quarterbacks who could interest the New England Patriots if Cam Newton does not return for 2021.
Now, we’re taking the prospect route and identifying QBs the Patriots could target in the 2021 NFL Draft.
New England, which currently has just Jarrett Stidham and practice squadder Jake Dolegala for quarterbacks under contract for next season, owns the 15th overall pick in this year’s draft. That likely puts them out of reach of the best available signal-callers.
Consensus No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence never was a realistic option for the Patriots, and Ohio State’s Justin Fields and BYU’s Zach Wilson both are expected to go in the top five. North Dakota State’s Trey Lance shouldn’t be far behind.
Excluding Lawrence, Fields and Wilson, here’s a closer look at the 2021 quarterback prospects:
Trey Lance, North Dakota State (6-foot-3, 225 pounds)
2020 stats: 15 of 30 (50.0 percent), 149 yards (5.0 per attempt), two touchdowns, one interception; 15 carries, 143 yards, two touchdowns
There’s a good chance he’ll be a top-10 pick, too, but of the Fields-Wilson-Lance trio, the latter is the most likely to slide.
Why? Three reasons: 1) he played at an FCS school (albeit a dominant one), 2) he only has one season of college starting experience, and 3) he played just one game in 2020, an October showcase against Central Arkansas.
Despite those question marks, Lance is an extremely intriguing prospect, and his 2019 stats were flat-out bonkers: 28 touchdowns, zero (!) interceptions, plus 1,100 rushing yards and 14 scores. If the Patriots want him, they’d likely need to trade up.
Mac Jones, Alabama (6-2, 215)
2020 stats: 275 of 357 (77.0 percent), 4,036 yards (11.3 per attempt), 36 touchdowns, four interceptions; 31 carries, 3 yards, one touchdown
Tua Tagovailoa’s former backup proved to be a darn good starter this season. Jones has been sensational for an Alabama squad that will play for the national title Monday night. He led the nation in both completion percentage and yards per attempt and throwing interceptions on just 1.1 percent of his passes. Jones boasts impressive accuracy and ball security — two traits New England typically covets in its QBs.
The big question with Jones is how he’ll perform when he’s not surrounded by outstanding weapons like Heisman Trophy-winning receiver DeVonta Smith, All-American running back Najee Harris and playing behind an elite offensive line. We have our doubts about the Patriots targeting him at No. 15, as many draft prognosticators have predicted.
Do you know how many times five quarterbacks have been selected in the top 15 in a single draft? Once (the Tim Couch-led 1999 class). The earliest the fifth quarterback was picked in any other year was 24th. Just five drafts in history have featured five or more first-round QBs.
Jones certainly could be an option in the second round (or maybe late in the first if the Patriots trade down), but 15th overall for a third-tier prospect feels like a reach.
Kyle Trask, Florida (6-4, 236)
2020 stats: 301 of 437 (68.9 percent), 4,283 yards (9.8 per attempt), 43 touchdowns, eight interceptions; 64 carries, 50 yards, three touchdowns
Trask’s miserable performance in the Cotton Bowl (three INTs in the first quarter) deserves context, as top tight end prospect Kyle Pitts and several other Gators regulars opted out before the game. Before that forgettable finale, Trask threw just five picks on 409 attempts, led the nation in touchdown passes and was a Heisman finalist along with Smith, Jones and Lawrence.
But Trask lacks the athleticism and mobility many teams desire in the modern NFL, which could limit his ceiling. Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Edholm wrote that he belongs “on the Chad Henne-Nick Foles-Mason Rudolph spectrum as a prospect” — not exactly a ringing endorsement. At the moment, Trask looks like a Day 2 pick.
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (6-4, 220)
2020 stats: 186 of 281 (66.2 percent), 2,296 yards (8.2 per attempt), 19 touchdowns, six interceptions; 98 carries, 591 yards, 12 touchdowns
After completing just 55 percent of his passes as a sophomore, Ridder upped that number by more than 10 points in 2020 while he led Cincinnati to an undefeated regular season and a New Year’s Six bowl bid (a last-second loss to Georgia in the Peach Bowl). He’s a legit dual threat, too: He had two 100-yard, three-touchdown rushing performances this season, including a 179-yard eruption against SMU. A three-year collegiate starter, Ridder is a tier or two below Jones and Trask, but his arm talent and athleticism could make him an interesting project in the middle rounds. (UPDATE: Ridder announced he is returning to Cincinnati for his senior season.)
Jamie Newman, Georgia (6-4, 230)
2020 stats: N/A (opt-out)
Newman transferred to Georgia last offseason, then opted out, so it’s been a while since he’s taken the field. Before that, he posted decent numbers at Wake Forest, completing 60.9 percent of his passes, averaging 7.9 yards per attempt and throwing 26 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in 2019. The Patriots would have seen a lot of Newman while they were scouting 2020 sixth-round pick Justin Herron, who was the Demon Deacons’ starting left tackle.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M (6-3, 217)
2020 stats: 188 of 297 (63.3 percent), 2,282 yards (7.7 per attempt), 19 touchdowns, three interceptions; 74 carries, 294 yards, four touchdowns
Mond started 44 games for the Aggies and posted his best completion percentage, YPA and interception rate as a senior this season. He’s unlikely to hear his name called before Day 3.
Other draft-eligible quarterbacks include: Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Shane Buechele (SMU), Brock Purdy (Iowa State), Ian Book (Notre Dame), Felipe Franks (Arkansas)