Todd McShay’s post-regular season mock draft might represent the best-case scenario for the New England Patriots.
The Patriots own the No. 15 pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft after finishing the 2020 season with a 7-9 record. They could use the selection on a quarterback — although you never know with Bill Belichick — and McShay predicted Thursday on ESPN.com that New England will land arguably the second-best signal-caller available: Justin Fields from Ohio State.
McShay projects Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will go No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, which is a no-brainer. It’s been speculated Fields could go as high as No. 2 to the New York Jets, but McShay believes they’ll stick with their incumbent, Sam Darnold, and build around him with their stockpile of picks and salary cap space.
Of course, it’s important to note McShay’s mock draft doesn’t include trades, otherwise Fields probably would come off the board earlier than No. 15. But McShay currently has BYU quarterback Zach Wilson slightly ahead of Fields in his early evaluation, thus tabbing Wilson to go No. 4 overall to the Atlanta Falcons.
Here’s what McShay wrote about Fields sliding to New England at No. 15, a scenario that seems farfetched but would answer the Patriots’ biggest question since Tom Brady left to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
OK, it’s time. And what a terrific outcome this would be for coach Bill Belichick. Fields fell to No. 15 here because we aren’t doing trades in this mock. There’s little chance he makes it this far down the board, especially after his six-touchdown performance in the Sugar Bowl quieted some big-game concerns. Someone will move up to get him.
But what a nice fit Fields makes in New England. The Patriots tied the Giants for the fewest passing touchdowns in the NFL this season with 12, and New England joined the Broncos as the only teams with more interceptions thrown than TDs (14). Cam Newton, who was largely ineffective this season, will turn 32 in May and is set to be a free agent again. Jarrett Stidham doesn’t appear to be the guy, either. Tom Brady is no longer walking through that door, and it’s a different era for the Patriots’ passing offense. Fields would change that, with plenty of zip on his vertical shots and an ability to create when things break down.
If the Patriots want Fields, they’ll probably need to trade up. The Jets even could shop the No. 2 pick if they’re sold on Darnold and another team becomes enamored with Fields during the pre-draft process, ultimately leaving New England on the outside looking in.
But it’s a fun scenario to consider, nevertheless, because Fields is a legitimate quarterback prospect with a high ceiling. He’d instantly infuse energy into an organization that needs it right now.
For what it’s worth, McShay projected five quarterbacks to be taken in the first round, with North Dakota State’s Trey Lance (No. 19 to the Washington Football Team) and Alabama’s Mac Jones (No. 21 to the Indianapolis Colts) joining Lawrence, Wilson and Fields.