Mel Kiper Jr. in his first 2021 NFL mock draft had the Patriots using their first-round pick on a quarterback.
Kiper followed a similar path for New England in the second installment of his mock, but this time with a different signal-caller.
The veteran draft analyst in late January predicted the Patriots would use the 15th overall pick on Mac Jones. Kiper now has the Alabama QB going at No. 8 to the Carolina Panthers, which in turn forces a new projection for New England.
With Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Jones all off the board, Kiper has the Patriots trading up to No. 9 to select the quarterback who rounds out the perceived top five prospects at the position this year: North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
“(Bill) Belichick and the Patriots have been quiet this offseason, but that should change soon,” Kiper wrote for ESPN. “They have money to spend in free agency, and they need to find a quarterback. It doesn’t appear likely that Cam Newton will return. The veteran QB trade market has dwindled. I could see a Jimmy Garoppolo return to New England, but I’m not sold that he’d be the long-term answer. Lance could be. He started only 17 career games in college — all against FCS competition — but he’s only 20, and he has all the tools to be a great dual-threat quarterback. Remember that the Patriots have a few players returning after opting out of last season, too, so they could contend in the AFC East again.”
Drafting Lance could be a wise play for the Patriots, but if they do, it shouldn’t be the franchise’s only move at quarterback this offseason. Lance still is a very raw talent who doesn’t have much experience against high-level competition, so expecting him to be a Week 1 starter in September might be a stretch. Signing a veteran like Ryan Fitzpatrick to aid Lance’s development could be a solid move for all parties involved.
The 2021 draft still is two months away, however, so you’ll probably see projections for the Patriots’ first-round pick all over the map.