The New England Patriots reportedly are re-signing Cam Newton to a one-year contract. But that won’t preclude them from drafting another quarterback if they so choose.
The Patriots sent national scout Matt Groh to Fargo, N.D., on Friday to watch North Dakota State QB Trey Lance’s pre-draft pro day, according to a report from Albert Breer of The MMQB.
Lance is widely considered the third- or fourth-best quarterback prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft, with most draft analysts projecting him as a top-10 pick. That means New England, which currently owns the 15th overall selection, likely would need to trade up in order to land him.
With various other roster needs this offseason (receiver, tight end, linebacker, defensive line, etc.), the Patriots could opt to focus that premium pick on a different position. But Lance — a highly athletic dual-threat QB who had a marvelous 2019 season but lacks experience — would be an intriguing target.
“I could see Bill Belichick having an affinity and a lot of fun with a guy like Trey Lance,” NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said this week on a conference call.
Jeremiah also said Lance is “going to need some time” to adjust to the NFL game and might not be ready to play as a rookie, considering he was a one-year starter in the lower-level Football Championship Subdivision and only played one game in 2020. But with a similar player in Newton now back in the fold, the Patriots could sit Lance for a year while he develops and learns behind one of the most productive mobile quarterbacks in NFL history.
Lance threw 28 touchdown passes with zero (!) interceptions in 2019, completing 66.9 percent of his passes and averaging 9.7 yards per attempt. He also rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 scores as he led NDSU to a 16-0 record and an FCS national championship.
“When you talk to the folks at North Dakota State,” Jeremiah said, “this kid is incredibly intelligent, which we know the Patriots have always placed a premium on. He can direct fronts, he can do all the stuff at the line of scrimmage you need to do. He’s a fantastic athlete and runner. He’s got a power arm that fits in the weather in that division later in the year. He can play through that.
“Gosh, this guy has been up in the Dakotas, grew up in Minnesota, so the weather thing would be — he’d be very comfortable there. I just think all the character stuff I’ve gotten has been off the charts. All those things line up with what Belichick has traditionally wanted on the team.”
Lance has been a popular mock-draft choice for the Carolina Panthers at No. 8, who are actively looking to upgrade at quarterback.
Ohio State’s Justin Fields is another potential trade-up option for the Patriots, though he might be out of their range. New England almost certainly won’t have a shot at Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or BYU’s Zach Wilson, who are widely expected to go 1-2 when the draft kicks off April 29.