Dan Orlovsky Explains How Patriots Should Approach 2021 NFL Draft

Is trading up for a QB the sensible move in Round 1?


April 9, 2021

To trade up, or not to trade up: That is the question facing the New England Patriots in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Patriots own the 15th overall pick, which should allow Bill Belichick to add another impact player as he reshuffles New England’s roster after a 7-9 season. All five of the top quarterbacks available — Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones — likely will be off the board by then, however, creating a conundrum if the Patriots are targeting their QB of the future.

Of course, New England could wait and choose a quarterback later in the draft, with Kellen Mond, Kyle Trask and Davis Mills among the next tier of signal-callers. But Dan Orlovsky, a former NFL QB now working as an analyst for ESPN, believes the Patriots should think more aggressively.

“The more I think about this, the more I don’t understand how they don’t go up into the first eight or nine (picks) in the draft,” Orlovsky said Thursday on ESPN’s “NFL Live.” “And I look at the NFC teams, because I don’t think any AFC team is gonna be stupid enough to go, ‘Here, guys, come on, here’s this quarterback. You can take him and control the AFC again.’ So, Detroit at 7, Carolina at 8, Dallas at 10 and the Giants at 11 — as NFC teams that New England should be targeting to go get him.

“Because I don’t just sit here and think going into this season, again, you just mentioned the division, with Josh Allen, Tua (Tagovailoa) and likely Zach Wilson. I don’t understand how New England could sit there and feel comfortable, because all those guys are young. All those guys are sitting there going, ‘We’re the face of our division for the next 10 years.’ Forget the conference that also has Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. So New England is gonna have to (trade up), and if I’m one of those NFC teams, I’m on the phone with them every day enticing them to come up.”

The first three picks are projected to be quarterbacks, with Lawrence going to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Wilson going to the New York Jets and either Fields, Lance or Jones going to the San Francisco 49ers, who moved up from No. 12 in a blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins. After that, the Atlanta Falcons are a wild card at No. 4, as they could draft Matt Ryan’s successor or even trade the selection.

The price to acquire the No. 4 pick might be too rich for Belichick’s blood, especially with San Francisco trading the No. 12 pick, two future first-rounders (2022 and 2023) and a future third-rounder (2022) to Miami to move up nine spots to No. 3. But perhaps New England will find the price for the other selections Orlovsky mentioned — Nos. 7, 8, 10 or 11 — to be slightly more palatable. The key ultimately could be to jump the Denver Broncos, who currently own the No. 9 pick, as they, too, are facing a QB dilemma with Drew Lock underperforming thus far.

Nevertheless, Orlovsky wouldn’t advise Belichick to sit on his hands and hope for the best. The Patriots’ success in 2021 and beyond could hinge on whether they land the right quarterback in this year’s draft, as New England’s current QB depth chart — Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala — inspires little confidence.

“I think at the end of the day, it’s really difficult for a football team to go into a game knowing you are in a serious deficit at the quarterback position and thinking you have a chance,” Orlovsky said of the Patriots, who had the benefit of employing Tom Brady for two decades. “New England has had a chance to win every single game for the last 20 years because they had the best quarterback in football. It’s a different world now, and I think that’s why they’re gonna have to go up and go get a quarterback.”

It’s obvious where Orlovsky stands. Now, where does Belichick stand?

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick
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