ESPN NFL draft analyst Matt Miller believes the Patriots absolutely should, however, as it represents the best chance for Bill Belichick to reopen New England’s Super Bowl window.
“Yeah, I think they have to. Or they should, at least,” Miller said Thursday on ESPN’s “NFL Live.” “Like you said, they have 10 draft picks. And let’s be honest, I’ll say what no one else will, the Patriots aren’t that good at drafting, anyway, especially in the first round — with the exception of Damien Woody. They haven’t exactly hit on those picks. You have to go back to 2012 to really find the last hit the Patriots had in the first round. So why not trade a couple of picks to get your Justin Fields or Trey Lance?”
The Patriots, who own the 15th overall pick, re-signed Cam Newton before the start of NFL free agency, then proceeded to splurge on the open market, infusing talent on both sides of the ball. Bringing back Newton hardly precludes New England from adding another quarterback, though, especially since he’s dealt with injuries in recent years, dating back to his time with the Carolina Panthers, and struggled for most of 2020.
“If Cam Newton is the prototype for what (Patriots offensive coordinator) Josh McDaniels’ offense is going to look like moving forward, then go get that type of quarterback,” Miller said. “But get them at 22 years old with 4.4 (second 40-yard dash) speed and an arm to make every throw. Cam Newton can be a mentor for a year, and then you unleash Justin Fields on the rest of this division, which is very quickly pulling away from you, Bill Belichick.
“So if they want to create another Super Bowl window, it’s time to stop going to the veteran quarterbacks. It’s time to trade up. You might have to go up to (No.) 8 with Carolina, to get ahead of the Denver Broncos, but I think it’s worth it to do that on draft day if we see one of these quarterbacks start to slip down the board just a little bit.”
Of course, the price to trade up could be significant. The San Francisco 49ers traded the No. 12 pick, two future first-round picks (2022 and 2023) and a future third-round pick (2022) to the Miami Dolphins to move up nine spots to No. 3. A comparable package might be required to acquire the Atlanta Falcons’ No. 4 pick, which reportedly is available. The Panthers’ No. 8 pick, perhaps in play after Carolina acquired quarterback Sam Darnold from the New York Jets, probably won’t come cheap, either.
Ultimately, the Patriots might just need to see how things shake out at the top of the draft, striking only if/when the iron is hot. Then again, if there’s a quarterback who tickles Belichick’s fancy, he’d be wise to move aggressively now to avoid coming up empty handed when the dust settles April 29.