Maybe the New England Patriots will trade up in the 2021 NFL Draft.
But what if Bill Belichick does so and doesn’t select a quarterback?
Schrager projects the Patriots, who currently own the No. 15 overall pick, will trade up to No. 12 with the Philadelphia Eagles to select Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
Smith, of course, is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and would provide an immediate boost to New England’s offense, which added tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne in free agency.
Here’s what Schrager wrote about the prediction:
Everyone seems to think Philadelphia is looking to trade up into the top 10, but I believe the Eagles are a prime team to trade down, looking to squeeze out another first-round pick for next year — giving them potentially four in 2022 — or an additional second-rounder in 2021. New England gives up its second-round pick (No. 46) to move up three spots for the Heisman-winning, Nick Saban-endorsed star WR1.
It’s been speculated that New England could trade up in the first round to draft a quarterback, as the Patriots’ QB depth chart currently consists of Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala. Newton is coming off an underwhelming 2020, while Stidham and Dolegala are unproven, to say the least.
But we haven’t heard much outside buzz about the Patriots trading up to select a non-quarterback, like Smith. The presumption has been that New England will stand pat, or perhaps even trade down, if it doesn’t target a QB in Round 1.
The Patriots haven’t had much luck drafting wide receivers in the Belichick era, with N’Keal Harry (32nd overall in 2019) being the latest example. So, doubling down by trading up and choosing Smith would be an eye-opening move by New England.
For what it’s worth, Schrager has five quarterbacks going in the top nine: Trevor Lawrence to Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 1, Zach Wilson to the New York Jets at No. 2, Mac Jones to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 3, Justin Fields to the Carolina Panthers at No. 8 and Trey Lance to the Denver Broncos at No. 9.
Smith is the third receiver to fly off Schrager’s big board, behind LSU wideout Ja’Marr Chase (No. 6 to the Miami Dolphins) and fellow Alabama star Jaylen Waddle (No. 7 to the Arizona Cardinals after a trade with the Detroit Lions).