Patriots Mailbag: What’s Pats’ Plan If They Don’t Draft First-Round QB?

Plus: Has Julian Edelman played his final snap as a Patriot?

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It’s another Patriots Mailbag Friday here at NESN.com.

Usual mailbagger Doug Kyed will be back in this space next week. But for now, you’re stuck with me.

Let’s get it going:

@Mikejcl52
If the patriots don’t take a QB early, what do you think their strategy will be going forward? Looking at what the patriots have added through FA, it’s hard to see them finishing with a worse record than last season, so they likely won’t be high enough to draft a top QB.
I agree, Mike. That’s one of the main reasons why I believe they should trade up for a quarterback this year.

History shows QBs drafted within the first 12 or so picks are much, much, much more likely to become star-caliber players than those drafted later, and as you mentioned, the Patriots likely won’t be picking in the top half of the first round again in 2022. They’ve also already addressed all of their immediate roster needs, so they can afford to use this year’s top pick on a player who probably won’t contribute right away (and include additional picks in a trade-up package).

Go up and get Justin Fields or, if the Patriots prefer him, Trey Lance. It could be a long time before they have a shot at another blue-chip QB prospect.

But if the Patriots can’t or choose not to grab one of the first-round quarterbacks, I’d expect them to scoop up a Day 2/early Day 3 guy (Kellen Mond, Davis Mills, Kyle Trask, Jamie Newman) to pair with Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham while continuing to monitor the veteran QB market. Mond does intrigue me — and reportedly has been in contact with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels — but it would be an upset if any of those non-first-rounders become even average NFL starters.

Something to consider: Even if the 49ers keep Jimmy Garoppolo as a bridge starter after they draft a quarterback third overall, he almost certainly will not be in San Francisco in 2022. That means the much-discussed Garoppolo-Patriots reunion could come to fruition next offseason if the Pats haven’t found their QB of the future by then.

At the moment, the Niners don’t have much motivation to trade Garoppolo for anything less than a primo return, but that would change if Teddy Bridgewater — now a lame duck in Carolina — winds up in San Francisco. The 49ers also could lower their asking price for the former New England backup if their rookie wows them in training camp.

@JohnFostt
After today’s news, is it inevitable that the Patriots move on from Edelman in the next 30 days or so?
“Inevitable” might be a bit strong, but it’s looking less and less likely Julian Edelman will be ready for the start of the season — and increasingly likely that he’s played his final snap in a Patriots uniform.

The Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian reported Thursday, citing a “source familiar with Edelman’s situation,” that it’s “doubtful” the soon-to-be 35-year-old wideout “will be able to play the entire 2021 season.”

Edelman is recovering from a knee injury that sidelined him for 10 games last season and limited him in several others. He underwent a surgical procedure on that knee in late October. It’s certainly concerning that his status still is in doubt more than five months later.

If Edelman can’t get healthy, he could opt to retire this offseason. Releasing or trading him would save the Patriots roughly $3.4 million in salary cap space while leaving behind $2.7 million in dead money.

@TheJDMman
What would you say the odds are N’Keal Harry gets traded before or during the draft?
Decently high. He’s been mentioned in trade rumors for months now, and I think a fresh start would be best for both parties. As of last month, the Patriots’ asking price for the young wideout reportedly was a fourth-round draft pick, but I’ll be surprised if they’re able to get more than a fifth or a sixth for him. New England also could include Harry in a trade-up package or move him this summer.

With Harry reportedly on the trade block and Edelman potentially unavailable, New England should be looking to draft a wide receiver later this month to complement Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. This is considered an especially strong wideout class, with three projected top-15 picks in Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle and close to a dozen potential difference-makers likely to be available on Day 2 and into Day 3.

@RushTrinity3
If they can’t get a QB in rd 1 I hope they trade back. There is a lot of OT, WR, LB depth that will available late 1st into the 3rd. ideally also trade up from RDs 4-7 to acquire a 2nd or 3rd pick. They don’t need 10 rookies.
A first-round trade-down always is a possibility for the Patriots, though last year’s (which landed them Kyle Dugger at pick No. 37) was their first since 2013. Keep in mind, though, that an early run of quarterbacks would push elite prospects at other positions down the board, potentially giving New England a shot at a tackle, cornerback, receiver or linebacker who would have gone in top-10 or top-five in most other drafts.

And I agree with your second point. There isn’t room for 10 rookies on this roster after all the pieces the Patriots added in free agency, so they should be looking to either package picks together to move up the board or flip picks for future selections (or both). I’d be surprised if they drafted more than five or six players.

@szn_jones
Percent chance the Pats will take these positions in the first round: QB, OT, WR, CB, LB
I think the Patriots should trade up for a quarterback, but my gut says offensive tackle is probably the most likely pick. (Sorry, Pats fans.) Behind that, I’d go QB, linebacker, cornerback, then wide receiver.

They’re all close, though. As I wrote Thursday, those are the top five positions I could see the Patriots targeting in the first round.

@jack_tweeddale
What do you think of Schrager’s mock of us moving to four? Would you be ok with giving up what he proposes? And would you trade a 4th and 5th this year to recoup the lost 3rd from moving up?
In his latest mock draft, NFL Media’s Peter Schrager has the Patriots trading No. 15, No. 46 and 2022 first- and third-round picks to move up to No. 4 for Fields. According to the Rich Hill draft value chart, that’s a pretty significant overpay, but with the scramble for top QBs inflating trade prices, it’ll probably take something in that neighborhood to vault into the top five this year. The Niners needed three firsts and a future third to get from No. 12 to No. 3.

I’d try to convince Atlanta to toss in a fourth-rounder this year to balance the scales a bit. With a fourth added, the Patriots would be giving up roughly 562 draft value points to the Falcons’ 524, if you assume New England’s first-rounder next year will be in the mid-20s.

That theoretical trade would leave the Patriots without a selection between No. 4 and No. 96, so I’d look to use their three fourths (Nos. 120, 122 and 139) plus the Falcons’ (No. 108) to close that gap.

@_AndrewCallahan
Need an All-Name team from the 2021 draft class

Thought you’d never ask:

A follower also took me to task for leaving out Wisconsin cornerback Rachad Wildgoose Jr., which was a major oversight on my part.

In fact, I’d stick Wildgoose in my top five, along with Tre? McKitty (TE, Georgia), Deommodore Lenoir (CB, Oregon), Tuf Borland (LB, Ohio State) and Dicaprio Bootle (CB, Nebraska).

Dicaprio Bootle!

@jordikokki
Who’s the safety of the future? Dugger is more of a Chung type. Who takes over for Devin McCourty
Wouldn’t surprise me if the Patriots looked for their eventual McCourty replacement in this year’s draft. They also could bring back Duron Harmon, who’s currently free agent after spending last season with Detroit.

@jadium3
James Devlin was such an important part of the offense when available, does the team still see a role for that kind of player and could the role be filled by Johnson, Vitale or through the draft?
New England uses a fullback more than almost any other NFL team, and I don’t see that changing. Bill Belichick and McDaniels like the mismatch potential that position provides.

Jakob Johnson isn’t Develin, but he was a solid replacement last season, appearing in all 16 games. He’s back on a one-year contract and will compete with Danny Vitale (expected back from his COVID-19 opt-out) for a roster spot this summer. Dalton Keene also could take on more fullback-type responsibilities after playing as an H-back in college, especially since tight end snaps could be hard to come by following the additions of Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.

The Patriots certainly don’t need to draft a fullback, but I could see Michigan’s Ben Mason piquing their interest. He’s a bruising blocker who also played on defense for the Wolverines.

@jamesa27152778
Cam was a former Heisman winner and league MVP. With him they went 7-9 with a pretty limited roster on both sides of the ball. I’ve heard people say that the FA changes might get them to 9-7. Is there any chance Cam surprises us or do you think it’s going to be more of the same?

I don’t think the Patriots’ improved roster is going to turn Newton back into a Pro Bowler, but I do believe they can be a playoff team with him at QB this season.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images

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