It’s “next man up” week here in the NESN.com Patriots Mailbag.
With Doug Kyed enjoying paternity leave following the birth of his beautiful daughter, I’ll be answering all of your Patriots-related questions this time around.
Let’s dive right in:
Hi Zack, do you think we end up trading up in the draft for a qb or stay at 15 and select best player available?
I think the Patriots should attempt to trade up for either Justin Fields or Trey Lance. (The San Francisco 49ers reportedly want Mac Jones at No. 3, and I don’t think he’s worthy of that draft slot/trade compensation anyway.) Is either a can’t-miss prospect? No. But they’re both extremely talented, and history shows that finding a franchise quarterback gets exponentially more difficult once you get beyond the first 12 or so picks.
The Patriots enter the draft with no glaring immediate needs after loading up in free agency. Package some picks together, grab Fields or Lance — I’d go with Fields if I had my choice of the two — and have him learn behind Cam Newton for a year before taking over in 2022.
If New England opts not to trade up — or if the price to do so becomes overwhelmingly expensive — I could see them taking an offensive tackle, linebacker or cornerback at No. 15, or perhaps a wide receiver if DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle slides.
What are the Patriots top 5 needs that they should tackle in the draft?
You mentioned one of them right there: tackle. Trent Brown is on a one-year contract, and Isaiah Wynn is both injury-prone and could be entering the final year of his rookie deal, pending New England’s decision on his fifth-year option. The Patriots are set there for now — as they are at most positions following their free agent spending spree — but could look to draft a long-term future starter, potentially in the early rounds. Beyond that, I’d say QB, wide receiver, guard and potentially cornerback, depending on whether Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson stay or go. Linebacker, running back and free safety are on the list, too.
I?m seeing a ton of conflicting reports on whether Jimmy G is available or if the Pats even want him, what?s your read on the differing claims?
My read is that the Patriots probably would like to have Jimmy Garoppolo back, but that the San Francisco 49ers won’t be motivated to trade him at a discount. The Niners’ stated plan to keep Garoppolo this season even after drafting a QB makes sense. They have the roster talent necessary to contend in 2021 and want some stability behind center in case their rookie isn’t ready to start right away. If they’re blown away by an offer, they’ll move Garoppolo. If not, they won’t. And giving up, say, a first-round pick for a player with Garoppolo’s injury history wouldn’t be smart business for the Patriots.
Who do you see as the most likely trade partner for the patriots to move up? Detroit?
Maybe, but remember the Lions no longer have the Matt Patricia-Bob Quinn connection. I do believe that if they’re hellbent on getting a quarterback, they need to get to at least No. 7 (Detroit) to move in front of QB-needy Carolina and Denver. Jumping to No. 4 (Atlanta) or 5 (Cincinnati) would be safer but, naturally, would require a larger trade package. The 49ers gave up first-round picks in 2021, 2022 and 2023 along with a 2022 third to vault from No. 12 to No. 3, so trading up for one of the top signal-callers this year could be pricier than usual.
Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Jones, Lance and Fields all are expected to go in the top 10, but ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay had Fields — the consensus No. 2 QB behind Lawrence until a few months ago — slipping to 11th in his latest mock draft, with the Patriots trading up with the New York Giants to select him. The Giants, coached by former New England assistant Joe Judge, should be a friendly trade partner if a QB the Patriots like falls to them.
What?s the likelihood of them trading back if they can?t get a QB?
Trading back is always a possibility with the Patriots. But if all five of the top quarterbacks go in the top 10, there will be some very good prospects still available at No. 15.
Pick an out of the box type of pick for our selection at 15. Something similar to the Duggar choice
These guys aren’t likely to be drafted that high, but I’ll go with Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore, TCU safety Trevon Moehrig and Notre Dame offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg.
What are we doing in the RB room? Who else we gonna add? Through draft?
The Patriots easily could enter the season with their current running back room (Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White, Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor), but I think they’ll look to draft White’s eventual replacement since he re-signed on just a one-year deal. One player I like for that spot is UCLA’s Demetric Felton, who can play both running back and slot receiver. He’ll probably go in the third or fourth round. New England also still could re-sign running back Rex Burkhead, who was very good in 2020 before his season-ending knee injury.
Any interesting remaining free Agents who could suit the pats?
The Patriots have been more than willing to bring former Patriots back to Foxboro this offseason (Brown, Kyle Van Noy, Ted Karras). Here’s another candidate: free safety Duron Harmon, who remains unsigned after spending last season with Detroit. Harmon was a valuable cog in New England’s secondary for many years and would provide some depth behind Devin McCourty, who’s entering his age-34 season.
I wouldn’t expect any more big splashes with the Patriots now boasting just $12.6 million in salary cap space (some of which will be needed to sign their draft picks), but here are some notable free agents who have yet to sign new deals:
Wide receivers: Larry Fitzgerald, Dede Westbrook, Golden Tate, Danny Amendola, Damiere Byrd
Edge rushers: Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram, Justin Houston, Ryan Kerrigan, Olivier Vernon, Everson Griffen, Trent Murphy
Linebackers: K.J. Wright, Kwon Alexander, B.J. Goodson, Vince Williams
Cornerbacks: Richard Sherman, Casey Heyward, Bashaud Breeland, Steven Nelson
How come Julian didn?t work out with the boys? Still recovering?
It was notable that Julian Edelman did not take part in last week’s “Pats West” workouts. NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported in late February that Edelman still wasn’t sure whether he’d be healthy enough to play this season, and we haven’t heard any updates on the wideout’s condition since then. It’s certainly concerning that he’s still not back to 100 percent more than five months after his most recent knee procedure. His status for 2021 still is very much uncertain.
Who is the QB6? And when is he going to be drafted?
Probably either Florida’s Kyle Trask, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond or Stanford’s Davis Mills, and likely in the second round. There’s a pretty sizable gap between Nos. 5 and 6 this year. Mond could be an interesting option for the Patriots if they don’t go QB early.
What’s your opinion on Myles Bryant?
I like him. He played a bunch of different roles last season and seemed to impress a lot of people inside the organization, from Bill Belichick and the coaching staff to veteran DBs like Devin McCourty and Stephon Gilmore. Not sure what his permanent position will be (slot corner? safety? Swiss Army knife?) but he’ll help the team this season. The success the Patriots have had with finding undrafted defensive backs is honestly remarkable.
The Pats have 10 picks in the draft, but how many do you expect them to actually use?
Five or six.