The New England Patriots have a critical decision to make just around the corner that could alter the coming years for their franchise.

In sole possession of the No. 3 overall pick heading into Thursday night’s NFL draft, the Patriots have two primary choices for handling their position: swap the pick or roll the dice and choose a prospect. Obviously, that leaves New England general manager Eliot Wolf and head coach Jerod Mayo on the hot seat to make the correct choice necessary to dig the organization out of its current rut — the Patriots haven’t won a playoff game since 2018.

Most recently, having endured a division-worst 4-13 campaign filled with all-time low points, which prompted a parting of ways with Bill Belichick, New England could make a bold stance and trade the No. 3 pick. However, the likelihood of that scenario coming to life is up in the air.

“The only way they’re moving down is if another team offers an unprecedented deal,” ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported Sunday. “Leaving the door open for that possibility is good business more than anything; why close it before it’s necessary to do so?”

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There are a handful of gaping holes on New England’s roster, particularly dispersed among the offensive unit. The Patriots don’t have a starting quarterback — or a reliable one — they don’t have any star power in the receiving department, and the team will operate under yet another new offensive coordinator in Alex Van Pelt after New England averaged 13.8 points per game last season, which was tied for the worst mark in the league.

With the clock ticking, here are three blockbuster trade ideas the Patriots could consider before the time comes:

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1. WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
As previously mentioned, New England desperately needs star power. In recent years, the team has operated on a complementary offensive staff, wastefully allocating financial resources for signings such as Ezekiel Elliott and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

One name that fits the mold of a player the Patriots have needed for the past few seasons is three-time Pro Bowler Justin Jefferson.

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The 24-year-old recorded three straight 1,400-plus-yard seasons before being limited to 10 games in 2023 with a hamstring injury. Jefferson’s trade fit with New England could be further justified by Minnesota’s reported interest in Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy.

“I’ve got an idea,” Colin Cowherd said on FS1’s “The Herd” when making the case of Jefferson to New England. “New England’s got the No. 3 pick What does New England desperately need? A playmaker. Justin Jefferson — switch picks, I’ll give you next year’s (first-rounder) and Justin Jefferson to go from 11 to 3. ‘Cause they’ve already got Jordan Addison, they’ve got the tight end they like (T.J. Hockenson). They’ve got skill players. Next year’s one and Justin Jefferson to move up to the number three spot to get your quarterback.”

Jefferson is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2025.

2. CB Patrick Surtain II and draft considerations, Denver Broncos
Also rumored to be interested in moving up to select a quarterback in Thursday night’s draft, the Broncos could have the necessary trading chip to lure New England into letting go of the No. 3 pick.

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“There’s talk that the Broncos will dangle cornerback Patrick Surtain II as part of a package to trade up for a quarterback,” per Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline. “… Any package to move up will include at least one future first-round pick as well as Surtain and the 12th selection in this year’s draft.”

This could be a picture-perfect draft package for the Patriots, who hypothetically, would land a star-caliber cornerback while having the chance to land a solid offensive weapon down at No. 12. Surtain was named to a second straight Pro Bowl after working around an atrocious Denver defense last season.

Perhaps the Broncos are among the teams capable of presenting a trade package up to New England’s standards.

3. WR Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
Another game-changing playmaker, Higgins, unlike Jefferson, has spoken for himself to make one thing clear this offseason: he wants out of Cincinnati.

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Higgins reportedly requested a trade from the Bengals in March. The 25-year-old, who’s racked up 24 touchdowns in four seasons with Cincinnati, would rapidly improve New England’s subpar wide-receiving crew, giving Mayo and the offensive staff the star power it has needed since Julian Edelman’s retirement in 2020.

Needless to say, in a Patriots uniform, Higgins would become the No. 1 wide receiver in the snap of a finger.

The level of risk drops significantly if New England uses its No. 3 pick to its advantage in the trade market, especially if the team doesn’t have confidence in the projected available prospects becoming franchise-changing studs.

Featured image via Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports Images