The New England Patriots are certainly in a tough spot at the quarterback position this offseason. Jarrett Stidham is clearly not ready to take on any sort of starting role and it seems unlikely that the Patriots will be bringing free agent Cam Newton back into the mix.
The Patriots are sitting in a good situation against the cap and can aggressively attack their quarterback need in free agency. However, unless the Dallas Cowboys foolishly mess up the Dak Prescott negotiations, there simply is not much exciting quarterback talent on the open market. If they are attacking their quarterback need with a veteran option this offseason, the New England Patriots will be going with a bridge option, not a guy who they will be investing long-term in.
Free agents like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacoby Brissett and Andy Dalton all make some sense for New England, as do trade targets like Marcus Mariota and Jimmy Garoppolo. That being said, if the Pats hope to sole their quarterback situation for the long-term, they simply must get aggressive in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Rookie quarterback options for New England Patriots
Sitting at No. 15 overall, the New England Patriots will not be able to stand pat and be in a position to land one of the first four quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft. Mac Jones may be an option for the team at No. 15, but that feels like a reach for a quarterback with limited arm talent and athleticism. If the Pats want to actually solve their quarterback need in the 2021 NFL Draft, they are going to have to get aggressive.
Trevor Lawrence is going No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, cross him off of the list right now. However, the Pats may be able to put themselves in a position to land one of Justin Fields, Zach Wilson or Trey Lance. It is extremely unlikely that all of Fields, Wilson and Lance slide out of the top five, but it is certainly possible that two of these quarterbacks will.
Right now, Wilson is getting a ton of hype around the league and feels like the favorite to be selected No. 2 overall to the New York Jets. I would not count Fields out of this conversation yet, but him and Lance feel like the most likely of the top four quarterbacks to slide down the board a bit in April.
Look for the QB that is falling and attack
If Fields and/or Lance start to fall down the board a bit on draft night, the New England Patriots must get aggressive. Finding the opportunity to aggressively find a franchise quarterback and attack when the opportunity presents itself is necessary in today’s NFL. Both Fields and Lance are extremely gifted quarterback prospects who have the potential to be stars at the next level.
If the teams at the top of the draft are making the mistake of letting Fields and/or Lance slide, the Patriots must capitalize and make an aggressive move up the board. Fields is the more pro-ready quarterback and making a move up the board for him will likely cost more.
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It is difficult to see Fields falling any further than the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 6. If the Pats specifically want Fields, it is likely going to cost them No. 15, their first-round pick next year and more. However, if Lance is the quarterback on their radar, the price could come down and they could still find themselves in a position to land an extremely talented quarterback with massive long-term upside.
Lance is an extremely smart and athletic quarterback prospect who is safe with the ball but has the arm to fit it into tight spaces when needed. Lance is a quick, explosive and powerful runner who does a great job of making plays with his legs. He also displays tremendous natural arm talent and shows the ability to make plays both in and out of the structure of the offense.
Many will doubt Lance because of his lack of college experience. Due to the pandemic knocking out most of his 2020 season, Lance only made 17 starts in his college career. He was fantastic throughout his college career, but only 17 starts at the FCS level will cause many to question whether Lance can make a smooth transition to the NFL.
Personally, I am believing in the player. Lance shows impressive on-field awareness and natural instincts at the quarterback position. Plus, he has the elite physical tools needed to become a star at the next level. That being said, it is fair to wonder if he can make that smooth transition and I wonder if this will cause Lance to slide down the board a bit in the 2021 NFL Draft.
If this happens, the New England Patriots must get aggressive and trade up for Lance. They are going to have limited opportunities to successfully address their quarterback need this offseason and this scenario feels like their best bet. Landing a stop-gap option like Fitzpatrick, Brissett or Dalton in free agency and trading up to pair him with a young and gifted quarterback with massive long-term upside like Fields or Lance.
If the New England Patriots can pull this off and then get the right guys in place to help develop their young quarterback properly, they should be right back on track quickly.