The New England Patriots can, in theory, do roughly what the San Francisco 49ers just did by moving up to third overall. Bill Belichick could get extremely aggressive to move all the way up from 15th overall to No. 4 to get a quarterback.
The Falcons are shopping the pick, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
We might not see it until draft day, because the 49ers are sending out smoke signals that they want Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at third overall. If that were the case (and it turns out not to be a smokescreen), then the draft starts with three quarterbacks going in the top three picks: future Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence at No. 1, future Jets quarterback Zach Wilson at second overall and then Jones. That opens up a window for Belichick to get a player who he might view as the second-best quarterback prospect in this class.
So here’s a thought experiment on how it would go if Belichick traded up to fourth overall. And that’s only where it starts. There are many wild twists and turns in this seven-round mock draft.
TRADE! First round, fourth overall: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
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New England gives up 15th overall, a 2021 second-round pick (46th overall), a 2022 first-round pick and a 2022 third-round pick. I wasn’t sure that package would get it done. But on The Draft Network’s mock draft simulator, which I used to play out this whole draft (with the exception of the Stephon Gilmore trade that’s coming next), the Falcons agreed to the deal. The result? New England gets a quarterback who has proven he can move through his progressions against the top defense in the country, who can handle the rigors of pressure by winning a national championship and who can create (with a 4.44-second 40-yard dash) when plays break down. Fields is absolutely worth the cost. New England can develop him behind Cam Newton — but the most likely outcome is that Fields would start at some point during the 2021 season.
TRADE! Second round, 54th overall: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
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OK, so here’s a weird trade for you. The Patriots send Stephon Gilmore to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for the 45th overall pick. New England then trades back with the Cleveland Browns in the second round to pick up a 2022 third-round pick. So after two trades, the Patriots get back in the second round, while also acquiring a third-rounder in 2022. And! They land Moore, a player who is worth the risk for all this maneuvering. He’s someone who many peg as a potential first-rounder, but he slipped in this mock draft, and I was lucky enough to see him fall to 54. He will draw a lot of comparisons to the type of receiver the Patriots already have in Nelson Agholor and Julian Edelman. Moore is an explosive and versatile slot option, who might eventually develop the physicality (or foot speed) to play on the outside in New England’s offense. The other players I would’ve considered: Alabama OT Alex Leatherwood (who went at 51), Alabama RB Najee Harris (who was still on the board), Wake Forest EDGE Carlos Basham (on the board) and Florida State CB Asante Samuel (on the board).
TRADE! Fourth round, 109th overall: Dayo Odeyingbo, EDGE, Vanderbilt
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The Patriots give up the 96th overall pick and 2022 seventh-rounder to get picks 109 and 147 from the Houston Texans. Odeyingbo would be a developmental defensive end in New England’s 3-4 system. As NFL.com points out, he has “rare physical traits and definitive flashes on the field that make it much easier to assume his ceiling as a pro.” But an injury derailed a complete projection of what he can be in the NFL, which is why he’s a reasonable risk in the fourth round. Luckily, he doesn’t have to contribute immediately, with a fairly deep group on the defensive line.
TRADES! Moving in 2022
After New England spent big on their free agency class in 2021, I expect they’ll be quiet in free agency in 2022 when the NFL’s TV deal will free up all teams to spend big. That’s why trading up is particularly bold — it weakens their position in a 2022 draft that should be their most important avenue for team-building. So let’s restock, shall we?
Because I was a bit desperate to take whatever trade offers for 2022 I could get, I traded 120th for the Cleveland Browns’ fifth- and sixth-round picks. That was a good deal for Cleveland, but New England needs to build their capital for 2022. They don’t need a ton of rookies in 2021.
UCLA RB/WR Demetric Felton went at 138 and he had been my target in the fourth round at 139. So, again, I traded into 2022, sending 139th overall to the Bengals for a 2022 fourth-round pick — a nice value, if I do say so myself.
These were the last of my trades into 2022. So after the trade to No. 4, the Patriots end up with zero first-rounders, one second-rounder, one third-rounder, two fourth-rounders, two fifth-rounders and two sixth-rounders with no seventh-rounders. It would be tough to go in 2022 without a first-rounder. But if they’re armed with the rest of that capital, they should be OK, especially if they have their QB of the future.
Fourth round, 122nd overall: Keith Taylor, CB, Washginton
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No trade? What?! Yeah, the Patriots finally stay put here. They take a rangy cornerback in Taylor, who stands at 6-foot-2 and is 190 pounds. Taylor’s college film was inconsistent, with agility issues and, generally, soft coverage. But he’s a very willing tackler who works hard and plays harder. His outstanding week at the Senior Bowl surely put him on New England’s radar. In a draft where the Patriots (hypothetically) lost Gilmore, they at least end up with a developmental cornerback.
Fifth round, 147th overall: Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
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Another no-trade scenario: New England gets a player who was previously rated as the No. 1 running back in this draft class. His stock fell in 2021 when he proved to be more of a tweener — not unlike what Sony Michel turned out to be in the NFL. Hubbard is 6-foot and 205 pounds but his style is most conducive for between-the-tackles running. He hasn’t done much as a pass-catcher. So he’s an undersized power back. The good news? For a fifth-rounder, he could provide good value. He had 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in 2019.
Trade! Fifth round, 167th overall: Garret Wallow, LB, TCU
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The Patriots give up picks 188, 197 and 242 to move up the Cowboys’ spot at 167. At this point, it’s about consolidating picks in 2021. New England will still come away with seven players in this draft. Wallow is a versatile prospect who moved from safety to linebacker in college. He will need time to develop as a weak-side linebacker in the NFL, but will be able to make the team through special teams contributions as a kickoff and punt coverage player. It would be a classic case of Belichick taking a guy he knows can play on fourth downs with hopes the coach can develop the player into a defensive player eventually.
Fifth round, 177th overall: Stone Forsyth, OT, Florida
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Let’s take a developmental tackle to finish up a dizzying mock draft. He’s a monster at 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds. That, in itself, shows why he should have huge potential in the NFL. He’d be the perfect player to set behind Trent Brown for a season to see if anything sticks. And Forsyth’s development could be an undertaking. From TheDraftNetwork.com: “Because of the technique that he was taught, there may be a situation where he has to be rebuilt from the ground up when teaching how to gain depth vertically, but that puts him at a severe disadvantage due to his lack of foot quickness.” At this point in the draft, however, Forsyth could be a good project for New England’s coaching staff.