Even after the New England Patriots re-signed Cam Newton, it seemed like they might still be in the mix for another quarterback. And as the terms of Newton’s contract came to light, the deal showed the Patriots were not wholly committed to Newton as the starter. He’s going to make $3.5 million in base money, with up to $14 million in escalators.
New England’s remaining options seem to be fairly limited. There’s a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, an option that seems costly, judging from coach Kyle Shanahan’s recent remarks. And then there’s the NFL draft, where the Patriots would probably have to trade up to get a starting-caliber quarterback.
Well, in ESPN’s Todd McShay’s latest mock draft, the draft analyst predicted the Patriots would do just that: trade up for a young QB. Here are the details.
First round, No. 10 overall: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Yup, that’s the pick: Fields. And the Patriots are trading up from 15th to 10th to get their quarterback. Surely, that’s a leap that’ll cost them. Past Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, Fields is my favorite quarterback — a safer projection than North Dakota State’s Trey Lance (who played at a lower level of competition and didn’t play in 2021) but with more potential than Alabama’s Mac Jones (who seems to have a fairly low ceiling). Those five quarterbacks are all likely to go in the first round. Here’s what McShay wrote:
Even after the Niners’ move up the board, it doesn’t appear Jimmy Garoppolo is in the cards this season for the Patriots. And while they brought back Cam Newton, the veteran is only signed for a year at $3.5 million guaranteed. The Pats haven’t spent a first-round pick on a QB since 1993 (Drew Bledsoe), but now is the time. Fields is accurate downfield and can develop into a top-tier starter for a team searching for stability at the position in the post-Tom Brady era.
Fields’ timing, accuracy and intellect seem to be on-point from the game film. His athleticism (with a 4.4-second 40-yard dash) is also ridiculous. He’s the whole package, with room to get even better.
Why make the trade?
In order to get from 15 to 10, the Patriots would likely have to give up a second-rounder in 2021 and a third- or second-rounder in 2022. That’s a reasonable price for a franchise quarterback when considering what the 49ers gave up to get their guy. From ESPN:
I’m not sure the Patriots would jump into the top 10 for a QB, but hopping four spots for one is very much a possibility. The Giants could certainly stay put and draft Penei Sewell, but they could also be looking at defense — which means a slide back makes some sense.
What I wonder: Will Fields actually be there at 10th overall? McShay is supposing that the 49ers take Jones at third overall, in large part because Jones seems to be the second coming of Kirk Cousins (one of Shanahan’s favorite QBs to work with). But you never know. It could be a smokescreen. It could be that San Francisco is interested in Fields, who (from my perspective) could operate the 49ers’ offense at a much higher level.
Second round, No. 46 overall: Elijah Molden, CB, Washington
Alright, on to the second round, where New England lands Molden. From ESPN:
Molden is a nickelback who would join Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson to form an elite CB trio. He is excellent in zone defense and has good hands, hauling in five interceptions over his past 17 games.
I’m going to counter McShay’s decision here with a few thoughts. The Patriots already have cornerback Jon Jones, a player they view as one of the best slot players in the NFL. New England also signed defensive back Jalen Mills in free agency — he is a strong slot defender, too. And then there’s cornerback Myles Bryant, an undrafted free agent who made his way onto the 53-man roster and played well in the slot. I’m not sure they’d add another slot player in the second round. Then again, you have to expect the unexpected with Bill Belichick.