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2018 NFL Draft: Patriots now connected to almost all the top quarterback options

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Woohoo!

Reese's Senior Bowl Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The New England Patriots obtained the 23rd overall pick from the Los Angeles Rams and that opened up the floodgates for speculation of what the team is planning to do in the opening round of the draft.

Will they trade up? Will they trade down? Will they find Nate Solder’s replacement or draft a first round wide receiver or bolster their defensive front seven?

All of those are possible, but it seems like the most common theory is that Bill Belichick and the Patriots are interested in drafting Tom Brady’s heir in the upcoming draft and that they’ll make the selection early.

Nothing is for certain in the world of Belichick and there’s a great chance that there simply won’t be a quarterback worth selecting in the first round- or the team won’t be able to trade to a high enough pick.

The top picks in the draft belong to the Cleveland Browns (current QB: Tyrod Taylor), New York Giants (Eli Manning), New York Jets (Nope.), Browns (Again.), and the Denver Broncos (Case Keenum). There’s a slim chance that only the Jets draft a quarterback in the top five.

There’s also a very real chance that three or four quarterbacks will already be off the board, especially if the Browns are interested in trading down to a quarterback-needy team like the Buffalo Bills or Arizona Cardinals.

But if the draft board aligns with the Patriots best interests at quarterback, then Belichick and company will be ready to navigate the draft board- and there are plenty of reports connecting New England to the top prospects.

“Just got a text about the Patriots and interest in Josh Rosen,” Denver AM1340’s Benjamin Allbright tweeted. “Whew.”

“The Patriots’ blockbuster trade with the Rams Tuesday night gave Bill Belichick more draft capital ammunition to try to trade up for Tom Brady’s heir apparent,” NYDN’s Manish Mehta writes, emphasis my own. “Could the Evil Empire rocket all the way up to No. 2 by making a deal with the Giants? A few teams in the Top 10, including the Jets, are fully aware of the Patriots’ affinity for [Baker Mayfield].”

“[Lamar Jackson’s] name might not be popular amongst draftniks,” former Patriots exec and Bill Belichick confidant Mike Lombardi said in his GM Street podcast, “but I can tell you after speaking with people across the league he’s a hot commodity.”

That’s a lot. Josh Rosen could go first overall to the Cleveland Browns. Baker Mayfield isn’t expected to make it out of the top ten. Lamar Jackson’s ranking is all over the board, but he could go anywhere in the first round.

Sam Darnold is the only top quarterback prospect not to be connected to the Patriots (yet?), while the team also sent scouts to watch Josh Allen a few times.

None of these five players were expected to be on the board when the Patriots select 31st. There’s a better chance one will be available when the team picks 23rd.

I previously wrote about how Jackson isn’t necessarily the type of player that the Patriots would select, even though they sent Nick Caserio to watch his workout, but he has the best chance of these five to be available when the team makes their first pick. I would be thrilled to have to eat that article because Lombardi is tapped in with the Patriots front office and his opinion could be shared by Belichick.

There are also a few other pieces of smoke connecting Jackson to the Patriots, especially if we take musings from NBCSB’s Mike Giardi as possible insight from the team.

“Don’t discount Lamar Jackson,” Giardi tweeted. “Just don’t do it. The more people I talk to, the more and more I hear his name. Perfect sit-and-wait QB for those teams that have one for at least another year. Could it be a smokescreen, hoping someone panics [that Jackson] might not be there when they pick and offer you more than they should? Of course, but his name is here, there and everywhere.”

And then there’s this report from Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson that draws a line from the Patriots to Jackson.

“Lombardi’s son Matt was an offensive assistant for the Louisville Cardinals [from 2014-16],” Robinson writes, noting the same window of time Mike Lombardi was with the Patriots. “This gave Belichick a sustained flow of information on Jackson, not to mention the ability to process the data with Lombardi – who likely knows precisely what Belichick wants from a quarterback.”

“[Jackson ran] a tweaked version of the Erhardt-Perkins offensive system,” Robinson added, highlighting Jackson’s familiarity with the Patriots offensive system. “That gives Jackson familiarity with the formation/personnel/verbiage principles that have defined the New England offense for years.”

Wouldn’t that be something? Jackson would be a treat to watch in New England- I have him as the second-best quarterback for the Patriots in this draft, after Baker Mayfield and ahead of Mason Rudolph- and he would bring an outstanding element to the offense.

(Update: The Patriots worked out Mason Rudolph, so that’s another one)

Again, there’s no guarantee that any of these players will be on the board when the Patriots are on the clock. The Jets need a quarterback, while the Browns, Giants, Broncos, Bills, and Cardinals could also consider taking one in the top 15. Add in other teams with old quarterbacks, like the Chargers, Saints, and Steelers, and there’s could be a big market for these players.

But what’s most important is that the Patriots now have the flexibility to navigate the draft board if they see a player of interest and all of these connections to top quarterback prospects point to New England drafting Brady’s heir if the price is right.