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2020 NFL draft: Drafting a quarterback high would not be out of character for the Patriots

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Related: Patriots trading up for Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Peter King’s new mock draft

Washington State v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

For the first time since 1993, the New England Patriots’ quarterback situation is unclear heading into the draft (and even back then, the expectation was that the team would draft Drew Bledsoe first overall): Tom Brady left the team via free agency, of course, creating an enormous hole at the most important position in all of football. How the Patriots plan to fill it will obviously have an enormous impact on the organization’s future.

The expectation, at least at this point in time, is that the team will give second-year man Jarrett Stidham every possible chance to earn the starting job after serving as Brady’s backup throughout his 2019 rookie campaign. That said, New England might bring in some high-profile competition to challenge him as well as fellow quarterback Brian Hoyer over the course of the summer — at least if NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is to be believed.

Rapoport appeared on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Monday and was asked about the Patriots’ plans to pick a quarterback in this week’s draft, and he noted that they will use a pick within the first three rounds on a passer. While this leaves a wide range of possible target players, it would be on-brand for New England to spend a premium pick at the position especially considering Stidham’s inexperience and Hoyer’s limited upside.

While the team invested a fourth-rounder in Stidham last year, there is precedent when it comes to using earlier selections to pick a quarterback: with Bill Belichick leading the organization as head coach and de facto general manager, New England drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round back in 2014, and used third-round selections to bring Jacoby Brissett (2016), Ryan Mallett (2011) and Kevin O’Connell (2008) on board.

A similar approach in 2020 would therefore not be all that surprising. The question, of course, is which of the three rounds mentioned by Rapoport will be the eventual target area. If it is the first, which takes place on Thursday, the Patriots may have to trade up in order to get players such as Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon’s Justin Herbert (projected first overall draft pick Joe Burrow will be out of the team’s reach). Jordan Love out of Utah State projects to be another first-round candidate.

The Patriots, of course, have not invested a first-round pick in a quarterback since picking the aforementioned Drew Bledsoe with the number one pick back in 1993.

Given that only Burrow and Tagovailoa appear to have Day One starting potential this year, however, the Patriots may be more willing to wait until Day Two to pick a quarterback to groom alongside Stidham and Hoyer. Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Georgia’s Jake Fromm, and Washington’s Jacob Eason project to be the next three men down the board — and players who should be available when New England is on the clock late on the second day.

Whatever the Patriots ultimately opt to do, drafting a quarterback high would not be out of character for them.