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Monday Morning Mock Draft: Patriots predicted to go offense with their first-round pick

Related: Pat Lane’s seven-round mock draft 3.0: Patriots trade up in the first round, but not for a quarterback

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CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The wait will soon be over: Welcome to NFL draft week! The league’s annual player selection meeting will take place this week, and the New England Patriots are one of the most intriguing teams to watch given that they are in comparatively uncharted waters at No. 15 and are in need of some high-upside talent at multiple positions.

There is some consensus among the experts though what New England will do come the first round on Thursday: address the offensive side of the ball, either by picking a quarterback or a wide receiver. Let’s dive right in. This is the final edition of our Monday Morning Mock Draft.

Jeff Howe, The Athletic: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

This is the Patriots’ ideal scenario, with one of the quarterbacks slipping to No. 8, and I believe Lance is the third-best signal-caller in the class. Knowing the Broncos would consider trading up, I knew I had to make a strong enough play to keep the Panthers from being content to only move back one spot. And since I’ve got enough conviction Lance will be a franchise QB, I had no issue with the price. Lance has everything you’d want physically and mentally to lead a team for at least a decade, though I’d try to give him a redshirt year as a rookie.

As part of the writers mock draft over at The Athletic, the Patriots are acquiring the eighth overall selection from the Carolina Panthers for No. 15 as well as a 2022 first-rounder. The price is steep, but the move set New England up to get a high-upside quarterback with some intriguing tools to work with: Trey Lance. The fifth passer off the board — Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Zach Wilson (BYU), Mac Jones (Alabama) and Justin Fields (Ohio State) are predicted to be picked 1-2-3-4 — is the clear best QB left standing at that point and will take over as the Patriots’ new starter either in 2021 or, more realistically, 2022.

Poll

How would you grade the selection of QB Trey Lance at No. 8?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    A
    (454 votes)
  • 25%
    B
    (236 votes)
  • 13%
    C
    (127 votes)
  • 6%
    D
    (64 votes)
  • 4%
    F
    (39 votes)
920 votes total Vote Now

Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

New England is primed to move up for a quarterback on draft night, but the more I let this draft play out, the more comfortable I am with Lance in the middle of the first. He’s a dynamic runner who’s flashed the arm to hit every throw, but his accuracy is a notch below the other four first-round prospects. It’s a good play for New England, who have Cam Newton for one year, and they can take their time with Lance or throw him right into the mix when he’s ready.

In this scenario, the Patriots do not have to trade up in order to end up with Trey Lance. With Lawrence, Wilson and Fields going 1-2-3, and with the Denver Broncos taking Mac Jones ninth overall, New England can afford to sit back and still get a top-five quarterback in this year’s class. A scenario similar to this would probably be a best-case outcome from the Patriots’ perspective.

Mike Giardi, NFL Network: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

We’re taking the athletic kid with the big brains; we’re taking Trey Lance. ... The Patriots feel really good about their ability to sort of develop these quarterbacks. They’ve had some success. Jacoby Brissett gets some starts in the league after he leaves here. Jimmy Garoppolo gets the big deal, and that’s the guy who they felt like was going to be their franchise quarterback but obviously Tom Brady outlasted the program. Now Josh McDaniels gets his hands on this raw mold of clay in Trey Lance. He can build him up, refine those mechanics and make him the guy.

NFL Network’s on-air mock draft goes down basically like the one projected by Pro Football Focus above: New England will stay put at No. 15 but still end up with Trey Lance. Lawrence, Wilson and Fields are going 1-2-3 once more, with the Broncos selecting Mac Jones at No. 9.

Poll

How would you grade the selection of QB Trey Lance at No. 15?

This poll is closed

  • 78%
    A
    (566 votes)
  • 11%
    B
    (86 votes)
  • 3%
    C
    (28 votes)
  • 2%
    D
    (15 votes)
  • 4%
    F
    (29 votes)
724 votes total Vote Now

AJ Schulte, Pro Football Network: QB Mac Jones Alabama

New England and Mac Jones make too much sense from a precedent standpoint. The Patriots have Cam Newton for one more season, hopefully meaning Jones gets to sit and improve in his weaknesses. New England’s never been afraid to go and get their guy, and they certainly have a type at quarterback. This might be the best spot for Jones overall.

New England is also not making a move in this projection, but the target quarterback is a different one. Lawrence, Wilson, Fields and Lance are coming off the board with the first four selections overall, leaving Jones as the best QB remaining. Despite that, the seemingly quarterback-needy teams ahead of the Patriots — most prominently the Panthers and Broncos at No. 8 and No. 9, respectively — are going in a different direction. In turn, New England gets a stylistically different player than Lance at No. 15; one that is still projected to become a serviceable starter especially in a scheme-diverse offense such as the Patriots’.

Patrik Walker, CBS Sports: QB Mac Jones, Alabama

With Fields and Lance both gone, the Patriots are able to land a potential franchise QB in Jones and without giving up any assets to do it. It’s no secret the Patriots need a QB of the future, and Belichick might be able to do great things with the quarterback who helped make Smith and Waddle into household names.

Mac Jones also lands in New England in this CBS mock draft. The picks up top unfold a bit differently than in other projections — Lawrence, Wilson and Fields are the top three picks; Lance goes to Denver at No. 9 — but the result for the Patriots remains the same: they stay put at No. 15 and go with a quarterback. Here, it is the Alabama passer again.

Poll

How would you grade the selection of QB Mac Jones at No. 15?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    A
    (1461 votes)
  • 32%
    B
    (1204 votes)
  • 17%
    C
    (652 votes)
  • 5%
    D
    (198 votes)
  • 3%
    F
    (136 votes)
3651 votes total Vote Now

Peter King, NBC Sports: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

So many options for New England on draft weekend, and you know most of them. You know the option I just don’t see? Bill Belichick trading a gold mine to move up eight or 11 spots to get the quarterback of the future. I think he’s much more likely to deal for Jimmy Garoppolo (but not with a first-round pick), or to draft a Kyle Trask in the second or third round, or play it out with Cam Newton this year and then see what happens next offseason. Maybe Garoppolo’s on the street by then, or maybe Matt Ryan is.

The draft capital needed to move up to seven (never mind four) would likely include next year’s first-round pick and something else, and I can’t see Belichick loving Lance or Fields enough to do that. What good fortune for New England if it plays out this way, getting a competitive game-breaker at 15.

There is a chance that no top-five QB makes it all the way to the Patriots, as is the case in Peter King’s final mock draft. Lawrence, Wilson and Jones get picked with the first three selections, while Fields and Lance go to Carolina and Denver. This leaves New England in quarterbacking no-man’s land, and the team decides to go after one of the best wide receivers in the draft: Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith will give the Patriots’ skill position group a long-term and high-upside option at wide receiver.

Poll

How would you grade the selection of WR DeVonta Smith at No. 15?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    A
    (721 votes)
  • 24%
    B
    (310 votes)
  • 12%
    C
    (154 votes)
  • 3%
    D
    (38 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (37 votes)
1260 votes total Vote Now

Henry McKenna, Patriots Wire: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

There is a clear top tier of receivers in this draft: Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Ja’Marr Chase. After those three, you see a mishmash of about six players who have much bigger questions to answer as they transition to the pros. Smith might just be the best receiver in this draft class, even with the questions about how his weight will factor into the NFL game. He will be a player who changes the complexion of the offense.

Imagine a starting lineup that includes Cam Newton, Smith, Nelson Agholor, Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry and Damien Harris (or James White). That’s freaky.

The Patriots could stay put and see Smith or another top-tier pass catcher fall to them, but it is also possible they move up the board o get their guy. This projection sees New England send the 15th and 46th picks to the New York Giants in exchange for the 11th overall selection and a chance to grab Smith before another team can get him. The question is whether or not Bill Belichick would really feel comfortable giving up those assets for a wide receiver — even if it is a really good one.

Poll

How would you grade the selection of WR DeVonta Smith at No. 11?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    A
    (169 votes)
  • 36%
    B
    (212 votes)
  • 20%
    C
    (121 votes)
  • 8%
    D
    (52 votes)
  • 4%
    F
    (28 votes)
582 votes total Vote Now

Chad Reuter, NFL Network: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

Last month, I projected this pairing, anticipating the departure of Julian Edelman. Now that Edelman has announced his retirement, Waddle’s placement in the slot — and as a returner — makes even more sense.

In case the Patriots decide not to trade up, they could also go after another Crimson Tide pass catcher: Jaylen Waddle. An ankle injury limited him to just six games in 2020, and he finished the season with just 28 catches for 591 yards and four touchdowns (compared to DeVonta Smith’s 117-1,856-23 stat line). Nonetheless, Waddle’s talent cannot be denied and he would give New England a player capable of contributing from Day 1 on.

Poll

How would you grade the selection of WR Jaylen Waddle at No. 15?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    A
    (556 votes)
  • 29%
    B
    (325 votes)
  • 12%
    C
    (140 votes)
  • 4%
    D
    (44 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (28 votes)
1093 votes total Vote Now