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NFL draft rumors: Patriots reportedly exploring trade into top 10; Justin Fields seen as potential target

Related: Who are the best quarterback fits for the Patriots in the draft?

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With NFL draft week underway, rumor season has officially reached its apex as well. The latest of these rumors also involves the New England Patriots: according to a report by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Patriots are among a group of teams that have recently explored moving into into the top 10 picks of the first round.

Whereas the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings might be looking at different positions in case of a trade-up, however, the Patriots could go after a quarterback should one start slipping into their potential range. Not just any quarterback, though, but there is an apparent belief that they have a concrete player in mind.

“The Patriots have been calling around in the top 10, and teams that have gotten those calls believe that their target would be Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields,” Pelissero said. “Now, it would cost the Patriots a lot to move from 15 up to 7 or 8 — probably something in the region of a second-round draft pick — but that is a small price to pay if New England sees an opportunity to land a potential franchise quarterback.”

While every report coming out before the draft has to be taken with a grain of salt, especially this late in the process, this one is worth taking a closer look at from three different angles:

1. The Patriots being interested in trading up: That should not come as a surprise given that teams are doing their due diligence on all kinds of players and potential trade scenarios before the draft. New England getting a feel for the market is just common sense, and might not necessarily be an indicator about a move come Thursday night.

2. The cost of moving up: The San Francisco 49ers paid a premium — i.e. three first-round picks — to move from No. 12 to No. 3. Whether or not that is reflective of the general market remains to be seen, but giving up a second-round selection to go from No. 15 to possibly as high as No. 7 would be a bargain for comparison. While the player evaluation relative to that cost will be the deciding factor, on paper this seems like good value if a potential franchise quarterback or other highly-rated prospect started to fall.

3. Justin Fields as New England’s target: With Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson projected to become the first two players off the board on Thursday, Fields could go anywhere from No. 3 to the bottom of the top 10. Those are the rumors as this time of the year. If he indeed starts sliding down the board, the Patriots could very well go after him to groom him as a potential successor whenever the Cam Newton era comes to an end — maybe even as soon as 2021.

Ultimately, the Patriots exploring a trade up the board to possibly get Justin Fields should neither be a surprising report nor one to necessarily put too much stock into. At the end of the day, after all, it all comes down to one deciding question: Is the value associated with a trade up favorable from the team’s perspective?

New England head coach/general manager Bill Belichick also touched on the topic of trading up during his recent pre-draft press conference; he pointed out that teams have to be prepared for the unexpected to happen so that they best know how to react in case a player like Fields starts sliding down the board and towards an area the club would feel comfortable trading into.

“I’d say normally something would happen and there could very well be a player there that either you don’t expect to be there or maybe he is a couple spots, maybe at 12, 13, he’s still on the board and you really thought that he’d be gone in the top six, seven picks. Then the question comes, do you move up and try to get that player that’s fallen a little bit?” Belichick said.

“The best thing we can do is do our homework, know the players, know the board and when we walk into the room for the final exam and see the questions on the test when it comes our turn to pick or maybe spots in front of our pick, then we have to potentially start making some decisions.”