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#PostPulpit Mailbag: What is the Patriots’ best-case scenario in Round 1 of the NFL draft?

Related: Can the Patriots afford to wait for a late-round quarterback?

CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Welcome to draft day! After a long wait, it is officially time to get the show on the road. Before we jump right into this week’s mailbag, let’s quickly take a look at where the New England Patriots are currently set to select in this year’s draft:

  • Round 1 - 15 overall
  • Round 2 - 46 overall
  • Round 3 - 96 overall
  • Round 4 - 120 overall
  • Round 4 - 122 overall
  • Round 4 - 139 overall
  • Round 5 - 177 overall
  • Round 6 - 188 overall
  • Round 6 - 197 overall
  • Round 7 - 242 overall

With that said, let’s dive into this week’s mailbag.

@eshep86 Your best case scenario for day 1?

This one is easy: Justin Fields. For whatever reason, the No. 2 overall quarterback in this class appears to be on the downslide. While there is still a chance Fields is off the board within the top three picks, New England should be as aggressive as possible if he starts to slide into the later half of the top ten.

In an ideal situation, the San Francisco 49ers roll with Mac Jones at No. 3 while the Falcons boost their offensive with Kyle Pitts at No. 4, leaving Trey Lance and Justin Fields to slide. If just one of Carolina or Denver — who both have recently traded for quarterback help — pass on a quarterback, the Patriots could be able to move up without having to sacrifice a second- or future first-round pick.

In the case where all the quarterbacks are selected by the time the Patriots are on the clock, my ideal scenario shifts to South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, or a trade down for Tulsa’s linebacker Zaven Collins.

@Titan4Ever2488 What do you think would be the most overall popular move amongst Pats fandom? Trading up? If so for which QB? Taking whichever QB falls to 15? Not picking a QB at all and trading for Jimmy? Sticking with Cam? Obviously no move would please everyone, but general overall.

As for what move will be the most popular amongst Patriot nation, I believe it would be trading up in the first round of the draft, specifically for Justin Fields or Trey Lance. The overall belief is that Patriots’ fans have mixed emotions on Cam Newton and a reunion with Jimmy Garoppolo, but one of the electrifying, dual-threat rookie options should have New Englanders excited. Also, just seeing an aggressive Bill Belichick in the draft would have some on their feet.

@ALykins32 Barring a trade up for a QB, what mix of day 1 and 2 picks would you prefer to see come Saturday morning?

Not including Jaycee Horn or Zaven Collins — who were mentioned earlier — Kwity Paye is an intriguing option if New England wants to continue to bolster their EDGE depth. Sticking with defense, if Penn State’s Micah Parsons character concerns can be overlooked, he is one of the most physically-gifted players in this year’s draft.

As for the offensive side of the ball, receivers like DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle certainly stand out, but don't be surprised if the Patriots bolster their offensive line early on. This years draft is littered with quality offensive tackles — a position that New England certainly has question marks at. If they avoid the position in the first round, perhaps they circle back to tackle in the second with a player like North Dakota State’s Dillion Radunz, Northern Iowa’s Spencer Brown, or BYU’s Brady Christensen to name a few.

@qualitysmoke Name a player who could be available at 46 who could turn into an absolute steal? Mine would be Jason Oweh

Oweh would certainly be a great selection at No. 46. While he did not record a sack in seven games for Penn State last season, his athletic ability is off the charts, literally: 4.37-second 40-yard dash, 6.9 three-cone drill, 39.5-inch vertical, 134-inch broad jump. Oweh would likely start as a pass-rush specialist as he is groomed, but the Patriots can afford that due to their recent free agency addition.

Besides Oweh, two receivers have caught my eye throughout the entire draft process: Clemson’s Amari Rodgers and USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown. Both receivers are exceptional athletes that would excel in the slot of New England’s offense. Adding either receiver in the second round would give the Patriots’ offense a big boost.

@JimGilhooly1957 Will the Patriots draft a slot receiver?

If When the Patriots draft a receiver this year (yes, we are talking it into existence), I believe it will be a slot receiver. While last year’s draft was full of big-time playmakers on the outside, this year’s class is full of shifty options on the inside. We already mentioned St. Brown an Rodgers, but players like Purdue’s Rondale Moore, Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore, Florida’s Kadarius Toney, South Carolina’s Shi Smith, Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskridge, North Carolina’s Dazz Newsome, and North Texas’ Jaelon Darden are all intriguing options out of the slot. The Patriots offense needs their next shifty playmaker on the inside and finding them in this year’s draft might be the best time to do it.

@WolfesGoneGrey Have the Patriots done a poor job evaluating receivers they’ve drafted, or are they poor at developing these young receivers? Will the GREAT, but demanding, Tom Brady being in TB now, allow young WRs more leeway to develop?

The answer is both. Since the N’Keal Harry selection, the Patriots largely selected receivers with quicker than league average three-cone and short-shuttle drills — to measure change of direction and agility. Harry, on the other hand, was a change in strategy as he was the heaviest and strongest receiver Belichick had ever drafted. As both strategies largely hasn't worked, perhaps they will go back to the drawing board this year when evaluating receivers.

As for the developing side, New England has done a poor of using receivers like Harry since he’s entered the league. During his time at Arizona State, Harry was a contested catcher and an intermediate threat — boasting a 112.3 passer rating when targeted between 10-19 yards in his final season. While he has certainly taken a step back as a player since being drafted — specifically in the YAC department — the Patriots continue to not let him run downfield for whatever reason. Hopefully with a fresh skill group on offense, whatever receiver that is brought in this year will be able to fit in nicely and flourish.

And as for Brady, sure he was demanding but if you played your role and earned his trust he had no issues with rookie wide receivers (i.e. Malcolm Mitchell). Certainly there is more leeway with Newton, or a new rookie quarterback, but putting all the blame on Brady would be ludicrous.

@RowdieJon Who would the Pats prefer..Tay Gowan or Kelvin Joseph?

If New England is choosing between either cornerback in this year’s draft, my money would go on Kelvin Joseph. While both are longer corners that are good in press coverage, Joseph is better in coverage — specifically lining up on the outside. With just 20 games under his collegiate belt, Joseph would certainly be a developmental piece for whatever team that drafts him. If New England is comfortable letting him sit behind Stephon Gilmore for a few season, they could find themselves an eventual starting outside cornerback.

@patsboro Chances we end up with Jimmy G & OBJ ?

I still struggle seeing either of these players end up in Foxboro this year. After adding an assortment of offensive skill players throughout free agency, there is really no need to hand over draft capital for Beckham Jr. and his $15.75 million cap hit — especially coming off an ACL surgery.

As for Garoppolo, a reunion continues to not make sense for me. Being aggressive in the draft and potentially landing a Justin Fields or Trey Lance would be a much better short- and long-term approach than just picking up Garoppolo, who also has a no movement clause.

Additionally, the Patriots do not have the cap space to add Garoppolo’s $23.5 million salary at the moment and moving pieces to afford that would make zero sense. We’ve already heard Robert Kraft mention to continue “the non-continuation of the quarterback salary at a higher level”, and adding Garoppolo would bring the Patriots quarterback spending to 17.9 percent of the cap — which would be the highest level in the Belichick era. The combination of the salary and surrendering any mid-round pick for Garoppolo would not be worth it.

Just think, maybe there is a reason Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers — who were one quarter away from winning the Super Bowl with Garoppolo — mortgaged three first-round picks to replace him. Throughout his career, Garoppolo has been sloppy with the ball, injury-prone, and overall below-average. A rookie quarterback should be option one for the Patriots, while moving forward with what they have — and a potential mid-round fit — being the back-up choice.

@_Adam______ how do i stay sane over the next three days?

I hope you made it to today. Now, just a few more hours. And remember: check for blue check marks on the bird app!

@TheRealBrick How does one run out of propane mid grill?

My deepest condolences. Get out there and make sure the propane is full for the draft. Let’s fire it up.

That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhinesand @PatsPulpit as well!