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Finding potential trade-up partners for the Patriots in the 2021 NFL draft

Related: Jets trade quarterback Sam Darnold to the Panthers for three total draft picks

Super Bowl LIII Pregame Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The first-round draft board has been shaken up again. While no teams moved around the board on Monday, the trade that sent quarterback Sam Darnold from New York to Carolina could have an impact on how Day One unfolds — and how the New England Patriots are positioned to select a passers themselves if they so choose.

In total, there appear to be five QBs carrying first-round grades into draft weekend. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, who is a safe bet to come off the board as the number one overall pick, as well as BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, and, a little behind those four, Mac Jones out of Alabama.

If the Patriots want to put themselves in a spot to grab one of them, they might have to continue their aggressive offseason and trade up the board. Who could be a potential trade partner, though? Let’s find out.

1-1 Jacksonville Jaguars: Anything but the Jaguars drafting Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick would be a huge surprise. The pick will not become official until April 29th, which means that things could still change. Spoiler alert: they won’t.

1-2 New York Jets: The Jets trading Sam Darnold to Carolina all but ensures that they will pick a quarterback with the second overall selection. Zach Wilson appears to be the favorite at this point in time, but regardless of what they decide to do trading down — especially with the Patriots — is not a realistic option.

1-3 San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers invested three total first-round picks to move up from the 12th overall pick, so drafting a quarterback seems to be a foregone conclusion.

1-4 Atlanta Falcons: This is where things finally get interesting for New England. While the Falcons might be in the market for a quarterback as well to groom behind a soon-to-be 36-year-old Matt Ryan, they are reportedly also exploring a trade-down. If they move down the board, the Patriots appear to be a realistic partner: jumping from No. 15 to No. 4 would ensure the team would be in position to pick one of the top-five passers.

The question is how much such a trade would cost, especially with Carolina now seemingly out of the running for a QB as well. The 49ers, as mentioned above, spent three first-round picks to jump nine spots. The Patriots would have to climb 11, meaning that a similar haul might have to be invested based on the baseline established by San Francisco. If that is indeed the Falcons’ asking price, it would be surprising to see New England make a move.

Nonetheless, Atlanta is a team to watch and unquestionably holding a valuable selection if teams like New England or Denver want to make sure they get a quarterback.

1-5 Cincinnati Bengals: Cincinnati drafted Joe Burrow first overall last year. The Bengals could decide to go best offensive player available — offensive tackle Penei Sewell, tight end Kyle Pitts, wide receiver La’Marr Chase — or possibly move down to get more even picks. It seems the first option is more likely at this point.

1-6 Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins jumped up and down the board twice already, going from No. 3 to No. 12 to No. 6 within a few hours. It therefore seems unlikely that they will move again. Instead, Miami is expected to try to add to the offense around last year’s first-round quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

1-7 Detroit Lions: Detroit is another potential trade partner for New England. While the Lions might prefer staying put if a quarterback falls into their lap, it seems moving down the board to add more ammunition to address a roster full of holes is the more reasonable approach if a proper offer came their way. Could the Patriots create such an offer to jump ahead of other seemingly quarterback-needy teams such as the Denver Broncos, though?

It certainly seems possible. Moving from No. 15 to No. 7 would cost significantly less than jumping all the way to the No. 4 pick currently owned by Atlanta, after all.

Based on past precedent — see the Buffalo Bills’ trade from No. 12 to No. 7 in 2018 that saw them give up their first-rounder as well as two second-round selections — New England might be able to climb up the board without even having to give up multiple future first-round selections. If a quarterback target is still available at this point in the draft, the Patriots might be willing to pull the trigger if the Lions are as well.

1-8 Carolina Panthers: With Sam Darnold added to the mix, the Panthers will be a fascinating team to watch. They could move down. They could stay put. They could still decide to go after a QB, but appear to be out of the running in the trade-up race. Either way, they could be a possible trade partner if the Patriots want to jump the Broncos.

1-9 Denver Broncos: Drew Lock does not appear to be a long-term solution for the Broncos, meaning that they are very much in need of a new quarterback. With the Patriots in the same basic situation, it seems that the Broncos are not a realistic candidate to trade with. If anything, New England might have to out-bid our out-jump Denver to get a top-tier passer.

1-10 Dallas Cowboys: Dallas is another team to watch on the trade market. The Cowboys were able to lock up Dak Prescott in the long term, meaning that they might be willing to move back if a right offer presented itself. Moving from No. 15 to No. 10 will not cost a fortune, but the question is who the Patriots would move up for: if Denver has already made a pick at that point, there is a chance that no top-five passer remains on the board.

If that is the case, trading up makes little sense from New England’s perspective. If one of the top five is still available, however, doing so might be a sensible approach: teams such as the Washington Football Team (1-19) and Chicago Bears (1-20) could very well try to grab that remaining first-round quarterback (who most likely will be Mac Jones).

1-11 New York Giants: The Patriots and Giants have always had a good working relationship, and this could manifest itself in a trade up in case Dallas decides to stay put or would be asking too much. Like the Cowboys, New York is not in the market for a quarterback and could therefore decide to move its pick.

1-12 Philadelphia Eagles: Despite moving on from Carson Wentz earlier this offseason, the Eagles appear to be set at quarterback: second-year man Jalen Hurts is the clear favorite to win the job over free agency addition Joe Flacco. Philadelphia trading back from No. 6 to No. 12 is another indication that the team will go in a non-QB direction in the draft — or move down a second time if a team looking for a passer came calling.

1-13 Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers are all set at quarterback, with Justin Herbert looking like a viable long-term solution in his first year in the league. Los Angeles might be willing to move down the board, but it seems more likely that the team would go after the best wide receiver left available.

1-14 Minnesota Vikings: With the offensive line an area of concern, the Vikings will likely target one of the offensive tackles available: Rashawn Slater or Christian Darrisaw appear to be realistic targets. New England could also try to trade up one spot to secure a possible quarterback if one of the top-five was still available, though.

1-15 New England Patriots: Finally, the Patriots. As can be seen, New England has a path to trading up if the club wants to continue its aggressive offseason. While jumping all the way to No. 4 might be too expensive, the Lions’ or Cowboys’ picks at No. 7 and No. 10 could be target areas if the team feels comfortable about the passers still on the board at that point in time.

One thing is certain, though. The Sam Darnold trade has seemingly improved the odds of the Patriots getting a top-five quarterback. The Broncos are left as the main competition in the first half of Round One, and even if they get a QB there is still a chance another one is left for New England further down the board — that is if the Patriots have a first-round grade on all of them to begin with.