Nobody knows in which direction the New England Patriots will go during the 2021 NFL draft, but it seems likely that they will add to a quarterback room currently headed by incumbent starter Cam Newton and third-year backup Jarrett Stidham. The biggest question is who they will target and when they will do just that.
One popular scenario around NFL media is New England trading up from the 15th overall selection to grab one of the top-five available. With the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers all expected to go quarterback with the first three picks, two of those top-five could be available with the fourth or subsequent selections.
While the rumor mill keeps grinding along, there is a chance that those two are North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones — two players New England might target in a potential trade up the board. For ESPN insider and former Patriots intern Field Yates, however, the decision would be an easy one in that case: if Bill Belichick and company really traded up to grab one of the two, it should be Lance.
“I’m trading up for Trey Lance. I just see a significantly higher ceiling for this player,” he said on ESPN’s Get Up on Tuesday. “Mac Jones fits the confines of what the Patriots have had under center for 20 of the past 21 years — obviously last year being the exception — but you have to look in the direction in which the NFL is evolving right now. You had eight quarterbacks rush for over 400 yards last season.
“The Patriots, within their own division, saw Josh Allen make major strides last year. Yes, he’s a gifted thrower, but where he can really torture you is on second-reaction plays. Even if his initial read is not there, if there is pressure in the pocket, Josh Allen might run towards the sideline like he’s getting ready to run out of bounds and the next thing you know, he’ll launch a football 24 yards down the field to Stefon Diggs. The game is changing. Trey Lance offers you ability to keep up with how the game is changing.”
Whereas Mac Jones is a classic pocket passer in the mold of long-time Patriot Tom Brady, Lance has the tools to become a successful dual-threat quarterback similar to the aforementioned Cam Newton. The latter, as Yates explains, therefore fits the modern mold of a QB more than Jones does — making him a better trade-up target in his estimation.
The Patriots trading up in the first round can obviously not be ruled out after an aggressive offseason, but at the end of the day the asking price from teams picking earlier than New England will determine whether or not such a move is realistic.