The New England Patriots have made aggressive moves to upgrade their roster this offseason, especially on offense. With the 2021 NFL Draft closing in, Bill Belichick could have an even bigger move in mind.
Quarterbacks are expected to dominate the top-10 picks on April 29. Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be the first two players selected, with either Trey Lance or Mac Jones at No. 3 overall to the San Francisco 49ers. After that, the landing spots for this year’s loaded quarterback class is a huge storyline.
The Atlanta Falcons are willing to move down from No. 4 overall, but the cost is likely driving teams away. After that, general managers seeking a face for their franchise will likely be targeting the Detroit Lions (7th pick) and Carolina Panthers (8th pick) as trade-up destinations.
There will be no shortage of suitors for a top-10 pick. The Philadelphia Eagles are open to drafting a quarterback and the Chicago Bears are desperate to correct their previous draft blunder. But around the NFL, there’s a growing belief the Patriots might be the team to keep an eye on.
“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.”NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on New England Patriots’ draft plans
It’s important to think about just where New England would likely need to trade up for Justin Fields. Recent NFL Draft rumors have indicated Carolina is high on him and will consider him with its first-round pick. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos are increasingly likely to draft a specific quarterback if he slides.
If Belichick wants Fields, the No. 5-ranked player on our NFL Draft big board, he might need to move up to No. 7. Given how receptive Detroit is to moving down, especially if it means acquiring future picks, something could happen.
How Justin Fields fits with the Patriots
Cam Newton is projected to be the Patriots’ quarterback in Week 1. While fans aren’t excited about the idea, he will be fully recovered from COVID-19 and the supporting cast around him is vastly superior to the players that surrounded him in 2020. Realistically, this could be the ideal bridge scenario.
- Detroit Lions trade: 7th overall pick, 112th pick
- New England Patriots trade: 15th overall pick, 96th overall pick, 2022 first-round pick
Belichick doesn’t draft quarterbacks in the first round and trading a future first-round pick to move up might feel unlikely. But before this offseason, no one would have thought the Patriots would be this aggressive with their spending to sign Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith and Nelson Agholor.
New England can also recoup its third-round pick in a later trade. J.C. Jackson, who signed his RFA tender, is reportedly available for a draft-day deal. If another team is willing to move a Day 2 pick, likely a top-100 selection, Belichick might be willing to pull the trigger.
There’s a strong argument that Fields is the second-best player in the 2021 NFL Draft. Pro Football Focus credited him with an 80.8% adjusted completion rate and he is widely viewed as the most accurate quarterback in this year’s class. Fields’ athleticism is also outstanding and a 6-foot-3, 228-pound quarterback with a 4.44 40-yard dash is a ridiculous dual-threat weapon.
Imagine a prime version of Newton in this offense. Fields can thrive with the RPOs, keeping the football and finding a linebacker to run over in space. With the Patriots using a ton of 12 personnel, he’ll have plenty of time to throw. When accounting for physical tools, intangibles and success at the collegiate level, he brings all of that to the table.
One NFL general manager even went so far as to say Fields can be better than Lawrence. While that might seem like a stretch, watch Ohio State destroy the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff Semifinal and then give it some consideration.
Fields can start the season behind Newton, learning from a great mentor, picking up this scheme and refining some of the little things he must master to become a great quarterback. In the Patriots’ system, with this coaching staff and a strong cast of weapons, Fields could be a top quarterback in a few years.