New England Patriots quarterback options: Trade up in the 2021 NFL Draft

By Vincent Frank

The New England Patriots quarterback situation is about as unsettled as it gets. Cam Newton is going to be one-and-done after a disastrous 2020 season with the team.

Former mid-round pick Jarrett Stidham fell out of favor big time as a sophomore. Meanwhile, Brian Hoyer has never been a starter-caliber quarterback in the NFL.

The backdrop here is a team that is coming off its first losing season since 2000 and boasts the second-oldest head coach in the NFL, Bill Belichick. As much as Newton struggled last season, there’s a wide array of issues for these Patriots before they can be considered even playoff contenders.

It has led to some mixed signals when it comes to the quarterback position.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Patriots, check out #GoPats rumors, rankings, and news here.

Will the New England Patriots go big for a quarterback?

New England Patriots quarterback options after missing out on Matthew Stafford
Sep 8, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) reacts following the tie game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • It was noted prior to the Matthew Stafford trade from the Detroit Lions to the Los Angeles Rams that the Pro Bowl quarterback did not want to go to New England. It’s not even known if the Patriots were interested in him given the fact that Los Angeles yielded two first-round picks and Jared Goff for Stafford.
  • The Patriots have not yet been bandied about in trade discussions regarding disgruntled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. This makes sense given the fact that the asking price is going to be enormous. New England has so many roster issues that it can’t afford to offer up three first-round picks and someone like former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
  • The Patriots quarterback situation is convoluted by the fact that they don’t seem to be interested in Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. He initially seemed to be an option given Josh McDaniels’ status as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. That’s not going to be the case.

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New England Patriots quarterback should come via the 2021 NFL Draft

New England Patriots quarterback options: Justin Fields
NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama

That leads me to my overriding point of this article. Selecting 15th overall this coming April, New England will not be in a position to get one of the top-four quarterbacks in the draft.

  • Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
  • Zach Wilson, BYU
  • Justin Fields, Ohio State
  • Trey Lance, North Dakota State

Despite playing brilliant football in his only season as the Alabama full-time starter, Mac Jones is a major tier below these four signal callers. Sure he might fit what Belichick likes in his quarterbacks, but selecting the former Crimson Tide star at 15 would be a major reach.

Instead, the Patriots quarterback plan should be two-fold.

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Patriots trade for Jimmy Garoppolo

San Francisco 49ers trade Jimmy Garoppolo?
Oct 25, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws a pass against the New England Patriots in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

This would be the first step in the process. New England has been linked to Garoppolo on a never-ending loop over the past several weeks. That includes some who are close to the organization. It makes sense. Belichick and Co. really didn’t want to move Garoppolo to the 49ers back in 2017. Owner Robert Kraft is the one who pushed for that move.

As for the 29-year-old Garoppolo, San Francisco is looking to move off him after an injury-plagued 2020 season. If the 49ers were to upgrade under center, the Super Bowl quarterback would come on the cheap. It likely wouldn’t cost New England much more than a mid-round pick and perhaps Stidham.

This is where it gets interesting. Garoppolo is one season removed from putting up nearly 4,000 passing yards with 27 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. Those are similar numbers to what Tom Brady put up in his final season with the Patriots. Shocking, right? Garoppolo could act as a stopgap starter in New England.

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Patriots trade up for a quarterback in 2021 NFL Draft

Patriots quarterback options: Zach Wilson
Oct 31, 2020; Provo, UT, USA; BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (1) throws against Western Kentucky in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in Provo, Utah. Mandatory Credit: Rick Bowmer/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Even if New England were to add Garoppolo to the mix, it would also want to find a quarterback of the future. That’s where trading up for one of the three quarterbacks listed above, Fields, Wilson or Lance, could make a ton of sense.

With the hypothetical Garoppolo trade completed before the draft, New England could wait and see who falls to its wheelhouse between these three quarterbacks come Round 1. Remember, the team is not on position to give up multiple first-round picks due to needs elsewhere on the field.

Fields is said to be dropping during the pre-draft process despite a brilliant run to the championship game with Ohio State. Let’s assume for a second that he’s available to the Detroit Lions with the seventh pick. Detroit just acquired Jared Goff. It has no interest in going quarterback.

This scenario would include the Patriots moving pick No. 15 to Detroit for the seventh selection. New England would then have to throw in its second-round selection (46th overall) and another mid-round pick to make the math work. It’s a lot cheaper than a retooling team trading its entire farm for Deshaun Watson.

The bottom line here is that a quarterback room consisting of Jimmy Garoppolo and Justin Fields would set New England up well, both short term and over the long term.