In my last post, I relayed that the Patriots are looking to select a future replacement for Tom Brady in this year’s draft. The scuttlebutt is that the Patriots are stockpiling draft picks to position themselves to get one of the top QB prospects in what is a draft top-heavy in quarterbacks.
New England just traded a valuable commodity, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, to acquire the Rams’ 23rd overall pick, an indication they are dead serious about drafting a quarterback with sky-high pro prospects.
The Pats now have two first-round picks (Nos. 23 and 31) and two second round picks (Nos. 43 and 63). The question becomes: how high a draft pick will they need to acquire in order to get what they want. I’d say the Patriots are hoping to acquire a top 11 pick, but might have to settle for a top 14 pick. Let’s analyze this.
I’ve looked at six national forecasters, and USC’s Sam Darnold is the overwhelming favorite to be the first QB taken. The forecasters believe UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Wyoming’s Josh Allen are fighting it out for spots two and three, and that spots four and five will go to either Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield or Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is holding down the sixth spot.
Many forecasters have five quarterbacks being chosen in the first round; a few have either four or six QBs going in that round.
April 26: Draft Day One
The first six overall draft positions are probably unavailable to the Patriots. At least three of the teams possessing them are in great need of a QB themselves: the Browns, Giants, and Jets. The Browns actually have two of the first four picks, but they traded with the Texans to get the No. 4 pick, so they almost certainly intend to keep it for their own use.
By pick No. 5, three of these four QBs will likely be gone: Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and either Mayfield or Allen.
At No. 5, the Broncos seem inclined to pick Penn State’s RB Saquon Barkley. The Jets recently acquired the No. 3 pick from the Colts, so they must also have a definite player in mind. I doubt that either of these teams will be inclined to trade down.
The teams possessing the No. 7 through 11 choices are, in order: Bucs, Bears, 49ers, Raiders, and Dolphins. None appear to be in the market for a franchise QB. Many undoubtedly have their eyes on some player who would fill a dire need, such as N.C. State DE Bradley Chubb, Florida State safety Derwin James, Virginia Tech LB Trumaine Edmunds, Ohio State CB Denzel Ward, and maybe even Washington’s massive DT, Vita Vea. Such teams will likely be uninterested in trading down.
Buffalo holds pick No. 12, and they are in much the same position as the Patriots. The Bills got to this spot by strategically trading up with the Bengals. They definitely are lusting for a quarterback, and some are thinking it will most likely be Baker Mayfield.
Coincidentally though, the Pats just had Mason Rudolph in for a private workout, and the Bills are about to do the same.
The Redskins possess pick No. 13. They won’t be picking a QB, as they are set with Alex Smith. They might entertain a trade, though all AFC teams are going to be reluctant to help out Bill Belichick and the Pats.
The Packers are next up, with pick No. 14. Green Bay has many pressing needs, though they arguably have no dire needs for a player this high up on the chart.
At pick No. 15, we have another team hungry for a franchise quarterback: the Arizona Cardinals. There’s no way the Bills or the Cards are going to trade down picks they intend to use to get the best available quarterback.
The Patriots’ Options
I’m assuming that the Patriots have no chance at getting Darnold, Rosen, and either Allen or Mayfield. They are probably angling for Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, or Allen or Mayfield (if either is still available).
As I see it, the Patriots Plan A would be to get ahead of Buffalo and its 12th pick if they are to get the fourth QB to be taken. If they can’t manage that, Plan B would be to acquire the Packers’ 14th pick in order to get the fifth QB taken, ahead of the Cardinals at pick No. 15.
The three most likely possibilities: Cleveland’s No. 4 pick, the Redskins’ No. 13, or the Packers’ No. 14. I think the No. 4 pick is unlikely, as Cleveland’s asking price would be enormous, especially if it would aid the perennial AFC powerhouse.
It might come down to the Patriots trying to deal for the Redskins’ No. 13, or the Packers’ No. 14.
Showtime: April 26
The first day of the draft, when first round selections are made, shapes up to be one wild spectacle. I saw one forecaster who’s predicting that more than a half-dozen last-minute draft pick trades will be made concerning first round picks alone.
The teams holding the first 15 or so picks are in a delightful position for this year’s draft. Even the Packers are rumored to be ready to move up or down the list, depending on who’s available. The Packers are in a tricky situation, as they have needs for a top-notch recruit for at least three positions. That does, however, give them a great variety of trading options.
My theory is that the team seeking the trade is almost always going to get the better of such deals. If so, it might be in the Pack’s best interests to see who wants to move up to the No. 14 spot, and just how eager they are to do so.
I’m guessing there will be a number of teams punching in the Packers phone number on April 26. I’m also thinking that only three or four teams holding one of those first 15 choices will have any interest in trading – most of them probably are already drooling over the player they plan to choose. I’m further thinking that Green Bay is going to be one of those three or four receptive suitors.
One deduction leads to another: that 14th pick could plausibly wind up being used on either the fourth or fifth quarterback taken on this most intriguing of draft nights – and it just might be the Patriots making that trade and selection.
The speculation is that the Pats got that 23rd pick as an intermediate step toward moving further up in the first round. I doubt that they’ll be able to trade up to a top five selection, and it’s there that the first three quarterbacks will probably be taken. The Browns, Giants, and Jets all need a franchise QB in the worst way.