Although the NFL playoffs are humming, the offseason dominos are starting to fall around the league.
Starting with the Jets (Saleh), Jaguars (Meyer), and Falcons (Smith), the coaching carousel is taking shape with Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo squarely in the mix in Philly.
Those moves are also sending off signals in the quarterback musical chairs, and over the last week, I did a film deep-dive on the top of the quarterback class in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Based on the tape, here are my initial rankings and reports on the four quarterbacks that will likely be in play for the Patriots. My sense is that Ohio State’s Justin Fields will be the second quarterback off the board, meaning Trevor Lawrence and Fields will be out of the Pats’ range (I also have them as QB1 and QB2).
My focus wasn’t on career achievements but rather playing style on the player comparisons. For example, will Mac Jones ever win an MVP as Matt Ryan did? Probably not. But his level of arm talent, clean mechanics, fast processing, and work inside the pocket reminds me of Ryan.
There are things to like about all four quarterbacks, but the Patriots could find themselves caught between the value with the 15th overall selection; too late for the cream of the crop (Wilson, Lance) and too early for the next wave (Jones, Trask). I don’t mind Jones in the first round, but I don’t love it at 15.
If that’s the case, trading up or down in the first round might behoove the Patriots, which is where we’ll start with our first-ever edition of mail time at Patriots CLNS:
Which team is the likeliest to do business with the Pats, if BB was looking to trade up the draft?
— SettiEinari (@puumalainen) January 14, 2021
In the draft, look at players in clusters or tiers. For example, Detroit wouldn’t get a player in the same tier at 15 as they would at seven. The team I’d look to do business with is Dallas (10). They don’t need a quarterback, could probably come away with a similar prospect at 15 and could use the extra picks to fill several holes on defense. The Chargers are another potential trade partner at no. 13 if a quarterback falls. I don’t expect any of the top four to get by the Niners at 12, which is why Dallas makes so much sense to leapfrog San Fran.
Do you think Gilmore could be part of a trade to move up ?
— Temp Browns Fan Mech 🏈 (@Tactical_Mech) January 14, 2021
Going off my Dallas theory, I think the Cowboys would be interested in a package that included Gilmore. He’d cure a lot of ills for Dallas in the secondary with Dak and his weapons in their primes to compete right away. If it were me, I’d try to keep Gilmore for one more year and rebuild on the fly. But if Belichick looks at it as a multi-year rebuild, then packaging Gilmore to move up is a reasonable plan.
Do the Pats trade down in the first round and take Mac Jones?
— Nate (@Nate278) January 14, 2021
I understand the reservations people have with Jones at 15, but the reality is that the Patriots will be lucky to get him at 15. I know that sounds crazy, but Jones’s tape is impressive, and he checks a lot of boxes that NFL teams love at the position. They could trade down a few spots and still get him, but I think Jones is going in the first round.
Favorite QB not named Lawrence you’d like to see the Pats go after, can be draft or FA.
— Matt K.C. (@wifiwolfpack) January 14, 2021
Based on my eye test? Wilson. Based on my fandom of the player? Lance. Wilson’s tape was excellent and far more consistent, but the physical tools that Lance possesses are tons of fun. Plus, there’s a path to consistency for Lance that’s similar to Josh Allen’s in that his throwing motion is clean, but down-to-down consistency is lacking. I don’t think it’s insane to think Lance could slide in the Patriots’ range after we saw Jordan Love fall to no. 26 a year ago. As great as he was, Lance only started one season at North Dakota State. That could scare teams.
Can you see a scenario where Patriots pick in 1st round, but trade down in order to fill the gap they have in 2nd/3rd picks? Do you think such a move would be possible without dropping out of 1st round? Thanks.
— John (@belfastpatsfan) January 14, 2021
Absolutely. If the Patriots miss out on the top four quarterbacks and aren’t in love with Jones, trading down to address more needs while still targeting a first-round talent is a solid idea. Some names to look for would be Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins or Virginia Tech left tackle Christian Darrisaw. Collins is 6-4, 260 pounds, and moves well. I’d be on board with trading down and drafting Collins.
@ezlazar will Mac Jones and Kyle Trask be there in the second round or should the Pats use there First rounder to get a QB? Would love to see them pick up Pitts/Waddle and Jones.
— KingLeviathan (@KingLeviathan3) January 14, 2021
I’d love to see the Patriots go Waddle/Smith/Pitts in the first round followed by a quarterback, but that would mean Trask is the guy. I think Trask can be a good distributor that’s propped up by the talent around him, but he’s not making plays on his own. Trask is in the day two conversation for me, and as we said earlier, Jones will be long gone by 47.
Who fits better with the Pats in your mind out of the top 3 WR in draft? Smith, Waddle or Chase? Also similar question as to RB’s Najee Harris or Etienne?
— Jeff Scanlon (@jscancoach) January 14, 2021
Smith’s technical savvy, explosiveness and ability to operate in the slot makes him a perfect fit for the Patriots offense. Still, I think Waddle brings a three-level speed element that might be a more impactful addition. Waddle threatening the defense everywhere he goes would open the middle of the field for Jakobi Meyers and a tight end. I don’t think Smith brings that same dynamic. Chase is a good prospect, but his skill set scares me a bit for New England. I think he’ll struggle more than the other two to get separation and will need to win on contested catches.
Thoughts on Barmore?
— ZC🏹 (@FlyingOrr4) January 14, 2021
A good prospect that dominated the college football playoff, but where does he fit? Barmore is at his best as a penetrating three-technique, which isn’t a typical role in Belichick’s defense. His ideal role is close to how the Rams use Aaron Donald. You aren’t drafting him to play nose tackle, or as a two-gapping DE, so I’m not sure if I see the value there.
Have a good feeling Smith, Waddle, Pitts and Chase will all be gone at 15 (plus the QBs). What do you think of the next tier of pass-catchers at 15? Moore and Bateman? Would you rather them go defense at that point, perhaps Farley/Surtain or front 4?
— Josh Moyer (@Josh__Moyer) January 14, 2021
I think we should all begin wrapping our heads around Surtain as one of New England’s top targets in the first round. If they trade Gilmore, Surtain would be a cheap replacement with CB1 upside and a perfect scheme fit as a predominantly press-man corner. He’s a very real option.
If Kwity Pae and Jaylen Waddle are both available at 15, who are you taking?
— Alex Clauss (@ajclauss3) January 14, 2021
Waddle, but I do see the fit with Paye, who can rush and set the edge. I just think Waddle moves the needle more.
What kind of contract would it take to retain David Andrews?
— Laurence D (@Pullosfan) January 14, 2021
Andrews is looking at a 2-3 year deal with an average annual value of $7 million, per Spotrac. I would do that in a second.
Could the pats get Matt Stafford and at what cost if so?
— Michael Casey (@Casey_0891) January 14, 2021
A Stafford trade will depend on how the new brass in Detroit views the quarterback class. I think the Pats would have some interest, but the starting price is probably a first-round pick and another mid-round selection. With Stafford’s salary, that’s a pretty steep investment.
If Jerry Jones decides to not resign Dak do you think the Pats would have interest ?
— DaBradyŃëwtøń🎄🎅🏼 (@TomEffinBradyx6) January 14, 2021
I know we all think Jerry Jones is a schmuck, but he’s not trading Dak.
Thoughts on Gardiner Minshew? Seems like we could get him for a mid round pick. Don’t know why he’s not being talked about more. 6-6 last year record with a 37-11 TD:INT over last 2 years. Improvises a lot but seems like his game could be taken to another level with Josh and Bill
— Vince DiMonte (@VinceDiMonte) January 14, 2021
I’m not a big Minshew guy. I’d be on board if they want to pair him with a draft pick and see who rises to the top, but Minshew isn’t a plan on his own. He’s in the 20-25 range of starting quarterbacks, and I think the Pats should strive to do better.
Would you be content with second tier FA signings such as TE G Everett (6 mil APY), WRs C Samuel (10 mil APY) T Patrick (7 mil APY and 4th rounder to Denver due to RFA status)?
— Brian Lee (@btflee0608) January 14, 2021
Everett would be a good signing for the Patriots. He’s not a game-changer, but he’s a reliable veteran option that would fill that need. I’m not crazy about Samuel. He’s versatile and fast, but his downfield ball skills and contested catch ability aren’t great. I’m already on the record as a Patrick supporter.
Who do you think will be the Patriots kicker next year? Do you think Folk walks in Free Agency?
— Andrew 🇺🇸 (@Pointlessdude) January 14, 2021
It’s early, but it sounds like there’s mutual interest between Folk and the Patriots for a return in 2021. Folk told reporters that he wants to keep kicking, and the Pats are happy with his performance.
in your opinion what where the 3 biggest questionable decisions made by the Patriots in 2020?
— lee van chief (@leeharris04) January 14, 2021
Letting Brady walk, not signing a veteran tight end, and only having one layer of depth at nose tackle (Beau Allen). They were limited cap-wise but could’ve made a cheap signing or two.
Really wanna know wth is going on w Yodney Cajuste sneaky pick that has gone under the radar last few years. I’m guessing health issues. Just would hate to see another Antonia Garcia. Need that position as stacked as possible
— Trelito🧊 (@UnderratedxTre) January 15, 2021
Unfortunately, the rumblings about Cajuste are not positive. I don’t think he should be counted on in any capacity moving forward. If they get something out of him, it’s a bonus.
Onwenu received countless @PFF accolades and they seemed well-deserved, did everything on film you saw line up with that view? Any additional takeaways from what you saw from him & perhaps if you see him more as a long term RT or G.
— Cal Canha (@CalBearCanha) January 14, 2021
Onwenu had a great rookie season. His run blocking was consistently dominant, but I wouldn’t say they asked much of him in pass protection. He had plenty of one-on-one reps in pass pro, but there was a lot of action towards his direction—definitely an all-rookie team player, but still a tier or two below the studs at the position. I would like to see him at guard full time.
Do u think Meyers is better than Edelman at this point, and if so, what do the patriots do with Edelman going forward?
— Sped Razer (@sped_razer) January 14, 2021
Tough question to answer with Edelman’s knee injury. Meyers is the healthier and more reliable player, but I’d still give the nod to a healthy Jules in terms of explosiveness and route running. At this stage, my gut tells me that Edelman is on the roster in 2021. Maybe in more of a specialized role like Amendola.
If you can only keep 3 running backs on the roster for next year, who would they be and why?
— Patrick Millstone (@pattymills28__) January 14, 2021
Harris, Michel, and White. I think White’s downtick in production had a lot to do with his off-field tragedy and quarterback play. He needs to play with a QB that gets the ball in his hands sooner so he can make moves upfield. Burkhead was the better player in 2020 but is always hurt. With their cap space, the Pats can bring back both White and Rex.
What is your assessment of Jennings, and does he have the potential to be an impact player in the future?
— Dave (@ChefdDds89) January 14, 2021
After the season, I took some time to study Jennings a little closer, and I’m underwhelmed. He was a rookie, so mental processing issues are expected, but he didn’t see things fast enough, and I’m not sure where his best position fit is in the defense. If I were him, I’d continue to bulk up and focus on setting the edge.
Thoughts on Marquise Lee and if you think he’ll have a role on the team next year???
— Patriots (@Patriot13292469) January 14, 2021
Strong hands, good route runner on inside-breaking routes, but I’d like to hope the Patriots will have receivers on the team that are better than Lee.
You gotta sign one player on the 2020 roster to a 10 year 100 million contract, all guaranteed. Who is it?
— ryan daniel maccarthy (@ryan_maccarthy) January 14, 2021
Cool question, but I wouldn’t sign anyone on the Patriots’ current roster to a ten-year deal.
Are you going to visit Senior Bowl or Shrine Game or whatever may be done with the Combine, in person?
— Patriots_karma (@Patriots_karma) January 14, 2021
Sadly, not in person this year due to COVID. I’ll be covering both the Senior Bowl and combine virtually. As of now, it sounds like the combine might not happen with prospects working out at local pro days instead. Nobody knows what’s happening with the combine. It’s insanity. Not even the teams, prospects, or agents have any idea if or when it’s happening.