NFL

Mock draft: Patriots make trade to secure their next franchise QB

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As opposed to the first mock draft two weeks ago, we are indeed allowing trades this time. This one will only cover the first four rounds in the draft, with all the trade values based off the Rich Hill value chart. The goal here is not only to try to solve the New England Patriots’ gigantic hole at quarterback, but also to try to add quality depth pieces to the offense and defense based on who I think could be available for the team at their selections.

So, let’s get the party started.

TRADE: Patriots trade 1-15, 2022 1st, 2022 3rd, 2022 4th and CB Stephon Gilmore to the Detroit Lions for 1-7

1st round, 7th overall (via DET): QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

In this mock scenario, I have Justin Fields going to the San Francisco 49ers with the third overall pick. After the Atlanta Falcons take Kyle Pitts, the Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins go with Penei Sewell and Ja’Marr Chase, respectively. The Patriots then see an opportunity to land the raw signal caller. While Lance doesn’t project to start any games in 2021, the idea is to improve the team’s long-term future with the pick.

For the Lions, they have a decent amount of options to consider even at the 15th overall pick and will pick up picks that I project to be the 21st and 85th overall picks in the 2022 Draft. The other two teams calling are Washington and Chicago, although Washington seems likely to be a team that will finish around New England’s pick. In addition, they pick up a veteran CB to help mentor last year’s No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah in the deal while sticking it to the Bears.

In Year 1, Lance projects to be Cam Newton’s backup after beating out Jarrett Stidham. Stidham is more of a pocket passer that requires a different style of offense whereas Lance can be allowed to run similar plays that they have run with Newton in 2020. Lance isn’t the same type of power runner as Newton given that he is 30 pounds lighter, but he offers more as a passer. After a year in the system, the Patriots are looking to make a Super Bowl run with Lance as their QB1.

TRADE: Patriots trade the 2-46 to the Washington Football Team for 3-74, 3-82, and a 2022 3rd

After the Washington Football Team misses out on the top QBs thanks to Bill Belichick’s crafty dealing, they are able to leverage their second-rounder to get a pair of third-round picks. With their second-round guys such as Rondale Moore, Dyami Brown, and Dillon Radunz going early in the round the Patriots feel the players left don’t match the value of the pick. Washington moves up to the 46th pick to select Kellen Mond out of Texas A&M. With three thirds and three fourths, the Patriots can still maneuver around the board if they need to trade back up into the second round to get their guy.

I didn’t grab Washington’s pick at 51 in this trade because moving down five picks and acquiring a fifth-round pick doesn’t give New England any more draft flexibility. Even though they trade down nearly 30 picks and create a 67-pick gap, it will make sense in the third round where they have plenty of players to consider. I think for players that fit the Patriots scheme, there are a lot of guys I like in this area.

3rd round, 74th overall (via WAS): WR D’Wayne Eskridge, Central Michigan

Eskridge makes sense as a returner/gadget player/development slot receiver. Given his electric speed and open-field running abilities, the Patriots will design plays to get him the ball. He should immediately compete for as many return reps as possible as a rookie and should see some reps from the slot. His speed should immediately create matchup problems against slot corners who are more twitchy than fast.

Eskridge has good special teams value not only as a return guy, but also an option at gunner and kickoff coverage. All in all, he reminds me a lot of Julian Edelman in terms of twitchiness and competitiveness. The overall four-down value is too much for the Patriots to pass on here.

3rd round, 82nd overall (via WAS): DT Daviyon Nixon, Iowa

Seeing another opportunity to select a sliding Day 2 prospect at a position with surprisingly shallow depth, the Patriots make their move. While the team will employ Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, and Deatrich Wise Jr. as its starting defensive line, it will need more than those three to hold the fort down inside. New England added Henry Anderson, who is pretty much guaranteed a job on the second defensive line unit, but who plays next to him is somewhat irrelevant. Nixon would give the Patriots a capable replacement passing down rusher from Adam Butler, who signed with the Dolphins in free agency.

TRADE: Patriots trade 3-96 and 4-139 to the Los Angeles Rams for 3-88 and a 2022 5th round pick

3rd round, 88th overall (via LAR): EDGE Carlos Basham Jr, Wake Forest

Surprised that Basham Jr. is still on the board this late in the draft, they make a move to make sure he is able to put on a Patriots uniform. Basham would be able to compete for a top-three edge rusher role, especially at the strong-side defensive end spot. His game reminds me a lot of Trey Flowers, a guy who wins by defeating the opposing blocker’s leverage and heavy hands to provide a counterpunch. He’s not going to run by tackles in the NFL, so he could also be an interesting matchup in a reduced technique in pass rushing packages.

4th round, 120th overall: LB Dylan Moses, Alabama

The Patriots are looking to add some linebacker depth. Moses’ speed and athleticism will allow him to play on special teams as a rookie while he waits until 2022 to take over at the inside linebacker spot that could be vacated by Ja’Whaun Bentley reaching free agency. It’s also possible they could move him to Dont’a Hightower’s role as the hammer from the second level. While coverage isn’t a strong suit for Moses, the Patriots like blitzing their linebackers on third down, which will allow Moses to shine in that capacity.

4th round, 122nd overall: RB Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State

Looking for a change-of-pace running back to replace James White next year, the Patriots elect to take Jefferson. He has a bit more size than White, weighing in at 5-foot-9, 215 pounds, and should offer similar value in the long term. While not as cerebral as the three-time Super Bowl champion, Jefferson has the juice after the catch to be a very effective receiver and create mismatches against linebackers.

He won’t play much as a rookie while learning how to pass protect and run routes out of the backfield or out wide in spread formations, but he could be the next great pass-catching back that the team has enjoyed since the days of Kevin Faulk. At the minimum, he should have someone who can mentor him in that role with White being re-signed by the team in free agency.

In conclusion, the Patriots were not only able to secure their franchise QB in Trey Lance, but also able to improve their depth at running back, wide receiver, along the defensive line, and at edge rusher. None of these picks are particularly sexy selections but they are classic Patriot-type prospects that Belichick can coach up. The team still has some depth problems on the offensive line and at cornerback after trading Gilmore, which would have to be addressed in the next offseason.

The team’s offense should be significantly improved, with D’Wayne Eskridge playing a similar role as Curtis Samuel did in his early days with the Panthers. In addition, Jefferson has the ability to be a great receiving back, although coming from a spread offense will need some time to learn an NFL offense and his responsibilities in it. With most of the major free agency additions likely to be around next year, Lance should have a pretty soft landing when finally earning the starting QB job.

The defense as a whole is slightly weaker with the loss of Gilmore and the team a bit thin at cornerback. The easiest move they can make is to sign Jason McCourty, although without that number one corner, we’re going to see a lot more zone than in previous years. J.C. Jackson is also a player that could be moved in the draft, as the team and the rest of the league doesn’t see him as a top CB but is likely to give the Patriots a late second/early third in a possible deal. I considered the possibility, but elected to send Gilmore off instead because the Lions would likely value him more than Jackson as a one-year rental.

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