The NFL draft is finally upon us, and this should be a good one. The quarterback conversation has been fascinating, and the Patriots have a ton of picks to work with.
If you’ve been reading up on and debating every detail and question in the draft — which begins Thursday night in Dallas — more power to you.
If you just want to read one brief overview of what to look for, or if you’ve been consuming so much of the nitty-gritty that you want the 30,000-foot view before all the prognostications give way to the unpredictable event, well, hopefully this does the trick.
The biggest fascination of this draft is its quarterback class. It wouldn’t be a surprise if four quarterbacks — Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen — went in the top five picks. Two more, Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph, also are seen as potential first-round selections. It was 1999 the last time five quarterbacks were selected in the first round and 1983 the last time six were chosen there.
“You know, from my perspective, this quarterback draft, like every draft, drives the top end of this thing,” NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock said.
According to various reports, Darnold, Mayfield, and Allen are all in play for the Browns, who have the No. 1 selection. Darnold is a clean prospect who was beloved as a great leader and teammate at Southern Cal, but he has a problem with turnovers. Allen has the best arm coming out of college in years, but he had worse statistics — particularly completion percentage — against worse competition at Wyoming than the other top guys. Mayfield won plenty of games on a big stage at Oklahoma and is super accurate, but his height (6 feet 1 inch) and brashness have created questions.
Whoever goes first will inherit much of the responsibility for the fate of the Browns, who are 1-31 over the last two seasons. Buckle up.
“When you look at those five kids [excluding Rudolph], history tells you we’ll be lucky if we get two to three that become franchise quarterbacks,” Mayock said.
For the Patriots, the quarterback mania means two other things. If they want to trade up for a passer, there are plenty to choose from, though they won’t come cheap. It’s possible they could get Jackson or Rudolph at No. 23 or No. 31, where their first-round picks lie, but they couldn’t count on it even with the first slot. New England hosted Jackson on a visit and worked out Rudolph. Based on what’s been reported here and elsewhere, they don’t seem to have had that much contact with the top four guys.
The second thing this QB-heavy class means is that, if the Patriots don’t take one early, a player at another position who might not be available to them in most years could be available at No. 23. Perhaps it’s a top-flight offensive tackle such as Mike McGlinchey, or an impact defender such as edge rusher Harold Landry, cornerback Josh Jackson, or linebacker Rashaan Evans.
“Going into those past two drafts, I would say we were able to eliminate a number of players just based on where we were selecting,” Bill Belichick said earlier this month. “This year is a little bit different than that, but we really need to know the draft from top to bottom and potentially — I’d say there’s a handful of players that are probably out of reach — but realistically, just about everybody’s in play, other than a handful of guys. So, that’s a little bit different than what it’s been.”
This brings us to another thing to watch. Do the Patriots’ draft moves read as win-now moves? Or do the team’s actions on draft night make them look like a group that’s building for the future?
An impact player on defense would be good now or later, as would a left tackle, but using a high pick in the hopes of finding Nate Solder’s replacement to protect Tom Brady would certainly solve a pressing need. Selecting a quarterback or a tight end high would give the impression that New England was preparing for the eventuality of life without Brady or Rob Gronkowski.
Having Brady has been a blessing for the organization on draft night for the better part of two decades, as it never has been faced with a pressing need at the most important position. The Patriots hadn’t picked a quarterback in the second round during the Brady era until they selected Garoppolo in 2014 so, if they take one in the first round or dip into the second round again, it’ll send a message. The Patriots’ first pick in the second round (No. 43 overall) is what they got from the 49ers last October in exchange for Garoppolo.
The last big thing to watch is whether the Patriots make any trades. New England has made a draft-day trade to move back in each of the last 10 drafts (it traded “back” but got equal-round pick compensation in the following year’s draft in 2006 and 2007, but we’re not counting that).
Many analysts have described a plateau between picks 20-50 in this draft, meaning you’re not getting a markedly more talented player in the late first round than you are in the early-to-mid second. We’ll see whether Belichick, Nick Caserio & Co. believe that too based on the moves they make, or don’t make.
The Patriots have eight picks altogether, including two in the first round and two in the second, but none in the fourth or fifth rounds. They could also move back to pick up some additional selections in those areas.
All in all, those eight(ish) new Patriots from this draft, plus some undrafted free agent signings, will wind up on the 90-man roster and begin fighting for a spot on the in-season 53-man version or the practice squad. That, after all, is what all the fuss over the draft is actually about.
The Patriots’ picks:
Round 1, Pick 23 (23rd overall) — from LA Rams
Round 1, Pick 31 (31st overall)
Round 2, Pick 11 (43rd overall) — from San Francisco
Round 2, Pick 31 (63rd overall)
Round 3, Pick 31 (95th overall)
Round 6, Pick 24 (198th overall) — from LA Rams
Round 6, Pick 36 (210th overall) — from Oakland
Round 7, Pick 1 (219th overall) — from Cleveland
Nora Princiotti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.