The market has never been more open for the Patriots to trade-up for a quarterback than it is right now.
With the news that the Falcons have been fielding calls to trade back from pick #4, the thought of the Patriots going against their historical strategy and trading up in the draft is becoming more plausible by the hour.
Since 2016, there have been 16 quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft; nine of them have been acquired through trading up.
Now, the Patriots could very well do the “Patriots thing” and not make any moves and draft whatever player they can get their hands on at #15, but based on recent history and the way the draft board is shaping out here are what some of their trade-up options could look like if they opt to go that route.
To preface this, I want to say that I am working under the assumption that the top-three picks go Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones in that order.
Other teams like the Panthers have more or less eliminated themselves from the QB race, but I wrote more about that yesterday if you want a peek into how I view the QB situations for teams in the first 14 picks.
Without further ado, here are (in my opinion) the most feasible options when it would come to a trade-up for the Patriots.
Option #1 – Patriots get pick #4 from the Falcons
- The Patriots trade: pick 15, Adrian Phillips and JoeJuan Williams to the Cowboys for pick 10.
- The Patriots trade: pick 10 (via DAL), a 2022 first-rounder and a 2022 third-rounder to Atlanta for pick 4
Let’s face it, even with a big offer to the Falcons, they’re not going to want to move all the way back from pick #4 to pick #15. The Patriots are realistically going to have to attain a pick in the 8-12 range to use that as a bartering tool to get up to pick #4 if they want the Falcons to even listen to their call. Phillips is a good player but is a bit redundant at that position with guys like Kyle Dugger and Jalen Mills now in place. JoeJuan Williams is relatively unproven because he has been bogged down behind two elite talents in Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson the past two years. However, he is still a young, former second-round corner that holds some value in a trade. The Cowboys need all the help they can get in the secondary. Getting two average starters to move back 5 spots and probably still get the guy they want at 15 is a winning scenario for Dallas.
The 10th pick is still alluring for the Falcons who can grab an extra first rounder next year (for if/when they want to move on from Matt Ryan) and a third-rounder as well. With 4 or 5 QBs coming off the board before 10, they still have a great shot at getting one of the top talents in this draft outside of the QB position.
The compensation for this pick was derived from the Carson Wentz trade in 2016. The Eagles were sitting at pick #13, and knew they needed to get to pick #2 if they wanted to snag Wentz. They traded pick #13, Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell (two average starters) to the Dolphins for pick #8.
They then used pick #8 as well as 2016 3rd-and-4th rounders, a 2017 1st-rounder and a 2018 2nd-rounder to get up to pick #2.
The value drop-off from pick #2 to pick #4 is a lot more substantial than people think, especially with three QBs locked in to the first three picks. The Patriots hypothetical compensation should definitely be enough to entice the Falcons.
The Patriots don’t give up TOO much considering where they moved up from and can have their choice of either Fields or Lance at the four slot. This seems like a win for all parties involved.
Option #2 – The Patriots get pick #7 from the Lions
- The Patriots trade: pick 15, a 2022 first-rounder and a 2022 third-rounder to the Lions for pick 7
The Lions have a rather large cap commitment designated to Jared Goff over the next two years with no easy way out of it. Even if they wanted to draft a QB this year and have him sit under Goff, you’re going to be paying Goff around 25M in 2022 to sit on the sidelines. That logic makes little-to-no sense in my head. The new regime in Detroit wouldn’t have agreed to take a “salary dump” of that capacity if they truly wanted to grab a QB of the future in this draft. I am not ruling it out completely, but I would put the odds of them looking for a QB below 50%.
While they probably won’t be looking to add a QB in this draft, if the Goff experiment fails next year, they could EASILY be looking to add one in the next draft. They already have the Rams’ first rounders in 2022 and 2023, adding another one from New England as well as a third-rounder essentially gives them the freedom to trade all over the board after this year. That roster is kind of awful and no one player is going to turn them around in 2021. Their best bet is to acquire picks for the coming drafts so that Detroit’s new regime can have all the pieces necessary to build the team how they want.
The Patriots realistically only give up a first rounder in 2022 to move up eight spots as they have mastered the art of the compensatory pick formula over the years. I am not even close to a master at understanding how that works, but in layman’s terms; when players they sign as free agents walk free and break the bank a couple of years later, the Patriots get picks for it (it works, don’t ask me how) that usually fall in the 3rd-4th rounds.
They wouldn’t have as much freedom as to their choice of QBs as it all would come down to what Atlanta does at pick 4, but the Patriots likely wouldn’t do this trade until the Lions are on the clock and their guy is still on the board. If the Falcons take a non-QB like Pitts or Sewell, then the Patriots are in the same spot as they would be with pick #4, except they would give up far less to get there. At the very least, they jump the Broncos, which is a good thing.
I looked at the Josh Allen trade in 2018 to come up with realistic compensation for a move like this. The Bills traded pick #12, two second-rounders and a seventh rounder for pick #7. The Patriots are in a lower spot than the Bills were, but the value of a first-and-third rounder trumps the value of two second-rounders by a pretty substantial margin. That should be enough to sell the Lions to give up their pick.
Option #3 – The Patriots get pick #11 from the Giants
- The Patriots trade: pick 15, a 2021 third-rounder and a 2022 fourth-rounder to the Giants for pick 11
This trade really only happens as protection if the Falcons and/or Broncos pass on QBs at their spots. You never know what teams behind the Patriots (WAS, PIT, CHI) could offer teams ahead of them, so you hit up a team like the Giants that don’t have a glaring need to pick at 11 to make sure no one jumps in front of you to take your guy.
The Giants have a pretty solid roster and could afford to add some extra picks down the line for depth purposes. If they’re not in love with a guy at pick 11, I can easily see them being a trade-down candidate. They likely still get a player they would’ve taken at 11 at pick 15, and they add two mid-round picks in the process.
The Patriots do this trade to assure them getting their guy before a team lurking behind them makes a team in front of them an offer they can’t refuse.
I used the Josh Rosen trade in 2018 to give an outline for the Patriots. The Cardinals traded up from pick 15 by throwing in an extra third-and-fifth rounder to the Raiders for pick 10. If the Patriots’ guy is falling, they should not hesitate to do a trade like this to make sure no one else gets him.
The main takeaway is that if the Patriots want one of the top-five quarterbacks they’re going to need to trade up at some point to secure him. These are the three most realistic trades I can see happening as the board shapes up right now.