For many Patriots fans, this draft cycle is perceived as a, “Trade up for a QB or bust” kind of year. While I am in that same boat (to an extent), the path to do so hasn’t always been clear. 

Between the 49ers/Eagles/Dolphins first-round fiasco of trades a couple of weeks back and today’s Panthers/Jets trade involving Sam Darnold, “The Path” has become a lot clearer for the Patriots. 

In case you missed it, the Carolina Panthers traded a 2022 6th-round pick and a 2023 2nd-and-4th-round pick to the New York Jets for QB Sam Darnold. 

Many dubbed the Panthers as one of those few teams in the top 12 poised trade up for or simply sit tight at pick #8 and select one of the draft’s top QB prospects. 

Today’s move for Darnold appears to have put that notion to bed. 

With this being said, the Patriots don’t necessarily have the luxury of sitting at pick #15 and having one of the top four or five guys fall in their laps, but these series of moves have eliminated some potential threats in front of them from stealing their guy, whoever that may be.

In this article, I am going to go through all 14 teams selecting in front of New England, evaluate their current QB situations and what I think each team will do at their picks as it stands. 

1 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Quarterback: Drafting Trevor Lawrence | Clemson

It’s not really a secret at this point, the first pick is Lawrence without a doubt. There goes QB1 at pick #1, as we all suspected was going to happen since his freshman year at Clemson.

2 – New York Jets

Quarterback: Drafting Zach Wilson | BYU

There was little (not really) speculation that the Jets could keep Sam Darnold and trade back, but to state the obvious, that is not the case anymore. There is some discourse as to whether they would take Wilson or one of the other guys, but scouts around the league think Wilson is locked in at pick #2 and who am I to argue with them.

3 – San Francisco 49ers (via MIA, from HOU)

Quarterback: Drafting Mac Jones | Alabama

I wrote more about why I think Jones is the 49ers guy at pick #3 here, but a lot of trusted and plugged-in guys in the draft industry believe the trade up was for Mac Jones. While it is controversial to some, we see things like this happen almost every year. In 2019 while everyone was busy debating Kyler Murray vs. Dwayne Haskins for the QB1 title, the Giants sneaky dropped a lot of hints that Daniel Jones was their guy. Sure enough, they took Jones over Haskins at pick #6. My main point is I’m heading in the direction the arrows are pointing me in until proven otherwise, and those arrows point me to Mac Jones at pick #3. 

4 – Atlanta Falcons

Quarterback – ?Matt Ryan?

The Falcons are the first real wildcard of the first round (if you don’t want to count the 49ers) because no one really knows what they are going to do. While rumors came out today that they are open to trading down from pick #4, that could just be smoke (though I don’t know what the reason for that would be). With them restructuring Matt Ryan’s deal earlier this offseason, I would put the odds at 40% or so that they would take a QB. The Patriots might be smart to give them a call and see what the price would be to get up to pick four so that they can have their choice of Justin Fields or Trey Lance. 

5 – Cincinnati Bengals

Quarterback – Joe Burrow

Not much needs to be said about this one. The 2020 first overall pick is an investment that a team can not go back on one year later. Despite coming off a devastating knee injury, I wouldn’t worry too much about the Bengals taking a quarterback and with the blue-chip talent still available I don’t see a trade-back scenario either. 

6 – Miami Dolphins (via PHI)

Quarterback – Tua Tagovailoa

If the Dolphins had any intentions of replacing Tua, they wouldn’t have traded out from pick #3. They’re more focused on supplying Tua with the right weapons to succeed than replacing him, at least for this year.

7 – Detroit Lions 

Quarterback – Jared Goff

Some believe that the Lions could be in the QB market, which they very well could be, but I think they’re sticking with Goff for at least the next year. He is owed around 25M in cash annually with no easy out for the next two years, and the front office wouldn’t have taken that contract on if they didn’t somewhat believe in or view him as their guy. The Lions have also been rumored to be a prime trade-back candidate, and the Patriots should call them as well to see what a trade would look like. 

8 – Carolina Panthers

Quarterback – Sam Darnold

After today’s trade and the Panthers picking up Darnold’s fifth-year option at around 19M APY, it would appear they’re committed to him as their starter. The price they paid was too high for that front office to even consider a QB at pick #8, essentially eliminating them from the QB race.

9 – Denver Broncos

Quarterback – ?Drew Lock?

The Broncos are the only realistic team I can see having a greater than 50% chance of taking a QB. While I don’t think that they would’ve mortgaged the farm to trade up for one, they might be willing to sit pretty and see if Fields/Lance falls in their laps. The Patriots likely have to outbid and/or jump the Broncos if they want to grab their guy. However, the Broncos have a relatively complete roster besides QB and have some connections to Teddy Bridgewater in their past. That includes reportedly trying to trade for him in 2019 in addition to their new GM, George Paton, working in the Vikings front office when they drafted Bridgewater. Wouldn’t surprise me to see them go that route to spark some QB competition in front of Drew Lock.

10 – Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback – Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott is very good and they just signed him to a huge deal. Next.

11 – New York Giants

Quarterback – Daniel Jones

While I don’t believe in Daniel Jones’ long-term success as a starting QB in the NFL, the Giants clearly do. I would be extremely surprised if they use this pick on anything besides putting pieces around Jones.

12 – Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA from SF)

Quarterback – Jalen Hurts

The Eagles are committed to building around Jalen Hurts for this year, and their trade from pick #6 back to pick #12 just solidified that notion to me.

13 – Los Angeles Chargers

Quarterback – Justin Herbert

The reigning rookie of the year isn’t getting replaced anytime soon, don’t need to worry one bit about them taking a QB.

14 – Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback – Kirk Cousins

The Vikings are sneaky, but Cousins actually played pretty well last year (contrary to popular belief) and they’re still paying him a lot of money. The Vikings need more help in the trenches and that’s likely where they go with this selection, although I wouldn’t completely rule out QB. Still not a huge worry for the Patriots

With all of this being said, there are really only two teams (Falcons and Broncos) that somewhat worry me when it comes to drafting the QB position. If the top-three goes Lawrence/Wilson/Jones and the Patriots really like either of Lance or Fields they should absolutely try to get up to at least pick #7 from the Lions. 

While the teams currently in front of the Pats may not be in the QB sweepstakes, there are teams behind them that could be looking to make a splash (Football Team, Bears, Steelers, Saints). Standing put at pick #15 and hoping one of Lance or Fields somehow falls to them likely won’t work as a couple of teams in front of them could easily trade back with those teams behind them.

My most realistic trade scenario would be for the Patriots to trade pick #15, a 2022 first-rounder and a 2022 third-rounder (maybe a player or later pick as well) to the Lions for pick #7. I am confident that the Bengals and Dolphins will stay at their picks and take one of the blue-chip talents still left on the board (Kyle Pitts, Penei Sewell, or Ja’Marr Chase). 

The Falcons are the real wildcard as I can see them taking a QB, but if the 49ers take Jones then the Patriots would be left with one of Trey Lance or Justin Fields regardless of what the Falcons do, which I would be ecstatic with. 

If the Falcons opt to select one of the blue-chips instead of a QB, then the Patriots will have their choice of Lance or Fields at pick #7.

The package it would take to move up to pick #7 isn’t much to part ways with at all considering what they’re getting out of it. I would accept that trade offer and not think twice about it if I were the Patriots.

There are other avenues to getting their QB of the future, but that has been the most plausible option I have been coming up with for the past couple of weeks. 

I would not be surprised to see the Broncos make a move for a veteran like Teddy Bridgewater, Nick Foles or Gardner Minshew to compete with Drew Lock for the starting job. That is the most likely next QB domino to fall, and that would make “The Path” essentially there for the Patriots taking. 

The point of this article is to show that there are ways to move up now that a lot of QB dominos have fallen, and the Patriots path to a QB of the future is becoming clearer by the day.