Every year around this time, the same question always arises: What is Bill Belichick going to do with his first-round draft pick? While the answer is almost always completely unknown to everyone besides Belichick himself, it’s fun to pretend I have a clue.
With that being said, instead of attempting to be blindly confident in just one option, I examined multiple. I divided the decision up into four different options and gave my confidence level in each scenario coming to fruition.
Scenario 1: Trade up for a quarterback
Confidence Level – 10%
There are a ton of varying opinions as to what the Patriots should do at QB for next season. Do they give Jarrett Stidham the keys right away? Do they let Brian Hoyer lead the offense? While I am a believer that rolling with Stidham is the best option this year, he won’t be handed the job. I would be very surprised if the Patriots leave this draft without a quarterback but, I don’t see them trading future assets to move up into the first round to draft someone who might not even win the job over Stidham. I mean, the Patriot’s starting QB for the last 20 years was drafted in the sixth round (in case you haven’t heard that enough). They probably already have guys targeted later in the draft that no one is even thinking about.
The only scenario I can see a trade-up happening is if teams get scared off by Tua Tagovailoa’s medical history and he falls out of the top 12 or so.
The Patriots like to get the most value out of their picks, especially in the first round, and the value for QB’s in this draft is not at pick 23, or wherever the Patriots could move up to in a trade.
Scenario 2: Stand put and draft a big named prospect
Confidence Level – 15%
Pick 23 is the lowest the Patriots have been (with their own pick) in a long time, so a lot of buzz is being created that they might be high enough to take a big-time player. When I say big-name, I mean someone who is widely regarded as a first-round talent like Xavier McKinney, Javon Kinlaw, etc.
A lot of people want it to be someone like Justin Jefferson, the wide receiver from LSU however, I can assure you the Patriots don’t operate on the same wavelength as other organizations. All 31 other organizations can say player “X” is a third-round talent and the Patriots could have him in their top 15. Like Bill Belichick always says, the Patriots draft good football players. As simple as it sounds, they don’t care if a player fits their “system” or what their “draft needs” are, they just draft guys they like.
Scenario 3: Stand put and make a “surprise” pick
Confidence Level – 25%
I hate to break it to you, but the odds of the Patriots drafting your favorite player in the draft are very low. You can imagine the state of euphoria I was in last draft season when the Patriots used a late third-round pick to select my favorite player in the draft, Chase Winovich. My point is, they rarely operate according to mock drafts and team needs. Like I said earlier, they draft what they view as good football players. In just the past two years, they have drafted Sony Michel and N’Keal Harry in the first round when they weren’t widely regarded as first-round talents. Even Isaiah Wynn was projected all over the place because scouts didn’t know whether to play him at guard or tackle.
When the Patriots do make their picks in the first round, it’s almost never what you expect. If they do stand put, I can almost guarantee you they won’t be a taking a “big name” like Justin Jefferson. It’s just what the Patriots do.
Scenario 4: Trade back
Confidence Level – 50%
After trading their second-rounder this year to Atlanta for Mohamed Sanu, the Patriots will be looking to get into the second round by any means necessary. After doing multiple mock drafts for the Patriots, I never love the board at pick 23 for them. The value for the positions they “need” like WR, TE, DT, LB is not there. The Patriots would be a thousand times better off trading their first rounder to pick up two seconds, a second and a third, or a second and any other pick. The Patriots have had success picking in the second round under Belichick, drafting names like Rob Gronkowski, Matt Light, Deion Branch, Patrick Chung, Jamie Collins, Jimmy Garoppolo, etc.
I can see a team in the late 20’s seeing a run on either WR’s, OT’s or CB’s happening before the Patriots select and overpaying them for pick 23 – which would be a perfect situation for New England. After evaluating talent in the class, the more draft capital New England can get in the middle rounds, the better off they will be.
With this being the first year without Tom Brady, I think the best thing New England can do is put whatever QB in the best situation to succeed. If they use a first round pick on a QB, and have no second round pick, they are going to miss out on filling a lot of needs, and whatever QB is their starter will be in a poor situation for the next 2-3 years.
I have no inside sources or any clue whatsoever as to what the Patriots will do, but based on recent history and how they run their operation, this is how I would rank the most likely scenarios for next Thursday.