It goes without saying that the good people of New England - and the asshole majority of us - find ourselves in unfamiliar territory tonight. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2001, the Patriots have found themselves holding a pick in the top half exactly twice. And both times, those picks were the result of trades. The 14th pick in 2003 (they moved up one to get Ty Warren) came in exchange for Drew Bledsoe. And the 7th pick (they dropped down to 10th to take Jerod Mayo) came in swap of picks the year before with San Francisco. The only other time they've had a pick in the top 20 was 2011 when they got the 17th pick from the Raiders in exchange for Richard Seymour and drafted Nate Solder, as correctly predicted by me. No humble, just brag.
And while none of us are used to being in this position, I think it's fair to say that no team has ever gone into the draft with the 15th pick and drawn so much attention. Usually being in the mid-teens makes you more or less irrelevant until you're on the clock. I believe I heard that among the all time top five picks, 30 are in the Hall of Fame. Among picks 6-10, that number drops to 18. When was the last truly sexy pick at No. 15? Melvin Gordon? Ryan Shazier? Jason Pierre-Paul?
Yet, with the exception of trades by the Niners and Dolphins, the Patriots have been the subject of most of the speculation. It's like having Thanos sitting in the precise middle of Round 1. You can't ignore him. You can't make a move until you figure out what he plans to do. And you cower in fear he's going to blip you into ashes. Which makes sense, because Bill Belichick is the Mad Titan of draft day moves.
That speculation started as soon as the draft order was set and continues as we approach Zero Hour tonight. 2021 has been an offseason unlike any other, and there's no reason to think that will stop once Commissioner Douchey McDickweed starts garbling names and giving awkward bro hugs to guys he'll spend the next 10 years unfairly punishing. For New England, nothing is settled. Anything is possible. Everything is on the table.
With that, here is the Belichick Whisperer's power ranking of the current rumors flying all over the place like Cam Newton incompletions. \
No. 3: The Patriots Will Trade Up to the 4th Pick
Here's where this idea has some credibility to it. By all accounts, Justin Fields is a complete, multi-dimensional talent with high level traits as both a thrower and an athlete. He fits the model of the modern QB in that he can move and make plays off schedule. He needs some refinement in his pre-snap read game, but he's come nowhere close to his ceiling. So why, you might ask (or not, but let's act like you're asking, just for the literary device) wouldn't the Falcons take him? The answer is that they are stuck with Matt Ryan, for better or worse. If they move on from him now, they face a dead money hit of over $40 million, next year. It's not like they can bite the bullet like when Carson Wentz left a $34 million dead money crater behind him in Philadelphia. Unless the Falcons really love some other position at No. 4 (TE Kyle Pitts, maybe) it makes perfect sense to drop down and add a pick for next year.
Where this gets tricky is what the cost of a move from 15th to 4th will be. In a sane world, that would be the Patriots 1st in 2022, plus maybe a swap of some mid-rounders. The 49ers destroyed the market with that deranged overpayment of their next two 1sts and the 12th. John Lynch was the guy who goes into the nudie bar throwing 20s around instead of singles, and now nobody else can get a lap dance. Unless the Falcons are willing to take less than that - say, something more along the lines of the Eagles trading the 6th and 156th to the Dolphins for the 12th, the 123rd, and their 1st next year, I can't see this happening.
Chances It Will Happen: Slim
No. 2: The Patriots Will Trade Into the Top 10
This would, of course, be more Belichickian. Not exactly shopping at Dollar General, but not paying boutique prices either. But the ol' Jimmy Johnson Draft Trade Value Chart, their 15th plus their 46th would get them either Carolina's No. 8 and possibly even Detroit's No. 7, give or take a couple of late round swaps to make the math work. This presumes that the Panthers feel they're all set with Sam Darnold. And it would get the Pats ahead of Denver. Though weirdly, the Broncos probably made it less necessary when they picked up a veteran QB yesterday:
Schefter can say it doesn't take them out of the market, but their cart is already pretty full given they've got a 24-year-old entering his third season that they used the 42nd pick on. At the very least, it prevents them from checking out at the "2 Quarterbacks or Less" line. If either Fields or Mac Jones makes it past the first six selections, and the going rate for a move is either this year's 2nd or some future picks that don't include next years' No. 1, I can very much see the Pats making this move up. Hell, they made similar trades twice in the 1st round in 2012, first for Chandler Jones and then for Dont'a Hightower. Though obviously way further back in the round. But still. A seven-slot jump is totally doable.
Chances It Will Happen: Plausible
No. 1: The Patriots Will Trade for Jimmy Garoppolo
This Tweet from my old terrestrial radio co-host/Dave Portnoy nemesis set off a Category 5 shitstorm of subsequent Tweets from NFL reporters refuting it.
I wouldn't deign to ask Dale what his source is on this, but it's not hard to speculate it's either coming from someone inside the Patriots management he's friendly with or Don Yee, who's the agent for both Garoppolo and Brady. Either way, I'm buying what he's selling.
I've been saying it for the entire offseason - and even before - and nothing will dissuade me from my stubborn belief that Jimmy G-to-New England is the best move for all involved. It makes the Patriots an instant contender. It gives him the chance to work once again with the people who drafted and developed him. A place where they want him, as opposed to San Francisco paying a ransom to get his replacement while Kyle Shanahan cryptically talks about death:
And for San Francisco, it gives them a return on investment for a badly depreciated asset, while saying them $25 million.
Yes, it's predicated on Garoppolo and Yee agreeing to a restructured contract. With the salary cap going up yugely next year thanks to Mr. Kraft's acumen at handling the TV networks, that shouldn't be hard to do. Plus they hold a no-trade, which should scare off whatever potential other suitors are out there. A trade doesn't have to happen tonight. Or even this weekend. I'm sure both teams will be content to focus on the insanely busiest, gloriously chaotic days of the year and then get getting this business settled. But assuming one of the top five quarterbacks doesn't magically drop into their laps, I will continue to think this is what's going to happen. And put the Patriots back into Super Bowl contention, as God intended. And that way, we never have to slum with the 15th pick ever again.