Projecting which teams might pick a quarterback ahead of the Patriots in the 2021 draft

The Patriots have plenty of holes and quite a few issues to address down the road. At the top of the list is quarterback.
It’s the most important position, and the most important need for the Patriots. Whether Cam Newton stays on beyond this year as a stopgap, or another bridge quarterback is added, the Patriots should still choose a quarterback in the draft.
It’s pretty obvious by now that Jarrett Stidham isn’t the guy, so they have to dip back into the draft, and hope to find the quarterback of the future.
It’s possible that quarterback will be taken in the first round.
Given their record, they’re sitting at No. 13. They could move up or down depending on how things play out over the final weeks.
But, as it stands right now, there are 11 teams picking ahead of them.
Which of those teams needs a quarterback? Or rather, who is likely to select quarterbacks ahead of the Patriots?
All of that will factor in on whether the Patriots pull the trigger in the first round, or not. If they can land the quarterback they want, they’ll make it happen. If not, they’ll likely grab one in the later rounds.
At the moment, the top-five quarterback prospects are Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, BYU’s Zach Wilson and Florida’s Kyle Trask.
Looking at the current landscape, here’s a best guess at the teams that might draft quarterbacks before the Patriots get on the clock, and who might be left when they’re on the clock. This is where teams stood heading into Week 12.
1. NY Jets: This team wants to finish without a win to assure themselves of the top spot. Lawrence is that generational quarterback and they’ll happily toss Sam Darnold to the curb. With a new coach presumably, the Jets will want to start fresh and build around Lawrence, if he enters the draft.
2. Jacksonville: Gardner Minshew isn’t the future. Neither is Jake Luton. Whether Doug Marrone stays or is canned shouldn’t change the outlook. The Jaguars figure to go with the next best quarterback after Lawrence. The guess is Ohio State’s Fields goes in this spot. So that’s two quarterbacks gone with the first two picks.
3. Cincinnati: Major injury notwithstanding, Joe Burrow is the Bengals’ future quarterback. They selected him first overall last year, and he looked the part until blowing out his ACL and MCL last week. The Bengals unbelievably forgot a basic tenet when it comes to having franchise quarterbacks — protect them. So a year too late, they’ll go with offensive line help here, presumably the best left tackle on the board. But then again, it’s the Bungles, so who knows?
4. Washington: While they did just draft Dwayne Haskins in 2019, he’s clearly not Ron Rivera’s guy. He’s been benched, and doesn’t appear to be in their future plans. Alex Smith has done well taking over and getting the team in contention in the woeful NFC East. And, the team has already committed to Smith for 2021. He would be the perfect bridge quarterback to the next guy. So it’s not outlandish to think Washington will select a quarterback here (maybe BYU’s Wilson?) and have him mentored by Smith.
5. LA Chargers: They have their man. They’re set for the foreseeable future. Justin Herbert, taken sixth overall in 2020, looks like the real deal. He’s a rookie-of-the-year candidate, so there is absolutely no need to add a quarterback to the stable. Assuming they can assemble enough talent around him, Herbert is going to keep the Chargers competitive in the AFC West, battling year in and year out with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
6. NY Giants: Daniel Jones is coming off his best two-game stretch at quarterback. The 2019 first-round pick has had turnover problems, but it’s doubtful the Giants will give up on him so soon, even if he isn’t Joe Judge’s guy, per se. As a sixth overall pick, they’ll give him a little more time to develop especially if he continues to trend in the right direction.
7. Atlanta: Is Matt Ryan part of the Falcons’ future? That’s what the new coach and general manager have to decide in the offseason. Given his huge contract, and what’s expected to be a reduced salary cap in 2021, it’s doubtful the Falcons can trade him. Plus, owner Arthur Blank is loyal to him. But that doesn’t mean the Falcons won’t draft Ryan’s successor. He’s 35, and has taken a beating with a suspect offensive line. So there’s a decent chance the Falcons will dip into the draft and grab Ryan’s heir in the first round.
8. Dallas: Do they move on from Dak Prescott, who suffered a major knee injury? Or will they assign the franchise tag to Prescott another year, or perhaps even reach an agreement on an extension? All of those scenarios are in play. It’s certainly possible they’ll grab a quarterback here, but unless they’re moving up to get Lawrence, they’ll go with the best available player. That’s the early read on the Cowboys.
9. Miami (from Houston): This is an interesting situation. The Dolphins obviously took Tua Tagovailoa last year, and right now, they seem to be on a fact-finding mission on whether he can be the franchise quarterback they have long craved to find after Dan Marino. That being said, it’s hard imagining them dipping into the pool once again in the first round. While they have assets to move up the board, it’s doubtful they’ll pull the trigger. Unless Tua is a disaster the rest of the way, they’ll stand pat.
10. Carolina: Teddy Bridgewater has settled in nicely with the Panthers. It’s been a good marriage. And he’s still young at age 28. It would be stunning if Matt Rhule goes the quarterback route. Rhule has done a good job so far resurrecting the franchise. He’ll just continue to build around Bridgewater.
11. Detroit: The Lions will be dealing with a new head coach and GM as Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn were shown the door on Saturday. And so, they could draft a quarterback in this spot. As it is, they’re going to need to find a successor to Matthew Stafford. And, they just might want to do it sooner, rather than later. Stafford is 32, so he still has some shelf life left. But the new regime could move on from Stafford, or simply get the next guy in the door. It’s certainly in the realm.
12. San Francisco: What the 49ers do depends on how they really feel about Jimmy Garoppolo. Do they dump him with the built-in out they have in his contract, with a minimal cap hit? Or is he their man going forward? Jimmy G hasn’t seemed like the best fit for Kyle Shanahan, and the head coach doesn’t seem to trust his top quarterback. But do they really want to use a first-round pick and start over at the position? The status of Kirk Cousins and Ryan, Shanahan favorites, also enters the equation.
13. New England: The need is obvious. It’ll just be interesting to see how they attack it going forward. Who’s left? How does the board fall? Will the QB they want still be there, or, could they package assets to move up? By our tabulations, there’s three definites picking quarterbacks above them (Jets, Jaguars, Washington), and a bunch of maybes (Cowboys, Falcons, Lions). If the “maybes” go with quarterbacks, it’s hard to believe the Patriots will want to just pick whoever’s left, so to speak. But if only three teams go with quarterbacks, they might have a chance at North Dakota’s Lance. Or, depending on who Washington takes, BYU’s Wilson might also be available to them. Whatever the case, the Pats will land a quarterback somewhere in the draft.
The Brady Chronicles
And, speaking of quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Mahomes get to renew their rivalry Sunday, but of course, Brady is with a different team.
Mahomes was taken aback when Brady didn’t return to the Patriots during the offseason. But given it’s the GOAT, he knows what to expect from the new Tampa Bay quarterback.
“I think I was as surprised as everyone was when he wasn’t going back to New England and he was going to Tampa Bay,” Mahomes said during his weekly press briefing in Kansas City. “But he’s in a great spot. They’ve got a lot of weapons there and Coach (Bruce) Arians is a great coach, and they’re winning a lot of football games.
“For us, we’re just going with the same mindset as if we’re going to play any other great football team and we’re going to have to battle every single play.”
How odd will it be seeing Brady in a red, white and pewter-colored uniform?
“I don’t think it’s going to feel very much different,” Mahomes answered. “It’s still a very good football team that’s playing really good football and winning a lot of football games. So we know it’s going to be a great challenge for us, and we’re excited for it.”
Both Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid were asked about Brady’s visit with the Chiefs quarterback following the Patriots win in the 2018 AFC Championship game.
Reid was certainly appreciative of Brady’s gesture.
“(Brady) came by the locker room, and I just can’t tell you how much I appreciated that. And Patrick did, too,” Reid said. “It was a respect thing. I just really thought that was great. That was a tough game. He just said, ‘Hey, keep being you and things are gonna work out.’ And I think that just those simple words — that’s big for a young guy to hear, especially from somebody that great.”
Thanksgiving turkey
There was no bigger turkey than Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy on Thanksgiving. He basically coached the Cowboys into a loss against Washington.
Calling a fourth-quarter fourth-and-10 fake punt from his own 24? That was just McCarthy’s most egregious and head-scratching decision in a game that also had him throwing the football on a fourth-and-inches, and failing, and seeing his team flagged for having 14 men on the field.
And yet, McCarthy wouldn’t take any blame. On the fake punt, he didn’t admit it might not have been the wisest decision, as the reverse to Cedrick Wilson fooled no one and lost a yard.
McCarthy was defiant in his explanation for why Dallas, trailing by four points at the time, would even entertain running a fake punt.
“It was a solid play call,” McCarthy said.
But wasn’t that a huge gamble?
“You won’t get anywhere thinking about the negative all the time,” McCarthy shot back.
He also told reporters he “clearly understood” the situation.
Wonder if Cowboys owner Jerry Jones feels the same way?

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