By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
It seems like it happens every year. Some of the top quarterback prospects in the NFL Draft are inevitably linked to the Patriots. And now we’re reached a time where it would actually make sense for Bill Belichick to spend a high draft pick on a QB and would shock no one.
But what if he moved up in the first round for a QB? While it would be an unprecedented move and a signal that Belichick has identified his long-term starting QB for his remaining years as Patriots head coach.
Top NFL insider Ian Rapoport believes that’s a distinct possibility for the Patriots, who enter the 2020 NFL Draft with only two QBs on their roster. Whether Belichick moves up or down from the 23rd overall pick, he sees the Patriots taking a QB with one of their first picks, perhaps the first one.
“I would say the Patriots are very firmly in the quarterback mix,” Rapoport said on The Rich Eisen Show. “They are just – they’re so far back [in the first round]. So I’m having trouble figuring out what are they actually going to do, because they’re up in the 20’s. [Utah State QB] Jordan Love sliding into the teens and then grabbing him is a scenario that I’ve thought a lot about. They also had some success with Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round, so maybe they try to repeat that. I just – they don’t have a second rounder. So they could either trade back and create one, maybe, or use some thirds and fourth to trade up…
“The Patriots are going to take a quarterback, probably with a premium pick. I would just imagine it’s not at the pick they currently have. So I see the Patriots moving up for a quarterback, or sliding back and then maybe also taking a quarterback [if they go that route].”
We’ve already waded deep into the “Lying Season” when it comes to the draft. The Patriots “love” Oregon QB Justin Herbert, they’re doing serious homework on the aforementioned Jordan Love, and they’ve had a number of virtual meetings with expected late-round pick Ben DiNucci out of James Madison.
So who knows how truthful Rapoport’s sources are being about the Patriots. He says “everybody knows” they’re going to draft a quarterback, and to be fair they almost certainly will add a third signal-caller from somewhere. But the question is how high? Because if they make another Danny Etling-esque pick, that’s basically akin to not drafting a QB at all.
NFL Draft: Quarterbacks who met with the Patriots
Jake Fromm, Georgia
Justin Herbert, Oregon
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
Jordan Love, Utah State
Jake Luton, Ore. State
James Morgan, FIU
Rapoport also said that the Patriots “very much like” Stidham, but can’t say with certainty how he would perform as a full-time starter in just his second season as a 2019 fourth-round pick.
If the Pats draft a QB in the middle of the first round and he ends up the starter, that would be great news. Moving up in the first round to take a QB may not necessarily be a bad sign for Stidham in the short-term, though. But a rookie would likely have to significantly outperform both Stidham and possible starter Brian Hoyer in camp to get a sniff of the field in 2020.
I generally try to be skeptical (at best) and generally believe nothing that comes out before the NFL Draft. But it’s an unavoidable truth that 2020 is a different year from every one since Tom Brady became the starting QB in 2000. Even the Garoppolo selection (62nd overall in 2014) wasn’t made with as much urgency as this year’s pick would be, if it’s a premium one.
It seems unlikely that Belichick would stand pat with no draft picks between 23 and 87, so the more realistic scenario remains that the Patriots move back from there in order to acquire a second-rounder. And maybe a guy Belichick likes ends up slipping to that point.
Belichick himself wasn’t going to tip his hand. Based on his pre-draft conference call this week, he might feel comfortable taking a QB anywhere in the draft.
“There are always a variety of things you have to try to put together and look at, but certainly there’s a lot of interesting players and guys who have really good arms, can really throw the ball and some very athletic players, some players that have won a lot of games and have shown their competitiveness and instinctiveness,” said Belichick. “So, interesting group and probably one that has decent depth to it.”
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Considering the obvious need for the Patriots to plan for the future at QB, maybe the rumors are worth more of our time and energy in 2020. Stidham could end up being the plan. But Belichick has to know that, until he knows he has a franchise QB, he can’t take enough shots at landing one.
These rumors, however, could also turn out to be the same kind of letdown as the idea of the Patriots trading up for Baker Mayfield in 2018, or showing real interest in Lamar Jackson, or looking closely at Josh Rosen. You get the point. Plenty of figures across the league say things, but nobody truly knows that they’re going to do.
We do know, ostensibly, that Belichick will add another QB before the start of the 2020 season. The question is when and how big.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.