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MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - JANUARY 11: Mac Jones #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide warms up prior the College Football Playoff National Championship game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Jeff Howe and The Athletic have come to a conclusion about the Patriots and the 2021 NFL Draft: if they’re taking a quarterback, it should be no later than the No. 12 pick.

Check out Howe’s full column for all of the data and criteria that led him to the 12th pick conclusion. After that spot, there’s a big drop-off in teams’ chances to land a franchise quarterback. And so it’s especially tricky for the Patriots, who sit at No. 15 and really, truly need to find their next franchise guy in a hurry.

The Athletic judged first-round quarterbacks from 2000-2018 on metrics like Pro Football Reference’s Weighted Career Approx. Value (don’t worry – Tom Brady is No. 1 all-time in that). It also factored in first-team All-Pro and Pro-Bowl selections. Another criteria was the 20-start threshold, which separates the career busts from the successes.

Corroborating a previous study that said franchise quarterbacks generally have to be found in the first round, Howe concludes that the top-12 is the “sweet spot” for landing your guy. So if the Patriots want to find The Next Guy™, history says they may have to trade up from No. 15 to get him.

A new study from The Athletic concludes that the Patriots need to pick in the top-12 of the NFL Draft to have the best chance at landing a franchise quarterback. (Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY)

A new study from The Athletic concludes that the Patriots need to pick in the top-12 of the NFL Draft to have the best chance at landing a franchise quarterback. (Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY)

This study is far more scientific than my own research, and boasts a larger sample size. I previously concluded that the Patriots (or anyone) would need to draft a quarterback somewhere in the first two rounds to maximize their chances of getting a franchise changer, using more basic criteria like passer rating, starts, All-Pros, and Super Bowls. The point of this exercise was to illustrate that it’s unnecessarily risky to reach for the best QB available or trade a large haul of assets, just because you have an urgent need for a QB. That strategy often backfires; see Trubisky, Mitchell.

Bill Belichick likely wouldn’t reach for a quarterback over someone at another position whom he deems a better player. But if he identifies Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, or BYU’s Zach Wilson as his next starter, he will most certainly have to move way up from 15. The data from The Athletic suggests that if he opts for Alabama’s Mac Jones or Florida’s Kyle Trask at No. 15, their chances of panning out are much lower than if they went at 12th or higher.

MORE: Mel Kiper has Mac Jones to the Patriots first mock draft

You can hear more of my philosophy and research on drafting quarterbacks in the below podcast with myself and Alex Barth for 985TheSportsHub.com. The podcast begins with a free agency discussion, while the draft talk starts around the 24:16 mark.

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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.