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Despite reports that the Patriots hope to have their quarterback situation figured out by the time free agency begins next month, mock drafts continue to link them to a number of quarterbacks in the first round. The latest mock drafter to do so is ESPN’s Mel Kiper, who has them moving up for a signal caller.

Kiper predicts the Patriots will move up to the ninth spot, in order to take North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. According to Kiper, such a move would cost the Patriots “at least the No. 15 pick, a second-round pick [46th overall] and a 2022 pick. And I wouldn’t be shocked if it took the Pats’ 2022 first-rounder to get the deal over the finish line.”

As for the selection of Lance himself, Kiper writes,

“Belichick and the Patriots have been quiet this offseason, but that should change soon. They have money to spend in free agency, and they need to find a quarterback. It doesn’t appear likely that Cam Newton will return. The veteran QB trade market has dwindled. I could see a Jimmy Garoppolo return to New England, but I’m not sold that he’d be the long-term answer. Lance could be. He started only 17 career games in college — all against FCS competition — but he’s only 20, and he has all the tools to be a great dual-threat quarterback. Remember that the Patriots have a few players returning after opting out of last season, too, so they could contend in the AFC East again.”

While nothing he says there seems incorrect, Lance’s playing time (or lack thereof) stands out. In past years, the Patriots have put a premium on in-game experience and have favored multi-year starters, especially at the quarterback position. The last seven quarterbacks drafted by the Patriots all started for at least two seasons in college. Their last QB draft pick to not fit that description was Matt Cassel in 2005, who actually never started a college game at quarterback.

Kiper’s selections leading up to the ninth pick are also a bit extreme. He has Trevor Lawrence going first overall (fine), with the Atlanta Falcons then trading up from four to two to grab Zach Wilson. The next four picks all happen in order, without any trades or quarterbacks. San Francisco then trades up from 12 to seven to take Justin Fields, with Carolina then taking Mac Jones at eight, one pick before the Patriots grab Lance.

With such a hyped quarterback class, it feels unlikely that no team would trade into the top five for a quarterback. On top of that, Lance is a much better fit for Matt Rhule’s offense in Carolina, and it’s hard to see them choosing Jones over him if both options are on the table.

Still, if things did play out this way it would likely be seen as the Patriots coming away with a steal. While Lance is certainly raw, he has tremendous upside and fits the mold of a modern quarterback who can make plays all over the field, not just in the pocket.

MORE: Barth’s Patriots Mock Draft 1.0

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Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.