Patriots can jump-start their rebuild by trading from the No. 3 pick

By | March 16, 2024

Patriots can jump-start their rebuild by trading up from No. 3 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The best way for a bottom-feeding team to get good players? Force them to come. How do you do that? You set them up.

The Patriots are a bottom feeder. If you don’t have a quarterback, left tackle, or decent receivers, but you have the No. 3 overall pick, then you’re a bottom feeder.

This week there was a referendum on how difficult it is for an unimpressive team to build through free agency.

Calvin Ridley, a very good wide receiver who is about the 15th best in the league at his position, turned up his nose at the New England Patriots. He chose to go to Tennessee to play four years for a first-year coach on a team without an established quarterback and $92 million with $50 million guaranteed. If he hadn’t gone to the Titans, he might have stayed in Jacksonville, where the situation is more stable and the cost of living is much cheaper.

The Patriots – from the outside looking in – have seen the paint dry up as potential hole fillers like wideout Marquise Brown and left tackle Jonah Williams signed with Kansas City and Arizona, respectively.

It’s time for New England to put a big ‘FOR SALE’ sign on the third pick and start looking for buyers. And the most obvious buyer stepped to the front of the line on Friday when the Vikings traded for a second pick in the first round.

In a draft heavy on top-end wideouts and tackles, the Patriots could trade down and take the 11th and 23rd picks out of the Vikings’ hands, in addition to the first and third round picks in 2025, which is what Professional football conversations Mike Florio proposed on Friday. The Patriots then take a tackle and wideout (or vice versa) at 11 and 23, and with two firsts next year – both of which will likely be in the top half of the first round – you have the mobility to move up and the best quarterback if you will.

Then you’d have a left tackle, top-tier wideout and quarterback on rookie contracts growing together.

In the meantime, send a third-rounder to Chicago for Justin Fields. If he beats Jacoby Brissett (which he should), you have a young, experienced, mobile, strong-armed quarterback who is motivated to show the league that he is willing to follow the Baker Mayfield plan we have in Tampa Bay saw unfolding.

The Patriots can pick up Fields’ fifth-year option in early May for around $25 million in 2025, or, more likely, let Fields play and cross the free-agent bridge when they get there.

We talked at length about dealing with the Vikings and trading Fields on Thursday’s episode of the Patriots talk podcast. Our guest was draft expert Thor Nystrom, one of the smartest and most informed quarterback analysts you will find.

πŸ”Š Patriots Talk Podcast: Were the Patriots smart to distance themselves from the table on Calvin Ridley? | Listen and subscribe | Check out YouTube

Nystrom is based in Minnesota, so we discussed the possibility of a trade with the Vikings. The reason Minny is the best partner? Sam Darnold is at the top of their depth chart and wide receiver Justin Jefferson can’t be sentenced to a year of catching passes from Darnold.

So trade for Fields and send #3 to Minny for two firsts and a second (or the Florio deal)?

β€œI think that would be brilliant,” Nystrom said. β€œIf you trade with the Vikings and get their first pick next year, the Vikings won’t be good next year because of their cap situation. …

β€œThe Patriots would then indicate they won’t compete next year either…So you get two picks in the top half of the first round. Then Justin Fields, I think a third round pick can do that now. That’s perfectly reasonable. You trade (Chicago) a third-round pick, you let Fields start for a year on a cheap contract. If he leaves as a free agent, he’ll likely sign a contract that pays for his third-round pick. If not, it will be a fourth on the compensatory choice.

β€œSo you get the choice on the other side if you have a starting quarterback for a year, an acceptable starting quarterback in the NFL at a very acceptable market rate.

β€œI don’t understand why some of these desperate quarterback teams aren’t jumping on this,” Nystrom added. β€œIf I was Sean Payton, I would have already tried to complete that transaction. If I were the Giants, I would have offered that instead of signing Drew Lock. And I certainly think the Patriots should look into it.”

Phil Perry and I have opposing views on this strategy so far. He likes the Bengals model. They drafted Joe Burrow No. 1 overall in 2020 and got Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick a year later after a four-win season in Burrow’s rookie year. They already had Tee Higgins (2020 second rounder) and spent a 2019 first rounder with left tackle Jonah Williams.

Passing on a quarterback in a four-deep quarterback draft when you HAVE NO QUARTERBACK is risky. Especially when the guy who goes at number 3 tears it up.

You can almost see Drake throwing Maye to Jefferson indoors in Minny and people wonder how the Patriots could have passed on Maye and called for Eliot Wolf’s head.

But Drake Maye is not Joe Burrow. He’s not that good or that successful. Maye may be outdone in this process by JJ McCarthy, as he was already by Jayden Daniels.

If the Patriots aren’t absolutely certain that the quarterback they want to draft at No. 3 is a do-it-all player with leadership qualities and the ability to make everyone around him better, they should GTFO. They need to get players who can help make the quarterback better. And the fastest way to do that is to attract talent for the position.

Look at the Eagles, Niners, Bucs, Rams and Chiefs. All of these teams played in and/or won the Super Bowl, and each did so with a quarterback who was overlooked, underestimated, discarded or recycled. Jalen Hurts, Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Patrick Mahomes. They were all assigned to a team that was really damn good before they got there. Or, if not good (Bucs), full of potential.

You need your own cultivation. Every success of this franchise has been built on that.

The Patriots of the 1970s were as talented as the Steelers, Cowboys and Raiders. They used first-rounders in 1973 on John Hannah, Sam Cunningham and Darryl Stingley. In 1975, they took Russ Francis in the first round. In 1976 they got Mike Haynes, Pete Brock and Tim Fox in the first round. In 1977, Ray Clayborn, Stanley Morgan, Horace Ivory and Don Hasselbeck were two firsts and two seconds.

How did they come up with all those firsts? By sending quarterback Jim Plunkett, the first overall pick in 1971, to the 49ers for an absolute premium.

It’s the same, but different than the situation they have now at number 3. Plunkett failed because of the situation. So did Mac Jones.

The Patriots of the 1990s revolted after drafting Drew Bledsoe, but Bill Parcells and his staff destroyed it elsewhere as well with Chris Slade, Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Curtis Martin, Ted Johnson, Lawyer Milloy, Terry Glenn and Tedy Bruschi. All of these players were drafted in the first three rounds between 1993 and 1996.

The Pats of the aughts? From 2001 to 2005, they took Richard Seymour, Matt Light, Deion Branch, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Daniel Graham, Ben Watson and Logan Mankins in the first two rounds.

The final chapter of the dynasty? Jerod Mayo, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Chandler Jones and Donta Hightower were taken in the first two rounds between 2008 and 2012. When the success at the top of the drafts dried up, that disappeared too. the dominance.

The safest, fastest, least sexy, and most proven way to go from bottom feeder to shark is to pick high. The more high picks you have in drafts with good players that fit your needs, the better your chances of hitting.

Bottom line: If the franchise savior isn’t there at three, build the church and wait for him to show up.

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