The Patriots' No. 1 priority as it relates to player personnel should be cultivating a stable longterm future at quarterback. Nobody should feel otherwise.
Yet it's in thinking that where people may fall into an understandable, albeit not necessarily correct line of thinking: That the Patriots need to draft a quarterback this year.
In fact, I'd go as far as to say that unless there's a guy available to them they absolutely love and [every general manager in the history of the world voice] never thought would be there, they shouldn't take a quarterback in the early rounds this year.
The reasons to go for a QB in this draft are clear: Tom Brady is old as hell and this quarterback class is considered strong, with Sports Illustrated putting five signal-callers in its top 30 players this year. Here are the reasons not to go for one.
THEY JUST GAVE UP 41 POINTS IN THE SUPER BOWL
Could have also called this one "They have other needs." New England has 2 of the first 42 picks and 3 of the first 63 this year (Nos. 31, 42 and 63). The Pats certainly need some young talent in the front seven and could stand to look into a replacement for Malcolm Butler. That's without the potential crisis on the offensive line that could arise should Nate Solder retire or cash in elsewhere.
IT MIGHT FORCE THEM TO GIVE UP A LOT (OR REACH)
The Patriots' biggest mistake with Jimmy Garoppolo (other than trading him for an autographed picture of Jimmy Garoppolo) was not taking him in the first round. By taking him in the second round instead of the first, the Pats locked themselves into his rookie contract being four years and not a potential five. Hindsight's 20-20, but if the Pats took Jimmy G at No. 29 in 2014 instead of the since-released Dominique Easley, they might have had another year to figure out a way to make him Brady's successor.
Say Brady's going to play at least another two seasons, which is a safe assumption. If you take the next guy after the first round, you've got to pay him pretty early on in his tenure as starter. That's not a major problem, but it's worth keeping in mind.
If the Patriots want to make sure they have the next guy for a little longer by taking a QB in the first round, they might be forced into two suboptimal situations: Trade up (thus spending assets they might have otherwise used on the team's more immediate needs) or reach for a player at the end of the first. They shouldn't do either.
THERE'S ALWAYS NEXT YEAR (OR EVEN AFTER)
If the team envisions itself trying to bring in a top quarterback prospect, they might execute a trick they used in 2003 and 2007: Trade a first-round pick for a future first in hopes of getting an overall higher selection.
If the Pats trade the 31st pick for a mediocre team's pick next year -- a scenario that might not necessarily present itself, but definitely did with the 49ers back in the day -- they could use their second-round picks for defensive help while positioning themselves to have two first-rounders next season. At the very least, they could package those picks if there's a guy they like in 2019, or maybe they could just take a guy in that first round without having to move up at all.
Putting off drafting the next guy would certainly mean the player would have less time in the team's system. But if we're talking about getting a real top prospect type of player, it's worth keeping in mind that this isn't 1994. Rookie quarterbacks start all the time, and the good ones even have success.
The Patriots aren't aren't as bad at drafting quarterbacks as their reputation might suggest. Of the QBs they've drafted in the first three rounds under Bill Belichick -- Kevin O'Connell, Ryan Mallett, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett -- only the O'Connell was inexcusable. Mallett was a risk they could afford to take, Garoppolo was a stud and Brissett might prove to be better than they even believed.
So do the Patriots need to find their quarterback of the future? Of course. They just don't need to do it this offseason.