It's a great year to be looking for a potential franchise quarterback in the NFL Draft.
The 2021 quarterback class is loaded with players who have extraordinary abilities and versatile skill sets.
While there could be others, the consensus is that five quarterbacks are sure bets to be taken in the first round. They are Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, BYU's Zach Wilson, Ohio State's Justin Fields, North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Alabama's Mac Jones. Florida's Kyle Trask and Texas A&M's Kellen Mond are intriguing Day 2 options.
The Patriots are a popular team in debates and analysis over the quarterbacks in this draft class. New England needs a franchise QB for the post-Tom Brady era, and it doesn't appear they have one already on the roster in Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham.
What does Patriots head coach Bill Belichick think of the 2021 quarterback class?
"As always, there are some interesting players," Belichick said during a video press conference Thursday. "I think we talked earlier about the draft process, some players didn't play, some played a full season, some players played partial seasons. When you look at the players at that position, I think you see a lot of differences in the 2020 season.
"A lot of it is by conference, but there are some other circumstances as well. It's an interesting class and group of guys. Some are very strong in some skills, and some seem very strong in other skills. It's definitely an interesting group."
Belichick's comments about players not playing a full season is noteworthy.
Lance and North Dakota State played only one game in 2020 as most of the program's season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the major conferences basically played a full schedule, including the SEC (where Jones and Alabama played). Others, including the Big 10 (where Fields and Ohio State played), had a much shorter schedule.
It's not easy to evaluate players based on such a unique season, which might make their 2019 film more valuable than it would have been without the pandemic.
The Patriots won't pick in the first round until No. 15. By that time, all five of the quarterbacks projected to be taken in Round 1 could be off the board. New England might have to trade up to select one of these players.
The cost to move up likely would be substantial -- just look at what the 49ers paid to move from No. 12 to No. 3 -- but if the Patriots identify one or more of these quarterbacks as the real deal, then making that kind of trade would be worth the risk.