The chess match officially has begun.
The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft is Thursday and the New England Patriots could be in the market for a quarterback. Whether they trade up from No. 15 overall to land that QB may depend on which QBs are still on the board -- and we now have a better idea of who might be around.
The San Francisco 49ers are focused on selecting either Alabama quarterback Mac Jones or North Dakota State signal-caller Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday night.
What does this mean for the Patriots? Assuming Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson go No. 1 and No. 2, as expected, that means either of Lance or Jones and Ohio State QB Justin Fields will be available after No. 3.
The Atlanta Falcons reportedly are listening to trade offers for the No. 4 pick, so a QB-needy team could trade up to that slot to draft Lance/Jones or Fields.
But if trading up to No. 4 is too rich for New England's blood, the next team with a serious need at QB is the Denver Broncos at No. 9. (The Carolina Panthers could go QB at No. 8, but that seems less likely after they traded for Sam Darnold).
So, at least one of Fields, Lance and Jones could be available at No. 9 if the Patriots want to trade up a few spots to draft their QB of the future. And if the Falcons keep the No. 4 pick and draft a non-QB, then it's possible one of the five best QBs in the draft is still on the board at No. 15.
The Patriots attended the pro days of Fields, Lance and Jones and have shown interest in all three QB prospects. The Pats were among a small number of teams at Fields' second pro day on April 14, so the dynamic Buckeyes QB could be an enticing option if he's still hanging around past the first four picks.
To that point, The MMQB's Albert Breer reported Monday that New England has "at least touched base" with teams in the top 10 and noted that clubs are wondering if Bill Belichick will "get aggressive" if Fields is still available at No. 7 or No. 8.