The New England Patriots need a quarterback of the future, but will they be able to find one with the No. 15 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft?
There are five quarterbacks expected to be taken in the first round -- Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, BYU's Zach Wilson, Ohio State's Justin Fields, North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Alabama's Mac Jones.
Unless one of these quarterbacks who the Patriots like enough to draft slips falls further than expected, the chances of New England being able to select one at No. 15 are likely small.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr., in his recent mailbag story with colleague Todd McShay, ranked the teams "most likely" to trade up in the first round for a QB if one of these players slips.
The Patriots were atop Kiper's list. Here's his explanation:
"The Patriots don't usually have a pick as high as No. 15. Can Bill Belichick & Co. really afford to wait for a franchise quarterback? The 2022 class is not nearly as good as this one."
Kiper listed the Denver Broncos at No. 2, the Washington Football team at No. 3 and the Chicago Bears at No. 4 on his rankings.
It's not surprising that Kiper put the Patriots in the No. 1 spot. In his latest 2021 NFL Mock Draft released earlier this week, he projected the Patriots trading with the Dallas Cowboys to move up to No. 10 and select Fields. He's one of several experts over the last few weeks to project the Patriots moving up for the Buckeyes quarterback.
The Patriots were well-represented at Fields' second Pro Day in Columbus on Wednesday. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was among the Patriots attendees. New England also attended Alabama's Pro Day, where Jones threw passes with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick present.
It's also entirely possible the Patriots might not take a QB in the first round. They have several other roster needs to address, and if a top-tier defensive prospect is on the board at No. 15, it might make the most sense to take that player.
But if one of these quarterbacks does fall in Round 1, all eyes will be on the Patriots to see if they move up.