The build up to Thursday night's first round of the 2021 NFL Draft has been full of rumors about teams that could maybe move up to select one of the top five quarterbacks in this year's class.
One of these teams is the New England Patriots.
Who are the potential trade partners for the Patriots in the top 10?
The Carolina Panthers might be one of them. They own the No. 8 pick in Round 1 and could go in several different directions.
Carolina has Teddy Bridgewater atop its quarterback depth chart. He's a solid, but not great long-term option at the position. If the Panthers aren't going to draft a quarterback with this pick, then trading back and acquiring more assets would be a smart move.
Where do the Patriots factor in? Well, according to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, these two teams have already talked about a possible trade involving the No. 8 overall pick.
"As we noted in the Monday morning column, the Patriots have sniffed around on a trade up into the top 10, presumably for a quarterback—and I can say that if Fields is sitting there at No. 8, there are strong ties between New England and Carolina, and some groundwork has been done on what a deal might look like," Breer wrote in his latest 2021 NFL Mock Draft published Tuesday.
Which quarterback could the Patriots be targeting if they land a top 10 pick? NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported Monday that "several teams have been making calls about getting into the top 10 of next week’s NFL Draft — including the Patriots, who could have their eyes on Ohio State QB Justin Fields if he begins to slide."
The Patriots reportedly sent three staffers, including offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, to Fields' second Pro Day earlier this month. Fields enjoyed an excellent 2020 season at Ohio State and led the Buckeyes to the national championship game, where they lost to Alabama.
New England remains one of the most intriguing teams leading up to the first round Thursday night. The Patriots could pursue a bunch of different options, and where they decide to go might depend on which (if any) quarterbacks fall in the top 10.