Patriots

Perry's Mailbag: Could Patriots trade down from 15th pick?

Patriots

What are the chances Bill Belichick trades down from the No. 15 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft? Which Patriots players could fetch a second or third-round pick in a deal? These are just a couple of topics we'll be tackling in this week's loaded Patriots Mailbag. Our Phil Perry answers all of your interesting Pats questions below.

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Let's kick off this week's Bag with a little shot of energy for everyone as they head into their weekend! Not only is trading down an option, but this could end up being the Year of the Trade Down! Has to get you GOING just to read that, right?!?

No? OK, removing tongue from cheek, let's consider the circumstances surrounding this year's draft and why trading down may be an option for the Patriots and others -- whether it's in the first, second or third round.

Here's what we know: We know it's been an odd year for scouts; access to schools have been limited; seasons have been canceled; the NFL Scouting Combine is on hiatus; in-person interactions clubs are able to have with players are limited to pro days and all-star games. Put simply, there's less information available to teams on many of these prospects than ever before.

That could mean teams feel as though picks this year are bigger gambles than ever before. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah suggested teams may rather trade out of this year's draft in some capacity and into next year's draft when the process is back to normal (hopefully). But teams may see a market inefficiency in 2021, understanding that with less information out there on prospects, there's a greater chance real talent slips through the cracks and ends up going later than their skill sets would suggest.

 
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Will there be a rush to get out of the first round and into the second and third? Not necessarily. The lack of information on this year's class of prospects means that the "sure things" near the top of the class could be more valuable than ever. And for a team like the Patriots, hitting on a cornerstone piece at No. 15 -- if they feel one is there -- could have more value than trading down and hoping to get an extra piece or two who end up being serviceable cogs in the machine.

But once the draft gets into its second and third tier of talent, the smart teams may be the ones who try to multiply their picks and give themselves more darts to chuck at the board, hoping for a bullseye. When teams are, to a degree, firing blind in the middle of a pandemic . . . the more darts the better.

Is 6-foot-2, 380 pounds big enough for you, Adam? LSU's nose tackle Tyler Shelvin is a house -- a member of the "don't grow on trees" club to which Bill Belichick often refers. Same goes for Florida's Tedarrell Slaton. At 6-foot-5 and about 360 pounds, he'd be a true nose tackle.

Lot of interior defensive line interest in the bag this week. I see your questions! I do! Trying to cover them all here. There are other inside guys, like USC's Marlon Tuipulotu and NC State's Alim McNeill, who are built more like 3-4 ends. But Shelvin and Slaton might be your favorites if you want a traditional middle-of-the-line space-eater. Neither is a top-of-the-draft type so you could wait to pull the trigger to get that kind of mass. Christian Barmore is probably the most talented of all the defensive tackles in the draft when it comes to getting after quarterbacks. He has the traits to learn to two-gap effectively, we just haven't seen much of that from him.

I think Stephon Gilmore is worth a second-round pick. J.C. Jackson is likely going to be hit with a first-round tender, which isn't trade value . . . but if he ends up elsewhere, the Patriots are in all likelihood getting a first-rounder back. Kyle Dugger and Mike Onwenu would get great returns right now, but why would you do that when they're two of your best young players? There just aren't many obvious trade candidates who'd pull in a massive return right now. 

If any of the top-four quarterbacks in the class fall out of the top-10, I could see it. Belichick understands the value of good young quarterbacks. More on that here. I also feel as though Jaylen Waddle would be worth that kind of move. Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye could be on that list. I'm not sure Micah Parsons would be. I think Parsons would be a very good fit for the Patriots in a Jamie Collins-style role as a linebacker who can do a little of everything. I just don't think he's Dont'a Hightower or Jerod Mayo.

 

My understanding is if Parson is in the middle of an NFL defense, instinctive as he looks at times, he'll need a hand being steered in the right direction. Maybe pairing him with Hightower, if Hightower is back, is a perfect developmental scenario for Parsons. Just not sure that skill set warrants a move up for Belichick from No. 15.

I think Davis Mills is an interesting player. Doesn't have a huge backlog of experience at Stanford, but he's sort of the old-school prototype. I like the idea of trying to get something out of Kellen Mond's tools. One Day 3 player worth keeping an eye out for? Brady Davis of Illinois State. Arm talent there. 

Realistic positions at No. 15? Tackle. Edge. Tight end if Kyle Pitts somehow gets there. Defensive tackle if Christian Barmore is there. Quarterback if Mac Jones is there.

I think I'm taking Darrisaw. But it's close between him and Surtain. I think both could be pretty special. But I like the hit rate for tackles up high. And I like the idea of building up on the offensive side. 

I like how you think, Tyler. If Stephon Gilmore isn't in Foxboro next season, he'd be a nice chip in helping the Patriots get where they need to go to get their quarterback of the future -- whether he's actually involved in the deal or just a means of replenishing valuable draft capital.

That pick could be hot if there are teams in love with Mac Jones. I imagine there will be teams from the middle of the draft on down -- Patriots, Football Team, Bears, Colts, Steelers, Saints -- still looking for a young arm come draft weekend. With the top-four guys expected to be off early, trading down with a team that wants Jones could provide some value. The Patriots, of course, would have to be OK with passing on Jones themselves. And if you're interested in more on Zaven Collins, you're going to want to listen to next week's Next Pats...

Glad you asked, Paul. This guy. Honorable mention to wide receiver Cade Johnson of South Dakota State.

This is next-level stuff, Patrick! Not sure the Jaguars would be interested. They need a bunch of picks as they rebuild. The value there also doesn't quite match up. If Gilmore is worth a second (No. 45 for the Jags), then that'd mean the Patriots would be getting No. 25 and No. 33 back for No. 15. In terms of the point values of those picks on Rich Hill's trade chart, Jacksonville would lose by a pretty significant margin.

 

Surtain. Corner is just a more valuable position in today's NFL.

If they get Mariota, I think they might be inclined to wait. Mariota might cost them a third-round pick. If they want him AND they want to trade up for a top-flight quarterback in this draft, then you're talking about their first three picks in the draft being spent on two quarterbacks. If the Patriots are happier to pay a cheap free-agent quarterback -- Ryan Fitzpatrick? -- then my opinion would be that a real investment at quarterback up high in the draft would be more in play.

Think it's possible. There's some off-the-field stuff there that may cause teams to back off. Plus, the off-ball linebacker position isn't as highly valued as it once was. In the last six years, the only true off-ball linebackers taken in the top-10 were Devin Bush and Roquan Smith. Parsons could fall a bit and it wouldn't shock me.

I'd trade up for one of the top-four quarterbacks. Hard to plan on that, though. The top four picks in the draft might be quarterbacks. Can the Patriots get that high? It's the type of thing we may not know is even realistic until the night of the draft.

Demetric Felton worked out so much at receiver at the Senior Bowl, seems like that's how NFL teams view him. Gotta be able to hold up as a blocker and provide a running threat to be a sub back for the Patriots. Doesn't mean he can't do it. I love his skill set. And the blocking stuff may be easy for him. Chip Kelly would certainly be able to tell Belichick what his former player is capable of.

Sorry, Matt.

My goodness. That'd be kind of a dream scenario. I'm sure they would not rule anything out. Have to be flexible on draft night.

I think there are teams who look at him and say we can't take those traits in the first round. Not in 2021. But there will also be quarterback-desperate teams at the back end of the first. I still think he ends up going somewhere in the first 32 picks.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a similar thought, Tia. We'll see!

I don't think I'll have them taking a linebacker at No. 15 in any of my mocks. But I also wouldn't pigeonhole them into taking offense at No. 15. They have so many needs, they could go a number of routes. 

OK. Ahem. General manager hat is . . . on. Here we go. I'd trade a third for Mariota, trade Gilmore for a second, then use a second to move up and draft one of the top-four quarterbacks in the draft. If possible. If all four quarterbacks are gone so early that they're out of reach? I'm using No. 15 on the best player available (Jaylen Waddle, Paye, Surtain, Darrisaw, Pitts?) and sitting and picking with my two seconds. Then the team would be rolling with Mariota as its guy for 2021 and would try to run an Alex Smith-with-the-Chiefs style build of the roster. Hit on as much young talent as possible over several years. Be a competitive team. Then when the right guy becomes available in the draft -- as Patrick Mahomes did for the Chiefs -- sell out to trade up and get him.

 

Option A. But it's hard to know if trading up for a quarterback is even possible. Lots of teams out there want quarterbacks. That's what makes this complicated.

We'll have plenty of that as we tear through the next few weeks, Gary! Mac Jones at quarterback. Zaven Collins at linebacker. Jaylen Waddle at receiver. Kwity Paye on the edge. Just a few there who'll make our Prototypical Patriots list.

I have not yet dug into the kickers. Damn, VP. Just realizing that eventually I might have to dig into the kickers? 

Here's the thing, Matt. Not sure I can do that. But I would say this: If both those players hit, one will clearly make a vastly more significant impact on his team's chances of winning and losing games. (It's the quarterback.) But that's assuming they both hit. I think everyone would acknowledge which of the two has a better chance of hitting. (It's the tight end.)

Depends on who else is available. I wouldn't rule it out. If he becomes Kirk Cousins or Derek Carr, not out of the realm of possibility, then having that type of player on a rookie contract is a huge advantage when it comes to roster-building.

I think Pitts could go very high. So I'd say landing the pride of Merrimac, Mass. if more likely. 

I'd go Mond there, Greg, though Newman has plenty of physical traits that are intriguing. There's just so little information on him, not sure they'd be willing to take him before Day 3. That's just a guess from me.

Because he's really, really fast.

Hard for me to envision, Jay. Losing a first-round pick and then paying a quarterback in a year when the cap is cratering, in an offseason when there are so many holes to address . . . Just doesn't add up for me. More on that here.

I think Surtain or Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech would both work. South Carolina's Jaycee Horn will also be a good fit in a man-to-man scheme, but you might be able to land him a little later in the first if you really wanted him.

This is all conjecture because obviously we won't KNOW who's available at No. 15 until we get to draft weekend. But my guess would be that the most loaded position group left at No. 15 will be the offensive line. It's a deep group of tackles and there should be a couple of very good ones available there. After that, I'd say there's a chance the edge group looks really strong if somehow both Michigan's Kwity Paye and Miami's Greg Rousseau are still there. Miami's Jaelan Phillips is another who has all kinds of talent who'll be there, though he may end up a later first or second-round guy. I'd put receiver and corner in the next tier as the top two or three at those positions will likely be gone, but there still will be some intriguing talent there available. I'd put quarterback, linebacker and defensive tackle next since there's a chance Jones, Collins and Barmore are there. I'd put tight end, safety and running back in the final tier since I'm not sure there will be any worthy of No. 15 when No. 15 comes up on the clock. 

 

So to recap: Offensive line, edge, receiver / corner, quarterback / linebacker / defensive tackle, tight end / safety / running back.

Don't think they're looking to pull back on those guys, Sal. I could see the return of Patrick Chung and a healthy Adrian Phillips making it hard at times for Kyle Dugger to be a full-time player, but for the most part I think the Patriots want to see those guys' roles grow. In Josh Uche's case, I don't think Dont'a Hightower's return would inhibit his growth at all. They need all the talent they can get in the front seven.

I think teams need to value backup linemen more. But it's hard to pay everybody. Gotta cut back somewhere. That's where a lot of teams cut back.

Shelvin is a massive body. A Butler replacement would be more a penetrating lineman, in my opinion. Someone like Levi Onwuzurike from Washington or Osa Odighizuwa from UCLA. Butler's body type isn't exactly like theirs. He's longer. But they would fit similar roles.

As much as he loves his defensive studs, I believe Belichick would go with the quarterback in that scenario. He talked about just what an advantage it is to have a good quarterback on a rookie contract late last season. Check out that quote (and much more on quarterback spending!) here. 

Thanks for all the questions, friends! Keep an eye out for Next Pats on Wednesday. If you like the idea of a new off-the-ball linebacker in town . . . you'll like the episode we have planned. Promise.