The New England Patriots could have as many as 10 picks in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, so they have some assets to use if they want to trade up in the first round.
The Patriots own the No. 15 pick in this draft -- the highest first-round selection they've had since 2008. The problem is the Patriots need a quarterback, and the five best players at the position could be gone by the time New England is on the clock at No. 15.
Should the Patriots trade up for one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 class? In ESPN expert Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest 2021 NFL Mock Draft published Thursday, he has the Patriots moving up to No. 9 in the first round and selecting North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. The Denver Broncos currently own the No. 9 pick.
Here is Kiper's explanation for the Pats moving up for Lance:
"Belichick and the Patriots have been quiet this offseason, but that should change soon. They have money to spend in free agency, and they need to find a quarterback. It doesn't appear likely that Cam Newton will return. The veteran QB trade market has dwindled. I could see a Jimmy Garoppolo return to New England, but I'm not sold that he'd be the long-term answer. Lance could be. He started only 17 career games in college -- all against FCS competition -- but he's only 20, and he has all the tools to be a great dual-threat quarterback. Remember that the Patriots have a few players returning after opting out of last season, too, so they could contend in the AFC East again."
Lance has exciting talent and great size at 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds, but as Kiper noted, he played in the FCS and doesn't have much college experience. Drafting him would be a huge risk anywhere in the top half of the first round.
North Dakota State played just one game this past season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lance threw for 2,786 yards with 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions in 16 games during the 2019 season. It was his only full season at NDSU.
If the Patriots draft Lance, they should also sign a veteran quarterback to mentor him and potentially start the season. Thrusting Lance into the starter role Week 1 given his limited college experience would be a lot to ask of him right off the bat.