It sounds as though the Patriots identified a player they believed could be "The Next Guy." It was Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Their only problem? They probably would've had to give away a haul of 2018 picks stacked on a fistful of future picks to make it happen.
Andrew Brandt, a contributor to the Athletic and TheMMQB.com, hosted Mayfield's agent Jack Mills on a podcast that was released Tuesday. Mills said that the Patriots were thinking about going all the way from No. 23 to No. 2 in order to draft the former Oklahoma quarterback.
"We knew [the New York Jets at No. 3] was the bottom line," Mills said. “We had another team, which is going to surprise you, another team had said, ‘You may get a big surprise on draft day at No. 2 if he’s available.' It was the Patriots.
TOM E. CURRAN
"They had [No.] 23, and they had [No.] 31, and they had two seconds, and I don’t know. We thought, boy, that’s going to be a heck of a move to get up that high from where they are. And of course, he wasn’t available, so we never knew if that was a reality or not."
Judging by the old Jimmy Johnson trade chart, the Patriots would've had to be willing to part with a mess of draft choices in order to come up with a fair deal with the Giants for No. 2 overall.
If you go by the draft pick trade chart, here's what the Patriots would've had to give up to get near the value of No. 2 overall (2,600)...— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) May 1, 2018
* Both 2018 first-rounders and both 2018 second-rounders (2,106)
* A future low second-rounder, two future third-round comp picks (~500)
Of course, maybe the Giants were interested in a package that included a combination of picks and a player (or multiple players) that would've allowed the Patriots to move up. But the bottom line is that a deal like that would've required a willingness from Belichick to give up serious value.
Had the Browns passed on Mayfield at No. 1, and had the Patriots found a way to get to No. 2, he would've broken the mold relative to what the Patriots have drafted in the past. At a shade under 6-foot-1, he would've been the shortest quarterback taken by the Patriots since Bill Belichick took over the war room in 2000, and he would've likely signalled a change in offensive scheme for whenever Tom Brady moved on.
Mayfield is almost two full inches shorter than Jimmy Garoppolo, who projected as a pocket passer with enough mobility to get away from pressure and extend plays. Mayfield, at his height, several evaluators believe, could have trouble having consistent success from the pocket where quarterbacks are often expected to scan the field and make across-the-field progressions to find their best option.
Mayfield's playing style as a pro remains to be seen. Will he work from the pocket? Or will he rely on bootlegs, roll-outs, and other types of plays designed to create throwing windows for a shorter quarterback? Whatever Mayfield did in the Big 12, he made it work. He put together what was arguably one of the best careers in the history of college football. He was arguably the most accurate quarterback in this year's draft class. But relative to the defenses he faced at Oklahoma, the jump to the NFL will be a massive one for him.
Still, if the Patriots were willing to trade up to No. 2 to get Mayfield, it's clear they would've been open to doing whatever they needed in order for him to find success -- including shifting gears from an offense that has worked so well for them during Brady's career.
The biggest takeaway from Mills' comments, though, isn't that the Patriots would've been willing to change their offense for their next quarterback. It's that the Patriots were willing to part with significant capital to find Brady's successor, even after the 40-year-old took home last season's MVP.
When the Patriots waited until the seventh round last weekend to take LSU quarterback Danny Etling, it looked like they were content with snagging a training camp arm who was a longshot to make the 53-man roster. But their interest in Mayfield, and their willingness to jump 29 spots to get him, is an indication that they were very seriously in the market for "The Next Guy." Mayfield was simply the only one they believed in strongly enough to climb the board for. The Patriots passed on Lamar Jackson twice in the first round, and they apparently did not make a move to sneak up to grab Josh Allen or Josh Rosen. (The Jets picked Sam Darnold at No. 3 and weren't trading with their division rivals.)
The fact that they were open to giving up everything they would've had to give up to get to No. 2 shows just how much they're willing to pay to make sure that position is capably manned. With a first-rounder, two seconds and three thirds (including projected compensatory picks) in next year's draft, the Patriots will have plenty of capital to try to climb the board next year . . . if there's someone there they think is worth the cost.