New England Patriots: Trade up or Trade Down in First Round?

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
New England Patriots /


With the report from NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport that the New England Patriots hosted and were impressed with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson two weeks ago, it was more ammunition that the Patriots would be a player for one of the top-five quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Heisman Trophy winner is unlikely to be on the board at number 23 overall with the expected feeding frenzy for the top four quarterbacks. There is a possibility that Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen could all be gone by the time the Indianapolis Colts are on the clock at pick number six. With a potential trade-down by Cleveland at number four overall, it is possible all four could be gone in the first four picks.

The two biggest question marks in the top picks are the New York Giants at number two overall and the Cleveland Browns with their fourth overall pick. The Giants would be insane to pass up Sam Darnold at second overall if the Browns are too stupid to draft the clear top quarterback prospect with the first pick and fall for the big arm of Josh Allen.

Darnold has the size, athleticism, mechanics, accuracy, poise, instincts and intangibles to be a franchise quarterback. Yes, he had some turnover issues at USC (fumbles more than interceptions) but as a rhythm passer with mobility and anticipation that cannot be taught. Allen has great size, a big arm, and a quick release, but his accuracy issues, decision-making and struggles with short-to-intermediate “touch” or “finesse” throws are a huge red flag.

It should go Darnold number one overall and the Giants should grab a quarterback to replace the clearly declining Eli Manning and not worry about placating a quarterback with a career completion percentage under 60%. His career quarterback rating is 83.5. Unlike Tom Brady, Eli Manning is not having a late career renaissance. In fact, last season despite having better weapons on offense, he was clearly outplayed by New York Jets journeyman quarterback Josh McCown.

McCown completed 67% of his passes for 18 touchdowns and only nine interceptions in 13 games for a 94.5 quarterback rating (all statistics per unless otherwise noted). Manning continued to turn the ball over too much, his yards per attempt and yards per completion have both declined for three consecutive seasons (and six of the last seven years), and has only three seasons with 30 or more touchdown passes. He finished with a 61% completion rate and 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 15 games and an 80.4 quarterback rating.

The Giants should draft Josh Rosen, who is probably the second-best quarterback in the draft. No one could blame them for going for the higher upside-potential of Allen or Baker Mayfield, but Rosen is a sure-bet very good NFL quarterback (if he can get stronger in the lower body and stop scrambling around too much).

At three, the Jets are going to take a quarterback, no matter what. They desperately need a signal caller and are hoping that Allen or Darnold fall to them. They should trade up a spot to second overall if the Browns pass on Darnold. The Jets have been linked to the dynamic Mayfield at number three for weeks. Mayfield would actually be a great fit with the Jets as new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates runs a modified West Coast offense he could modify like Andy Reid did for Alex Smith and will modify further for Patrick Mahomes in 2017.

With the Browns at four fielding trade offers for whatever quarterback remains, if they stick with their pick then there are still the Dolphins, Bills, Cardinals, Ravens, Chargers, and Bengals who should be drafting a quarterback picking ahead of the Patriots. The Bills may try to trade up to two, four, five or six to get a shot at one of the big four, especially since they have two first round draft picks this year as ammunition and a clear need at quarterback.

If any of the top four quarterbacks remain at five, Denver may take one–although they still have 2016 first round draft pick Paxton Lynch wasting away behind Case Keenum for the next two years. Indianapolis at number six through Oakland at number ten (Tampa Bay, Chicago and San Francisco) have all invested heavily with a recent high draft pick or locking up a young quarterback to a top-of-the-market deal and will not be looking to draft a quarterback. Of course, any of those teams could trade down for more picks with a quarterback needy team.