Patriots: Best-case scenario for New England’s first-round pick

The New England Patriots have papered over plenty of their cracks this offseason by virtue of a free agency spending spree, but Bill Belichick still needs to figure out what he’s going to do with the 15th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Given the need for a franchise quarterback and a true No. 1 receiver, Alabama’s Mac Jones or Jaylen Waddle would be a dream scenario for this team.

However, the path to landing both of them just became more complicated.

The San Francisco 49ers just make it even more unlikely that Jones will slip down to 15 thanks to a trade with the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles.

San Francisco moved up from the 12th pick in the draft to selection No. 3, with Miami taking No. 6 and Philadelphia taking No. 12. With wide receiver high on both Miami and Philly’s priority list, the possibility of Waddle slipping fell just as sharply as Jones‘ chances.

Simply put, if the Patriots want one of these two without going against their brand and trading up for one of them, they are going to need a ton of luck.

Will the Patriots get Mac Jones or Jaylen Waddle?

Given the trade up, the top three picks in the draft, which belong to the Jaguars, Jets, and 49ers, are likely to be used on quarterbacks. The Carolina Panthers, who pick eighth, are also likely to draft their QB of the future. If any other team changes course and either trades up over New England or picks a quarterback, the Pats will miss out on Jones.

Furthermore, Waddle, who faces an uncertain draft process due to the injuries he sustained at Alabama, could be nabbed by Miami at six or Philadelphia at 12. Teams like the Giants, Chargers, and Bengals could also draft a wideout, making it tough for New England to land their preferred choice.

The Pats might need to trade up slightly to get their guy, but that shouldn’t be an issue at all given how the team has hoarded draft picks and picked up a few compensatory picks along the way. Moving up into the higher teens might be the best case, as it would allow New England to assuredly get “their guy” in the draft.

As they navigate the post-Brady era, exceptional drafting should be the way Belichick rehabs this roster. While Cam Newton and Nelson Agholor might be acceptable No. 1 options at their positions for 2021, that might not be the case next year, and the Pats should be proactive in trying to get Jones or Waddle.