Patriots: This trade up with Atlanta for fourth overall pick could work

The New England Patriots might be trying to find a potential franchise quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft, but it will be hard to snag one of the many talented prospects expected to go in the first round if they stay put at No. 15.

Trevor Lawrence has been the No. 1 pick all season long, and nothing has changed whatsoever now that draft pundits and wily GMs have altered the conversation leading up to the big day.

However, Monday’s Sam Darnold trade confirmed that the New York Jets will follow the Jacksonville Jaguars’ lead and also take a quarterback (likely BYU’s Zach Wilson), and the San Francisco 49ers are likely going to try and find Jimmy Garoppolo’s replacement with the No. 3 pick.

With Lawrence and Wilson locks to be taken No. 1 and 2, respectively, and one of either Justin Fields, Mac Jones, or Trey Lance is off the board at No. 3, the Patriots might need to trade up with a team like the Atlanta Falcons if they want a quarterback.

Atlanta has their quarterback of the present in Matt Ryan, and that could prompt Arthur Smith and the Falcons to trade down in the draft.

If the No. 4 pick is indeed up for sale, the Patriots might need to pull this trade off in order to get their guy.

This trade gets the New England Patriots the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Patriots Get
2021 First Round Pick (No. 4)
Falcons Get
2021 First Round Pick (No. 15)
2022 First Round Pick
2022 Third Round Pick

Atlanta could be the most likely team to trade down. First, there is reportedly a disconnect between Smith and GM Terry Fontenot related to how much Ryan has left in the tank. Even though Ryan is under contract for the next few years, Fontenot wants to draft a quarterback at No. 4, per Chris Mortensen. Smith, meanwhile, thinks Ryan has two or more years left.

Second, Atlanta has one of the better offenses in the NFC, but they lack defensive depth. Most of the best players in this draft play on the offensive side of the ball. Trading down could get the Falcons more draft capital without reaching for a defensive star.

New England, a team that chose to address its depth concerns by spending a ton of money in free agency, just needs that one catalyst to take over once Cam Newton leaves town. Even with Carolina out of the quarterback market, don’t be surprised if a team like the Denver Broncos tries to take a signal-caller ahead of New England.

The Patriots do not sport a bad roster, but Newton’s age makes it a priority to find their starter for the next decade. If New England believes that Fields, Jones, or Lance is the guy, they might need to trade up to make this happen.