The quarterback controversy will continue in New England as the Patriots hosted a Top-30 visit with a likely first-round candidate in quarterback Will Levis out of Kentucky on Wednesday.
Levis is projected to be a Top-10 draft choice; some even suggest Top-5, so by the time the Patriots are on the clock with the 14th overall pick, it’s likely that Levis will already be off the board.
A Top-30 visit allows the team to have a one-on-one interview and workout with a draft prospect in a more intimate and private setting than the Draft Combine can offer.
Inviting Levis for a visit only adds to the speculation that the Patriots want to move on from Mac Jones after spending a majority of the offseason trying to put out that said fire.
Patriots Director of Player Personnel Matt Groh said this week that the visit was nothing more than doing their own due diligence to evaluate every position, including quarterback.
"“We evaluate every position. Quarterback is certainly a very important position, if not the most important position. We went through it last year. We had obviously drafted a guy the year before, drafted a guy last year. That’s just part of the competitive atmosphere that we have around here. Guys are going to thrive and come in here and compete if that’s in their nature.”"
It’s important to note that the Patriots waited until the last day possible to bring in Levis for a Top-30 visit, which only opens the door for speculation that the Patriots are possibly interested in drafting a quarterback for the second consecutive year after drafting Mac Jones 2021.
The offseason was already poised for a position battle between Jones and Bailey Zappe. However, Groh suggests they’ll bring in another quarterback to add competitive pressure to Jones and Zappe to compete for the starting role.
After hearing Bill O’Brien speak to the media for the first time since being hired as offensive coordinator, the feeling was the quarterback position was going to be between Jones and Zappe. But after Groh’s comments, it only adds to the speculations floating around Foxborough.
This visit opens the window to drafting a quarterback in the first round if certain players start to drop in the draft and suddenly become available at 14th overall, like Levis, Anthony Richardson, or Hendon Hooker.
I’d say the visit could’ve been a smokescreen to get another team to move on Levis. This bluff by the Patriots only works if another team trades up to draft him, a team already slotted behind New England.
However, Groh’s comments contradict my theory.
Perhaps O’Brien’s “clean slate” involves having a new quarterback in the room. Although he hasn’t yet worked with Jones or Zappe, maybe he’s seen enough on film to know what he has in those two guys.
That said, if any of the elite quarterbacks in this year’s draft – Levis, Richardson, Hooker – become available at 14, it’s hard to see the Patriots turn their heads away from drafting a franchise-altering player.
We saw Bill Belichick make a mistake with Lamar Jackson in 2018 by not drafting him with two opportunities in the first round that year, instead taking Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel. So it’s fair to say Belichick isn’t going to want to miss again.
The Patriots will be on the clock with the 14th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on Thursday, Apr. 27!