The Patriots are prepared to move up in the NFL Draft and select Justin Fields, depending on whom you ask.
Most notably, longtime Bill Belichick confidante Mike Lombardi said last week he doesn’t think the Patriots are high enough on Fields or Trey Lance to justify trading up for one of the two prized pass-throwers. Given Lombardi’s relationship with Belichick (he worked under Belichick in Cleveland and New England), his insight can be interpreted in one of two ways: he’s either providing a rare glimpse into Belichick’s mind, or throwing up the ultimate smokescreen.
It’s become popular to theorize about the Patriots targeting a quarterback in the first round. NFL Media’s Peter Schrager predicts New England will grab Fields at No. 4 overall in his latest mock draft, and over the weekend, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora said he could envision the Patriots selecting the Ohio State standout.
“If Fields gets outside of the top six or seven, I think they’ll pounce,” said La Canfora in a radio interview. “I can see them being really infatuated with him. If market forces and narratives and things align and he becomes the one who falls, then I think they’ll move up to catch his fall.”
For what it’s worth, Patriots owner Robert Kraft extolled Jarrett Stidham in his conference call with reporters April 1. "I think he’s a great young man and I know he’s eager to compete for an opportunity to play," Kraft said.
But then again, is Kraft providing his genuine assessment, or strategically pumping up the young quarterback who’s already on his roster? Belichick was obviously not enamored with Stidham last year, considering he sat behind Cam Newton all season long (Brian Hoyer subbed for Newton when he missed the game against Kansas City due to COVID-19).
So far, the Patriots’ actions indicate they’re keeping tabs on a couple of the quarterbacks who could fall outside of the top five, including Fields. They’re going to watch Fields’ second pro day Wednesday, reports Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. Josh McDaniels will reportedly lead New England’s continent.
Last month, Belichick and McDaniels attended Alabama’s Pro Day to watch Mac Jones.
It would be uncharacteristic for the Patriots to surrender multiple first round picks for any player, as Peter King points out in his “Football Morning in America” column. But it was also uncharacteristic for them to shower free agents with $160 million in guaranteed money.
The Patriots are acting boldly this offseason. Landing Fields would be another loud statement.