The New England Patriots didn't need to trade up for a top-tier quarterback in the first round of this year's NFL Draft. By standing pat, one of them just happened to fall into their lap.
On Thursday night in Cleveland, New England spent the No. 15 overall pick on Alabama's Mac Jones who, somewhat unexpectedly, fell outside of the top-10 as the fourth quarterback selected. It was the first time the Patriots drafted a quarterback in the first round since 1993 (Drew Bledsoe, No. 1 overall), and also the first time head coach Bill Belichick used a first-round selection on a quarterback in his 21-year tenure with the franchise.
But was Belichick given carte blanche in this draft? Did he have full control over the Patriots' first-round draft plan?
Ben Volin, who covers the NFL for The Boston Globe, joined The DA Show on Monday to discuss New England's selection of Jones this past weekend, and whether Belichick was obligated to draft a potential quarterback of the future.
"Just my hunch is, Belichick and [Patriots owner Robert] Kraft agreed like, 'Fine, if a quarterback is there at No. 15, I will take a quarterback.' I do think ownership wanted a quarterback," Volin said. "Ownership did not go comfortably into free agency and spending a record-amount guaranteed -- $175 million, fully guaranteed -- on about 25 players. And Robert Kraft made a great comment to [NFL columnist] Peter King. He said, 'We usually make fun of the teams that do this.' And Kraft does not love writing all those big checks... But Belichick wanted to do it, and Kraft agreed to do it, and so I think, kind of a little quid pro quo. Belichick was like, 'I'm not going to be trading up and making crazy moves, but if a quarterback comes to us and if it's Mac Jones, we'll make the pick.'
"So, just my opinion, I do think that ownership was kind of involved in that decision... I don't think he was going to trade up... But, Mac Jones fell to them, he's a safe pick, he's got the [Alabama head coach] Nick Saban seal of approval. They also have Cam Newton, so Cam could start initially if Mac isn't ready to go. So yeah, I just think it made a lot of sense for Belichick to have that kind of quiet, quid pro quo with ownership about getting a quarterback there."
Jones, who led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in January, was ranked the fifth-best quarterback and No. 14 overall prospect on Pro Football Focus' NFL Draft Big Board. In 13 games last season, the 6-foot-3, 214-pound junior threw for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns, just four interceptions, and a completion percentage of 77.4 (NCAA record).
Prior to the first round, the general consensus was that the San Francisco 49ers had their sights set on Jones with the No. 3 overall pick. But, the constant chatter surrounding Jones turned out to be an elaborate smokescreen, as the franchise drafted North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance instead.
So, what does this mean for the future of 49ers incumbent quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo? According to head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, the team currently has no intentions of moving the 29-year-old, and he remains their starter for now.
"I do think [the Patriots drafting Jones] closes the door on [the team trading for Garoppolo] for now, for sure," Volin said. "And again, I'm not entirely convinced that the Niners really want to trade Jimmy Garoppolo. I tend to believe them when they say that they want to keep Jimmy and Trey Lance for this year. Now, we'll see if it works. That's a tough thing to make work in your locker room. Jimmy's a popular guy, he's making the most [money] on the team, and everyone knows he's kind of the dead man walking at quarterback. Everyone knows Trey Lance is the guy...
"If the Patriots are trying to trade for Jimmy [sometime this year or next], either Mac Jones stunk or something happened with Cam Newton. So, that would not be a good sign if they're trying to trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, at this point. I think the future's pretty clear -- it's going to be Mac Jones getting every opportunity over the next three, four years."
The entire conversation between Volin and DA can be accessed in the video and audio players above. Also check out Volin on the Ken & Curtis show from the weekend.