Mel Kiper’s mock draft has the Patriots trading up to land a franchise QB

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Henry McKenna
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The New England Patriots desperately need to settle their quarterback situation, and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper thinks they’ll solve their problem in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft by selecting Trey Lance. And Kiper thinks Bill Belichick will trade up to ninth overall to land the North Dakota State QB.

The Patriots have just Jarrett Stidham under contract for 2021. Quarterback Cam Newton is set to enter free agency after playing on a one-year deal with New England. And, frankly, Newton could return, even if the Patriots have interest in a quarterback in this year’s draft class.

Here’s what Kiper wrote about selecting Lance:

Belichick and the Patriots have been quiet this offseason, but that should change soon. They have money to spend in free agency, and they need to find a quarterback. It doesn’t appear likely that Cam Newton will return. The veteran QB trade market has dwindled. I could see a Jimmy Garoppolo return to New England, but I’m not sold that he’d be the long-term answer. Lance could be. He started only 17 career games in college — all against FCS competition — but he’s only 20, and he has all the tools to be a great dual-threat quarterback. Remember that the Patriots have a few players returning after opting out of last season, too, so they could contend in the AFC East again.

The Patriots have been movers in the draft in recent years, with Belichick’s reputation preceding him as someone who likes to move down. But he’s traded up four times in the first round to land Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Ty Warren and Daniel Graham. Belichick has also made 10 trade-ups over the last four drafts.

Here’s more from Kiper on the actual trade:

One more trade, again for a quarterback. And that makes five QBs in the top nine picks. To move up six spots, we can keep the comp of the Devin Bush trade. The Patriots would have to send the Broncos at least the No. 15 pick, a second-round pick and a 2022 pick. And I wouldn’t be shocked if it took the Pats’ 2022 first-rounder to get the deal over the finish line. New England also is expected to add premium compensatory picks for this class, so it could have more ammo to use.

Bill Belichick is known more for trading down in drafts, but the Patriots traded up a couple of times on Day 2 last year to get guys they wanted in Josh Uche and Devin Asiasi. Don’t rule out a big move if Belichick & Co. want to get their quarterback of the future.