The New England Patriots realistically will need to settle for a lesser option as they hunt for a quarterback this offseason.
But let’s aim high for a moment and focus on the top two options on the table in Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson.
Lawrence is the clear-cut top prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft, and it’s at least notable that the Patriots elected to send two representatives to see him throw. The Texans want to keep Watson, but in all reality will probably have to make a move to trade him before the 2021 NFL Draft.
So, what would it cost to trade up with the Jacksonville Jaguars to take Lawrence No. 1 overall or to land Watson from the Texans? Probably around the same.
The Los Angeles Rams in 2016 held the No. 15 overall pick in the draft. They traded up with the Tennessee Titans to take Jared Goff at No. 1 overall and coughed up their first-round pick, two second-round picks, a third-round pick and future first- and third-round picks to acquire the No. 1 overall pick, a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick.
LA gave up:
2017 first-round pick
2017 third-round pick
The Jaguars likely value Lawrence significantly higher than the Titans valued Goff because A) Lawrence is better and B) they need a quarterback. Tennessee had just taken Marcus Mariota at No. 2 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. But just for the sake of the exercise, let’s use the same basis of that same formula from 2016 because it matches up well with the Rams in 2016 and the Patriots in 2021 both picking 15th overall.
New England would likely have to trade at least the 15th and 46th overall picks, plus its projected third-round compensatory pick, from the 2021 NFL Draft. The Patriots would also probably have to trade 2022 and 2023 first-round picks. They might be able to get a fourth- or fifth-round selection in return on top of the No. 1 pick.
Why would New England have to give up one more first-round pick than LA to swing a deal? Two reasons: The Patriots, unlike the Rams in 2016, don’t have two second-round picks in this year’s draft. New England’s third-round pick is also considerably less valuable than the LA’s third-round selection in 2016 because the Patriots lost their own third-round pick over the taping controversy involving the Cincinnati Bengals in 2019, so they would have to deal a later compensatory pick instead. Also, as we mentioned above, Lawrence is more valuable to the Jaguars than Goff was to the Titans. The Jaguars could ultimately decide that no offer would be big enough to let Lawrence go.
The Patriots potentially could include a player over one of the first- or second-round picks, as well. Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson would be the top candidates and hold the most value.
A similar deal could potentially land Watson, though the Patriots might need to fork over slightly more to Houston. Watson is the most likely move if there even is one in this situation because he so adamantly wants to leave the Texans.
Neither situation is in the least bit likely. But in a vacuum, the Patriots would prefer Lawrence or Watson over any other possible candidate this season. Quarterback deals don’t exist in vacuums, however, and the cost would be extremely high to acquire Lawrence or Watson.
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