New England Patriots: Why history doesn’t support trading up for a quarterback

UNSPECIFIED LOCATION - APRIL 23: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this still image from video provided by the New England Patriots, Head Coach Bill Belichick speaks via teleconference after being selected during the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on April 23, 2020. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED LOCATION - APRIL 23: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this still image from video provided by the New England Patriots, Head Coach Bill Belichick speaks via teleconference after being selected during the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on April 23, 2020. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images) /

With the 2021 NFL Draft now just a few weeks away, there has been lots of speculation as to what Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots will do.

Specifically, many fans have been calling for the team to trade up into the top ten picks of the draft and select a quarterback—likely either Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones, or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.

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The notion behind this thinking is that trading up will allow the Patriots to draft their starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. But if the Patriots were to trade up in the draft, how likely is it that they would actually land their guy for the long haul?

For context, let’s take a look at some recent history.

History supports New England Patriots staying put in 2021 NFL Draft

Between 2010 and 2019, seventeen teams traded for a first-round draft pick and subsequently used that pick on a quarterback. (For simplicity’s sake, let’s disregard the Packers trading up to draft Jordan Love last year because he has yet to play a snap in the NFL.)

Now, not all of these teams were in situations that resembled the one that the New England Patriots are in right now. Multiple first-rounders were traded in exchange for veteran stars, rather than a bulk of future draft picks.

And several of the picks came outside of the top fifteen, which wouldn’t be of much use to the Patriots, since they are already slated to pick at number fifteen in the draft.

But even though many of the situations were vastly different, these seventeen trades provide a good snapshot of what the Patriots would be getting into—and risking—by trading up in the draft.

Of the seventeen quarterbacks that a team traded to select in the first round from 2010 through 2019, just four are still with the team that drafted them. In fact, five of those QBs are out of the NFL altogether, and a sixth, Josh Rosen, hasn’t played a snap since 2019.

In other words, if the Patriots’ goal in trading up is to land their franchise quarterback for the next 10+ years, history says that the odds of that happening are less than 25 percent. Further, it is actually more likely that the quarterback that they draft will be out of the league in 5-10 years than it is that he will still be with New England.

Now, it should be worth noting that the four of these quarterbacks who are still with their current teams are all bona fide stars. Patrick Mahomes already has a Super Bowl ring, Lamar Jackson is a former MVP, Deshaun Watson led the NFL in passing yards this past season, and Josh Allen just enjoyed a breakout year where he lead the Buffalo Bills to the AFC Championship Game.

But recent history tells us that for every Mahomes, Jackson, Watson, or Allen, there are at least three Sam Darnold’s, Carson Wentz’s, or Mitch Trubisky’s—borderline competent starters, but not certainly not franchise quarterbacks.

Or even worse, there are the Josh Rosen’s, Paxton Lynch’s, and Johnny Manziel’s—guys who will be out of the NFL within just a few years of being drafted.

In other words, trading up to draft a quarterback is a lot like gambling in Las Vegas. Occasionally, you’ll hit the jackpot, but more often than not, you’ll wind up losing money in your endeavors.

Now, if the price of trading up weren’t so high, it might be a risk worth taking for the Patriots. But given that trading into the top ten of the draft would almost certainly require the team to give up multiple future first-round picks, the risk far outweighs the potential reward.

If the Patriots trade up, and the quarterback that they select doesn’t become a star (which recent history says has a 75 percent chance of happening), then the organization will be screwed for the foreseeable future.

Not only will they be financially tied to a mediocre-at-best quarterback, but they will have to go several consecutive years without a first-round draft pick, significantly harming the team’s ability to upgrade other areas of the roster.

That is why it makes much more sense for the Patriots to take a quarterback either at number fifteen or in the second round, rather than trading up.

For one, because of the way that rookie contracts work, the Patriots would have a significantly less financial investment in a guy that they took either at fifteen or in the second round than they would a top ten pick. Hence, it would be a lot easier for the team to move on from said QB if he turns out to be a bust.

Perhaps even more importantly, it would allow the New England Patriots to keep all of their future first-round picks, which would be a win no matter what. If the QB that the Patriots draft in 2020 turns out to be a stud, then they would have a full array of first-round picks to give him the support that he needs in order to win.

And if he turns out to be a bust, and the New England Patriots suck? Well, then they would be able to get a top ten pick next year (or the following year) without even having to trade up.

Next. Julian Edelman’s rise from 7th round pick to 7th heaven. dark

I promise, there will be plenty more quarterback prospects for fans to get excited about.