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Patriots Mailbag: Draft plans, QB thoughts and more

Lots of draft-related questions in this week's Patriots Mailbag.

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Doesn't it make more sense to sign say Baker Mayfield and trade the second pick overall for another first-rounder in the top 10 and a bunch of other high draft picks in the draft and maybe next year's draft, and get the receiver from LSU Malik Nabers or the tight end Brock Bowers? And get a couple of the best tackles in the draft? Tim Cruise

That is certainly an option. Carolina and Chicago switched spots from 9 to 1last year and the Bears were able to add a second-round pick plus a first-rounder in 2024 and a second-rounder in 2025 (plus D.J. Moore). So, the Patriots could trade down and likely grab one of the two players you mentioned depending on how far down they dropped. They would likely add a second-round pick as well, so adding a tackle would also be a possibility. The key for me is which pick the Patriots land on. If they get either 1 or 2 I think they need to take either Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. Anything lower than that brings a variety of possibilities. If the Patriots aren't able to draft a quarterback high, then signing a free agent like Mayfield would be an option. But there's still a lot to be determined as the Patriots currently sit in the fourth slot.

I truly believe that Marvin Harrison Jr. is a once in a generation player (think Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, etc.). If he should fall to us, I believe that we have to take him. I don't believe this year's quarterbacks are that much better than Mac Jones. The problem is that he has absolutely nobody to throw to that creates separation. Harrison will instantly do that. Any average running back can look great behind a dominant offensive line. Just a fact. Therefore, shouldn't an even average QB be able to throw to a wide-open receiver? Tell me that I am wrong? Todd Titus

First, I will not be telling you your opinion is wrong, especially since we've never seen any of these players in the NFL. I can't say Harrison is not a generational player and I can't tell you how good I think the college quarterbacks will be. I can offer my opinion, though. Harrison is excellent and I believe he will succeed in the NFL. However, in my view both Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are light years better than Mac Jones and most NFL talent evaluators agree. In fact, one current NFL GM told MMQB's Albert Breer that Williams would have been the top quarterback taken combining the 2021-24 drafts together. That evaluator ranked Williams first followed by Trevor Lawrence and then Maye. Watching Williams and Maye and comparing their skills to Jones is a mismatch. Now, there are obviously no guarantees and there are a lot of things that go into making a great quarterback beyond skills so I understand there's risk. Just like there's risk in banking on a wide receiver without a quarterback to throw him the ball. I think Garrett Wilson is outstanding and he hasn't been able to lift the Jets because he hasn't had any consistent quarterback to throw him the ball. If the Patriots fall out of the top two spots then perhaps grabbing Harrison would make sense. But it's hard to build around a wide receiver when you don't have anyone to get him the ball.

I see you claimed Nathan Rourke off waivers. What's the plan with him? Will he see any game time in these last three games? Tom Hudson

The Patriots have lost two quarterbacks off their practice squad over the past couple of weeks in Malik Cunningham and Will Grier, leaving the team with just two in Bailey Zappe and Mac Jones. The need for a scout team quarterback exists so Bill Belichick decided to bring in Rourke, who had some success playing in Canada and during this preseason with Jacksonville. Rourke won't likely see any time during the regular season unless injuries come into play, but he provides an added layer of depth and the Patriots can watch him in practice to see if he's someone they want to continue working with in the offseason. He will likely be the emergency quarterback the rest of the way.

Totally agree with your analysis of Bill Belichick. He is the best coach available, but as a GM it is simply awful. In this day and age it is hard just to do one of those jobs. The next quarterback they will take, will they teach him to play the Patriots way or will the Patriots have to adapt to why this QB was great in the college? Jean Rene Llecavalier

I think it all depends on the identity of the coach. If Bill Belichick decides to stay and the Patriots keep him, then I would think whoever the next quarterback is would have to learn the team's offensive system and adapt. If Belichick leaves, then it would be up to the next coach to decide on what type of offense he wants to install, and whether or not he thinks a rookie quarterback would be able to succeed in that system. That would be a big part of the decision-making process for the next coach – finding the right quarterback to play in the system the way he wants to play. So, it's hard to know at this point how the next quarterback will be asked to play without knowing who the coach will be.

Hi from Sydney, Australia. Love your work keep it up. Firstly, Bill Belichick is a Patriots legend and should coach next year if he wants to but if he is gone and Mike Borgonzi or Adam Peters want and get the GM job what head coach candidates can you see matched with either GM and for what reasons? Grant Tedro

This is a very interesting question and a very tough one to answer. If some of the reports are true and Belichick winds up leaving and Jerod Mayo ends up as his replacement, I could see a GM with Patriots ties coming in to work alongside him. Peters spent some time in New England's personnel department from 2003-08 so there would be some familiarity for him with the organization. Borgonzi hasn't worked in New England but was hired by Scott Pioli in Kansas City and grew up in the Boston area. Both Borgonzi and Peters would be first-time GMs so they wouldn't necessarily be looking for total control over all aspects of the operation. I could see those two as options as well as Jon Robinson and Dave Ziegler, who also spent time in New England before becoming GMs elsewhere.

What are the chances of the NFL ever adopting something akin to the NBA's Larry Bird rule? This would obviously help both the players and the owners as the players wouldn't have to move unless the owner then did a sign and trade. David Brown

Actually the NFL does have a mechanism akin to the NBA's Bird Rights rule and it's called franchise and transition tags. They allow teams to maintain a player's rights for one year without having to commit huge dollars toward long-term deals. It's not quite the same as an NBA deal because of the term limit but in both cases it represents an advantage to the team and not necessarily the player. Some NFL players have benefited greatly from being franchised but overall it's not seen as a positive in football because of the lack of true free agency. So different than the NBA's version but similar.

Here is my option on the rebuild: trade Bill Belichick to the Chargers for their first pick. Draft Marvin Harrison then Joe Alt with Chargers pick. In the second round we take Bo Nix. Sign Joe Flacco or Baker Mayfeild to start and have Bailey Zappe as the No.2 with Nix No. 3 to learn on the beach for the first year. Hire Brain Flores as head coach and Jerod Mayo as defensive coordinator and Bill O'Brien as offensive coordinator. Vincent Marani

Anything is possible I guess. I don't see the Chargers giving a top 10 pick for a would-be 72-year-old head coach so that would be the first obstacle in this plan. I also have no interest in Joe Flacco as the starter so that's out. Mayfield could be a bridge option if the Patriots are unable to land a quarterback in the draft but that would be less than ideal. If Belichick leaves I would rather look outside the organization for a new coaching staff, but Mayo and O'Brien could be options as well. I don't see Flores as a fit. Lots to unpack here and it will be fun to watch.

With this disastrous season nearly over who would be your core players to retain and build a team around? Marc Saez

The Patriots have a lot of older players and free agents that likely won't be back next year but there are still several others who should be back. I'll start with some younger players who should be part of the future including Christian Barmore, Christian Gonzalez, Rhamondre Stevenson, Demario Douglas and few others like Sidy Sow, Atonio Mafi, Keion White and Marte Mapu who have shown promise. In addition I'd like to see the team re-sign Kyle Dugger, Mike Onwenu and Anfernee Jennings. That group would represent a nucleus of about a dozen young guys to build around. There would also be room for some veterans like Jabrill Peppers, Ja'Whaun Bentley, David Andrews and Jahlani Tavai. Beyond that, there aren't too many job that should be considered secure at his point.

Imagine being the person who fires/releases/lets Go of the greatest football coach in NFL history? That shame/curse would be locked in with your name forever. You would be known as the Harry Frazee of football (traded Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees). Especially in Boston. That coach brought us six championships. He earned the right to stay and leave at his discretion. Will you hire/rehire a GM assistant to help draft offensive players, especially receivers? Phil Marasco

This post runs counter to everything Bill Belichick has ever preached during his time with the Patriots. It's not about what has been done but rather about what is being done and what will be done in the future. Sticking with Belichick simply because of his track record doesn't make sense. If you believe he's still the best, then keep him. Also, the true curse analogy between the Red Sox and Yankees and the Patriots has already happened. Tom Brady was let go, and that is the equivalent of trading Babe Ruth. Both are among the best players to ever play their sports. So, if you're worried about some foolish curse then I'd say we're already doomed. Finally, why is it OK to get Belichick away from drafting offensive players? After all, he drafted Brady and won six Super Bowls with him. Doesn't that mean he's earned the right to stay and leave as the GM in charge of picking offensive players at his discretion? Why no fear of being cursed if we take some of his power away? Obviously, I'm being extra snarky here … but the bottom line is if Kraft thinks Belichick is still the best man for the job then he should stay. If he doesn't, then it's time to make a move. Past performance shouldn't have much to do with it.

The Patriots won a meaningless game and kicked themselves out of their two top needs - elite QB and WR. It works for Bill Belichick and the team, but what about the franchise? Ken K.

This has been the common refrain since the win on Christmas Eve. Great, now we've lost a shot at one of the top two picks. I understand this … both as a media member and as a fan. It's been a lost season and wins at this stage aren't necessarily best for the organization going forward. That said, it's hard to not feel good for the players who have competed reasonably hard for most of the games despite the poor record. And that is especially true for Chad Ryland, who has struggled throughout his rookie season but knocked through the game-winner from 56 yards out. So, yes, the win was not the best thing for the Patriots in the long run but it's hard to be too upset about given the circumstances.

While the offense eked out enough plays against a pathetic Denver squad, it still wasn't an impressive win. As much as the skill players need improvement (Tee Higgins should be a clear free agent target), to me there's no question that there needs to be a heavy focus on the offensive line in the draft. I can't take anyone seriously who looks at this team and says draft a quarterback first. Is there a trade scenario for the Pats to get a second first to double dip at tackle and let Mike Onwenu be re-signed to slide back to right guard? Mike Aboud

I guess the Bengals really screwed up by taking Joe Burrow before they had any semblance of an offensive line. They wasted their time going to the Super Bowl in his second season (with the worst offensive line in football) before working on improving the front and going to the AFC title game last year. Look, there are a lot of ways to build a football team and no one method is any more effective than another. I believe if you have a chance to take a talented quarterback who you believe in then you have to take it. If the Patriots are in position to take Williams or Maye then that's exactly what I'd do. If they stay at 4, where they are now, then trading down is a possibility. It would be tough to get an extra first-rounder in that scenario unless the extra comes in the form of a future pick. But building the offensive line should be a priority in this draft and trading down to do it would make sense if the top quarterbacks aren't available.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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