After months of anticipation, the marquee event of the NFL offseason finally has arrived.
The 2018 NFL Draft begins Thursday night at cavernous Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. For the New England Patriots, it’s the most anticipated draft in years, primarily because of what could transpire at the quarterback position.
For those who haven’t been religiously following every pre-draft rumor or poring over countless mock drafts, here’s a quick primer on what to expect from the Patriots this weekend:
How many picks do the Patriots have?
Currently, eight. That includes two first-rounders, two second-rounders, one third-rounder, two sixth-rounders and a seventh-rounder. Round 1 will be held Thursday night, with Rounds 2 and 3 taking place Friday night and Rounds 4 through 7 coming Saturday.
Here’s the full list of Patriots draft picks:
First round, 23rd overall (from Los Angeles Rams in Brandin Cooks trade)
First round, 31st overall
Second round, 43rd overall (from San Francisco 49ers in Jimmy Garoppolo trade)
Second round, 63rd overall
Third round, 95th overall
Sixth round, 198th overall (from Rams in Cooks trade)
Sixth round, 210th overall (from Oakland Raiders in Cordarrelle Patterson trade)
Seventh round, 219th overall (from Cleveland Browns in Jason McCourty trade)
Given Bill Belichick’s affinity for draft-day dealing — he’s made a least one trade in every draft but 2004 — it’s highly unlikely the Patriots will make all of those selections. Belichick surely would like to somehow close that gap between No. 95 and No. 198, especially given the team’s recent success in the fourth round (Trey Flowers, James White, Deatrich Wise).
The Patriots have not picked in the first round since 2015 (Malcom Brown) and didn’t pick until the middle of the third round last year (Derek Rivers, 83rd overall).
Will the Patriots draft a quarterback?
They certainly should. Yes, Tom Brady just had an MVP season at age 40. But with only 32-year-old Brian Hoyer on the depth chart behind him, New England needs to begin grooming a potential quarterback of the future, even if Brady does still have another two or three years left in him.
OK, then how early with the Patriots draft a quarterback?
That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?
They basically have four options: 1) trade up into the top 10 to draft one of the consensus top-four quarterbacks, 2) stand pat and draft a QB late in the first round, 3) draft a second-tier signal-caller like Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta or Washington State’s Luke Falk in the second or third round, or 4) wait until Day 3 to nab a QB.
If the Patriots opt for Option 1, the most likely candidate is UCLA’s Josh Rosen, whom they have shown interest in and who reportedly could slide into the No. 9-to-No. 12 range. Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen make up the aforementioned top tier of QBs in this year’s draft class.
As for Option 2, the “Lamar Jackson to New England” train is gathering steam. The Patriots reportedly met with the former Louisville star twice during the pre-draft process — not counting his pro day, which Patriots personnel boss Nick Caserio attended — and multiple reports have indicated their interest in Jackson is real and substantial.
It’s unclear whether Jackson would be available at No. 23, though. He could be, but with several teams in the middle of the first round also potentially eyeing quarterbacks, the Patriots might have to trade up a few spots to draft him.
It also wouldn’t be stunning to see the Patriots take two quarterbacks. They’ve evaluated a wide range of them, reportedly meeting with or working out Jackson, Lauletta, Falk, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Western Kentucky’s Mike White, Florida International’s Alex McGough and Princeton’s Chad Kanoff.
Quarterback isn’t the Patriots’ only need, right?
Nope, far from it. New England also has needs at left tackle, linebacker, defensive end, tight end, safety and cornerback, and could benefit from adding another wide receiver and/or running back to the mix. (The Patriots reportedly brought several of the top wideout prospects in for visits.)
Who are some players the Patriots might draft in the first round?
If they keep their current picks, here are a few potential candidates, some of whom might be gone by the time the Patriots come on the clock:
Linebacker: Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State; Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Edge rusher: Harold Landry, Boston College; Lorenzo Carter, Georgia; Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
Offensive tackle: Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame; Kolton Miller, UCLA; Connor Williams, Texas
Tight end: Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State; Hayden Hurst, South Carolina; Mike Gesicki, Penn State
Safety: Justin Reid, Stanford; Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
Cornerback: Jaire Alexander, Louisville; Josh Jackson, Iowa; Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
Running back: Derrius Guice, LSU; Ronald Jones, USC; Sony Michel, Georgia
Wide receiver: D.J. Moore, Maryland; Calvin Ridley, Alabama; Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Quarterback: Jackson, Rudolph