The New England Patriots look more committed to quarterback Mac Jones than the team has all offseason, but that might not negate the Patriots from selecting a potential franchise quarterback on Friday, April 28.
USA Today’s Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz tabbed the Patriots as a landing spot for Kentucky quarterback Will Levis in the second round of the NFL draft. Levis unexpectedly slipped through the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday, April 27, after weeks of potential No. 1 pick speculation. Levis’ stock fell because of a toe injury that caused him to miss two games last year, and it concerned NFL teams according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
“Don’t laugh. Levis went on a top-30 visit to the Patriots, and [head coach] Bill Belichick hardly seems dug in on Mac Jones,” Middlehurst-Schwartz wrote. “The starter’s seat wouldn’t immediately be in jeopardy, but taking Levis could put him on notice and give Belichick a more physically gifted alternative to Bailey Zappe if Jones falters under Bill O’Brien’s guidance.”
New England took Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez after a trade down to No. 17 in the first round on Thursday. The Patriots need a physical cornerback to take on talented wide receivers in the AFC East such as Buffalo Bills star Stefon Diggs and Miami Dolphins star Tyreek Hill.
Quarterback Aligns With Patriots’ Remaining Draft Needs
Patriots draft needs include wide receiver and offensive tackle, but the quarterback position also has questions amid an open competition between Jones and Zappe.
Belichick wouldn’t hand either the starting job during the NFL annual meeting in February. Belichick also “shopped” Jones this offseason according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, and O’Brien downplayed his Alabama connection with Jones after returning to the Patriots.
“There are ample other possibilities for New England at [pick] No. 46, though — and no guarantee Levis will still be available,” Middlehurst-Schwartz wrote. “The offensive line in particular looks due for more assistance. And even if Belichick is curious about a quarterback, he could be drawn to Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker instead.”
Neither Jones nor Zappe carried the Patriots for a substantial amount of games last season. Jones struggled at 6-8 with 2,997 yards passing for 14 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions. Zappe shined in his brief playing time with a 2-0 record and 781 yards passing for five touchdowns versus three interceptions — a small sample size to judge fitness for a full-time starter role.
Patriots Could Pick QB Hendon Hooker Instead
Hooker also drew first-round interest, but his ACL tear in November 2022 hindered his draft stock. Patriots insider Henry McKenna of FOX Sports reported that Hooker “is a favorite of at least one [Patriots] staffer”.
McKenna noted that Levis “didn’t wow team executives” during the top-30 visit. Hooker could slide to No. 46 as McKenna noted, and McKenna considers Hooker an “obvious” better choice.
“Would Jones like it? No, of course not,” McKenna wrote. “But — thinking like [Bill] Belichick here — Jones doesn’t really have any power to do anything about it.”
“If he’s sensational under new OC [Bill] O’Brien, the Patriots would have the tough decision of which QB to trade: Jones or Hooker,” McKenna added. “But if Jones flops, then at least the team has a plan in place to get another young quarterback developed in time to potentially replace him.”
McKenna’s line of thought could also apply to Levis if the Patriots choose that round instead at pick No. 46 on Friday.