Small-School QB Called Patriots’ ‘Best Fit’ in the Draft

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You’ve heard esteemed former coaches like the New England Patriots‘ former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis singing the praises of Alabama QB Mac Jones. We’ve also heard Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields compared to Cam Newton.

It seems everyone is in love with BYU’s Zach Wilson and, more so, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Well, none of those noteworthy QB prospects is the guy’s Chase Goodbread has tabbed as the best fit for the Patriots. 

Goodbread likes the possibility of seeing what Bill Belichick and current offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could do with North Dakota State star Trey Lance. However, the former acknowledges New England would need to trade up to get the 20-year-old. 

Goodbread wrote:

A combination of intelligence, skills, and cold-weather experience make North Dakota State QB Trey Lance a nice fit with the Patriots if they turn to a rookie passer in 2021. Lance might not be on the board when New England is on the clock with the 15th overall pick, so if he is the QB Belichick desires, chances are it will require a trade up to land him.

Goodbread’s colleague Daniel Jeremiah said, “I could see Bill Belichick having a lot of fun with a guy like Trey Lance.”

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Trey Lance’s Upside

Lance might be the most impressive athlete at the QB position in this draft from a purely athletic standpoint. There is no NFL Combine this year, and Lance isn’t running the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day on March 12. Still, speed and agility will be the least of the concerns related to Lance. If you look at his highlight reels, there is no question he can scoot, change directions and even run with power.

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Lance has reportedly been clocked in the 4.5 range on the 40-yard-dash, and according to a GPS tracker, he was running at 21.54 miles per hour on his fastest run of the season. The in-game GPS data is seen as a more accurate reading on a player’s football speed, and according to Jeremiah, we’re only a couple of years away from these metrics replacing 40 times as the standards for judging a player’s swiftness.

Don’t think that Lance is all about mobility. More than Newton, Lance reminds me of a bigger Russell Wilson how he extends plays and delivers the deep ball.

In 2019, his only college season as a starter, Lance completed 66.9% of his passes for 2,786 passing yards, 28 TDs, and no interceptions. There’s obviously a question about the level of competition he faced in the Missouri Valley Conference and his limited time as a starter. However, aside from Lawrence, I’m not sure if there is a quarterback in the draft with a higher overall ceiling.

Ideal QB Situation

Because Lance is so young and probably not quite ready to step in and start from Day 1, it would be an excellent idea for the Patriots to re-sign Newton for two years, with only the 2021 season guaranteed. Name him the starter and package the No. 15 picks with other draft assets to move into a position to take Lance.

There may not be a better quarterback for Lance to learn from watching, especially when you also consider he’ll be under the tutelage of Belichick and McDaniels. Newton should be told he is the 2021 starter and perhaps the 2022 starter, but he would be expected to help bring Lance along and ultimately be the starter.

If Lance is ready in 2022, then it’s his job, and Newton can continue elsewhere. If Lance needs a second season to get up to speed, Newton would still be under contract with a stud offensive line, a solid defense, presumably more weapons in the passing game, and still one of the top coaching staff in football.

It’s hard to imagine the Patriots finding themselves in a better position to compete in 2021 while also securing their QB of the future.

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