By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — One detail of the Patriots’ Jimmy Garoppolo trade that has almost fallen completely off the radar is that they still got a very good pick. A 2018 second-rounder doesn’t sound as great as the multiple firsts that were reportedly available from the Browns in the offseason. But if you are to believe the latest reports, then that was never actually on the table. In the end, the Patriots got the second-round pick of one of the bottom-two teams in the NFL right now (the 49ers and Browns are both 0-8) and will likely end up with two picks around 27-37 in next year’s draft.
What won’t be talked about too much in the wake of the stunning (in terms of timing, anyway) Garoppolo trade is that the Patriots have a need to replenish their draft picks, and the 49ers ostensibly offered them the best possible selection to do so. The Patriots have not made a first-round pick since Malcom Brown in 2015 and now they enter 2018 in a similar position to where they were in 2012, when they traded up to draft Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower at the end of the first round.
But as much as the Patriots could look to bolster depth needs at receiver, tight end, or the front-seven early in the draft, it also shouldn’t come as a surprise if they draft another quarterback with one of their first two picks.
Just because the Patriots have made a clear commitment to Tom Brady for at least the next two seasons (he is officially signed through 2019) doesn’t mean that the team won’t look to add his next potential successor. It’s likely they end up taking someone at some point, but spending an early pick on a QB would be quite different from taking a flyer on a kid in the final rounds. Bill Belichick almost certainly still wants to groom his next starter for 2-3 years before making the switch – even if that means Brady somehow continues to play like a Super Bowl MVP into his mid-40s and he ends up with the same result as Garoppolo a few years down the road. That was going to be the plan with Garoppolo before Brady went on his incredible run of the past three seasons and change, and that will probably be the plan once again moving forward.
Another reason that it shouldn’t come as a shock if the Pats end up drafting a QB relatively high up in the draft is because the 2018 class has been highly touted for some time. They’ve been relatively disappointing as a group so far this season, but that also means you can reasonably expect some intriguing prospects to fall out of the first round when they make the jump to the NFL next April.
Although USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson could all conceivably be off the board by the middle of the first, there’s always a chance one of them slips through the cracks. Belichick could gamble on their potential, much like he did with Ryan Mallet in the third round of the 2011 draft. Other QBs who could find themselves in position to land in New England are Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Washington State’s Luke Falk, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, and N.C. State’s Ryan Finley.
Despite the affirmations that Brady will be sticking around for at least a couple more years, the Patriots have still established a need to find the next guy to grant a chance to be the heir apparent. Belichick surely wants to start working toward that sooner rather than later. Perhaps he will take advantage of a signal caller’s falling stock at the draft, since he has the luxury of developing someone over the next few seasons as Brady keeps his stranglehold on the Patriots’ starting job.
All that being said, Belichick will probably do none of these things because the man simply cannot be predicted. But if there were ever an opportunity for the coach to get his hands on a talented QB and try (again) to develop Brady’s successor over the next few years, it’s 2018.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.