BOSTON (CBS) — NFL Draft week is here, and it figures to be a pretty busy and interesting one for the New England Patriots. A pretty big one at that, too.

Bill Belichick currently has 10 selections to work with when all of the fun begins on Thursday, and as we know from his track record over the years, he is a man to pull off a move or five over the NFL’s three-day bonanza. The Patriots filled plenty of holes up and down the roster in their free agent spending spree, but owner Robert Kraft made it clear last month that sustained champions are built through the draft — and he hasn’t been a big fan of New England’s drafting as of late.

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That puts some pressure on Belichick to hit on the majority of his picks this year. And Belichick has loads of pressure to find the next guy at quarterback, putting much of the focus on the 15th overall pick. Will Belichick trade up to land his QB of the future? Will he wait it out and see if one of the top arms falls to No. 15? Will he really wait things out and see if a promising arm is available in the second or third round? Will he end the Jimmy G. speculation and bring Garoppolo home?

We have tons of questions ahead of the NFL Draft, and come Thursday, we may finally start getting some answers. Here’s a quick snapshot of what New England will be working with when the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off.

The Picks

Round 1, No. 15 – Assigned Selection
Round 2, Pick 46 – Assigned Selection
Round 3, Pick 96 – Compensatory Selection
Round 4, Pick 120 – Assigned Selection
Round 4, Pick 122 – From Arizona Cardinals through Houston Texans
Round 4, Pick 139 – Compensatory Selection
Round 5, Pick 177 – Compensatory Selection
Round 6, Pick 188 – From Houston Texans
Round 6, Pick 197 – From Dallas Cowboys
Round 7, Pick 242 – Assigned Selection

That third-round comp pick was awarded to the Patriots because of Tom Brady’s free agency departure last offseason.

Round 1 starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, with teams getting 10 minutes per selection. Rounds 2 and 3 are on Friday night, beginning at 7 p.m., with seven minutes per pick in Round 2 and five minutes per selection in Round 3.

Rounds 4-7 are set for Saturday starting at noon, with five minutes per selection for rounds 4-6, and four minutes per selection in the final round.

The Needs

Quarterback: We’ve heard over and over and over and over again about New England’s need at quarterback. And they need one of the “franchise” variety, because Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham just won’t cut it.

Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be long gone by the time the Patriots pick, and Belichick will likely have to trade up to land either Mac Jones, Justin Fields or Trey Lance in the first round. There’s always a chance the Pats could wait until the later rounds to take a quarterback, with Kellen Mond of Texas A&M (second-round projection), Kyle Trask of Florida and Davis Mills of Stanford (third-round projections) and Jamie Newman of Wake Forest/Georgia (Day 3 projections) possibilities to join Newton and Stidham in New England’s QB room.

Cornerback: With Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson both set to become free agents after the season (barring any long-term agreements or trades ahead of the season), the Patriots could use a little insurance on the outside of their secondary. The Pats are set at the slot with Jonathan Jones and Jalen Mills, but corner is high on their list of needs this draft season.

If the Patriots don’t go quarterback with their first pick, Patrick Surtain II out of Alabama is a possibility.

Inside Linebacker: It’s always an area of need, and the Patriots could always use a little more depth in the middle of the defense. Penn State’s Micah Parsons and Tulsa’s Zaven Collins are potential picks at No. 15 if the Patriots go this route.

Safety: Devin McCourty will turn 34 before the start of the season and he’s entering the final year of the contract extension he signed ahead of last year. The Patriots don’t have a backup for McCourty should he get dinged up during the season, or an eventual replacement for the veteran safety.

TCU’s Trevor Moehrig is the top-rated safety in the draft, and is expected to go somewhere in the middle of the first round if the Patriots choose to address safety with their top pick. Indiana’s Jamar Johnson, UCF’s Richie Grant, and Oregon’s Jevon Holland are all options at safety at No. 46.

The Rumors

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What haven’t the Patriots been rumored to be up to this draft season? And this comes with the disclaimer that just because they’re mentioned with just about everything, doesn’t mean that they’ll actually do anything.

We’ve heard plenty about the Patriots trading up to draft a quarterback, with the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4, Detroit Lions at No. 7, Carolina Panthers at No. 8 and Dallas Cowboys at No. 10 all potential trading partners. It will cost quite a bit to move up, but if Belichick really likes a particular quarterback he may be willing to pull the trigger. Or he’ll wait and just take the best defensive player available at No. 15.

There’s also been some rumblings that the Patriots could move back if they don’t like what is available at No. 15, something you can never rule out with Belichick calling the shots. The bottom line is Patriots fans will be on high alert from the fourth pick on come Thursday night.

And then there are the trades that don’t involve picking players. We’ve had an offseason full of Jimmy Garoppolo rumors, and if something is going to happen, it will likely be this weekend. There are even rumblings that the 49ers may be lowering their asking price of a first-round pick.

It should make for an interesting few days leading up to the start of the NFL Draft on Thursday.

The Notes

– The Patriots have selected at least 10 players in 13 of the previous 28 drafts, including drafting 10 in both the 2019 and 2020 drafts.

– 2004 is the only year in the Bill Belichick era that New England has not engaged in any draft-day trades.

– The Patriots have drafted at least one offensive lineman in seven straight drafts (2014-20).

– The Patriots have traded up in a draft-day exchange 27 times since 2000. The team has traded down 28 times since 2000.

– New England has made 27 trades involving players and/or future draft considerations since 2000.

– Overall, the Patriots have made 82 draft-day trades in Bill Belichick’s 21 drafts with the franchise.

– The Patriots have drafted 11 quarterbacks during the Belichick era, beginning first with Tom Brady in the sixth round (199th overall) in the 2000 NFL Draft. The most recent QB drafted by Belichick came in 2019, when the Patriots selected Jarrett Stidham from in the fourth round (133rd overall).

– The Patriots have held the 15th pick in the draft one time, taking quarterback Tony Eason from Illinois in 1983.

– The Patriots have made two selections at No. 46 overall: RB Kevin Faulk in 1999 and T Adrian Klemm in 2000.

– The Patriots have made three selections with the 96th overall pick: DT Vincent Valentine in 2016, T Kenyatta Jones in 2001 and DB Maurice Hurst in 1989.

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– The Patriots have picked at No. 120 twice: DB Asante Samuel in 2003 and RB James Gray in 1990.

CBSBoston.com Staff