There's little doubt that the New England Patriots need to address the quarterback position at this year's NFL draft, but the questions are whether they'll move up the board to take one of the top talents available and just how far they'd be willing to go.
Potentially pretty high, it turns out.
Jeff Howe of The Athletic reported Wednesday that the Patriots remain "candidates" to move into the top 10, and "word is they think highly of Ohio State's Justin Fields—highly enough that they've even spoken with the Atlanta Falcons about the fourth pick."
Moving up from No. 15 to No. 4 would come at an exorbitant cost. The San Francisco 49ers essentially set that market when they gave up three first-round picks (No. 12 this year along with firsts in 2022 and '23) and a 2022 third-rounder to get up to No. 3.
Howe believes the Patriots would need to part with "some combination of Nos. 15 and 46 and 2022 first- and second-rounders."
Would Fields be worth that price?
Well, Cam Newton wasn't particularly great for the Pats last year (2,657 passing yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions; 592 rushing yards and 12 scores; 7-8 record as the starter), and Jarrett Stidham wasn't good enough to win the starting gig ahead of him.
So maybe addressing the quarterback position with a young talent like Fields would make emptying the draft-asset coffers worthwhile.
Granted, there are varying opinions on just how good Fields will be at the NFL level. ESPN's Todd McShay has him ranked just 11th on his big board, noting that he has "some developing to do as a processer, but if placed in the right system, he should quickly become a top-tier NFL starter."
The Pats would potentially fit that bill.
McShay's ESPN colleague, Mel Kiper Jr., is a bit higher on Fields, putting him eighth on his own big board. He wrote: "Fields had an inconsistent 2020 season, but his highs were even higher than Lawrence's. I think consistency will come with NFL coaching because he has all of the tools to be a star."
And The Athletic's Dane Brugler also has Fields at No. 8, noting that his "decision-making is more methodical than spontaneous, but he has high-ceiling traits with his athleticism, accuracy and intangibles. He projects as a high-end NFL starter if he can quicken his reads and process."
Fields and Bill Belichick might just make the perfect pairing. The question, of course, is whether Belichick—known more for moving down the draft board to accumulate assets than the other way around—is willing to pay a steep price to go up and get him.