Justin Fields' gradual slide down mock NFL drafts over the last three months has been confusing, but if it holds true on draft night, one team will benefit. As it has become widely accepted that the teams at the top of the draft apparently view Fields below Trey Lance and Mac Jones, the New England Patriots have become everyone's favorite choice to trade up and snag the Ohio State product at one point or another.
Last week, Peter Schrager posited they might trade all the way up to No. 4, where the Atlanta Falcons are exploring trading back, to take Fields. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. joined him today as the latest mock drafter to predict Fields will end up in Foxborough, although in Kiper's world the Patriots only trade up to No. 10 to do it. In this scenario, New England sends their 2022 first-round pick to Dallas to move up five spots and take Fields.
This is more realistic than Schrager's suggestion. Belichick trades draft picks all the time on the night of the event but very rarely moves up, especially during the first two rounds. And if he does move up, it's only one or two selections. Atlanta could justifiably ask for a king's ransom for New England to jump 11 spots to No. 4 overall. That isn't really Belichick's style.
But moving up five slots to take a QB? That seems more like the longtime Patriots head coach, although Belichick has never needed to draft a quarterback in the first round to this point and thus we don't have anything resembling a clear picture as far as how far Belichick will go to get "his guy." The Patriots need one this time and Fields, even if all the concerns that have caused his fall in the prospect rankings turn out to be justified, is more talented than any other QB they'll have a shot at in the draft in the near future. Giving up one first-round pick to make that happen doesn't seem a high price to pay.
The one thing that I wonder about is if it will be as easy as sending a first-rounder to move up those five spots. Belichick has been on the winning end of a lot of trades over the last 20 years and the Patriots have been preposterously dominant over that same timeframe in part because of those trades. Would a potential trade partner like the Cowboys jack up the price to get to No. 10 simply because it's Belichick? Football is a business at the end of the day and I have no evidence to back up this hunch, but it sort of feels like Belichick could suffer from the same issues Danny Ainge does where rival executives wonder exactly what they're missing when they get a call and are less willing to agree to a deal because they don't want to end up as the fool after it's all said and done.
Again, no way to prove I'm right about that. But Belichick will not trade up five spots, even to get a guy he really wants, if he feels the price of doing business is too high. All well-laid plans and predictions could be for naught if Dallas decides to try and squeeze an extra pick or two out of the team because it's Belichick. It wouldn't make a lot of sense in this particular scenario; as Kiper points out in his explanation, Dallas should be psyched to move down five slots for an extra first-rounder without a lot of top-tier defensive talent in this draft. They likely wouldn't sacrifice a shot at the player they want by moving down to No. 15 while picking up another selection to work with next year. It's not like they're going to pick Fields, either.
But just imagine you were an NFL GM and you get a call from Bill freaking Belichick that he wants to move up to your draft spot. There would be some suspicion and doubt, no? What does the greatest coach of all time see that you're missing? Wouldn't you try to get as much out of that deal as possible to ensure that, in the scenario the Patriots hit a home run with the pick and you become known as the person who let that happen, there's as much justification for the move as possible? It makes no sense football-wise, but people are still people.
Just some food for thought. Ultimately, if Fields slides to No. 10, the Patriots should be in play. But trying to predict a Belichick trade-up on draft night is a tough exercise. We'll see if Kiper ends up a genius with hindsight.