However, last season New England entered the great unknown for the first time since 2000 without TB12 starting under center.
As such, the “post-Brady” era presented a number of challenges, problems, and uncharacteristic miscues for the new look Patriots.
To begin, New England struggled to find a consistent offense in 2020 as turnovers increased from 7.4 to 12.1 percent.
In addition, Bill Belichick recorded his first losing season in 19 years; missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Looking forward to the upcoming season, Belichick and the Patriots hope 2021 will put an end to the uncertainty.
Although not impossible, three major factors must take place before Justin Fields “falls” to New England in the 2021 draft.
The San Francisco 49ers are on the Clock
Firstly, the San Francisco 49ers hold the key to how this year’s draft will unfold after the third pick.
Popular belief is rookie NFL coach Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars will take Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence at one.
Afterward, the majority of mock drafts suggest BYU Zack Wilson will suit up at QB with the New York Jets.
Now, this is where it gets interesting for the New England Patriots and Justin Fields.
Many analysts project 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has Alabama QB Mac Jones’ name filled out on their draft card.
However, a few notables around the league are not entirely sold on Jones fulfilling the QB spot in San Francisco.
In fact, ESPN analyst Marcus Spears expressed the possibility the 49ers will stun everyone by taking Fields at number three:
“Everybody keeps telling me that it’s going to be Mac Jones and I keep saying I will believe it when I see it! I can’t get it out of my mind that they gave away all of that to go up to three to take Mac Jones. That is what everybody is saying. I’m not saying that. Okay? All the people that’s watching ESPN, I’m waiting to be stunned that it’s Mac Jones and not Justin Fields.”
.@mspears96 isn't convinced the 49ers will draft Mac Jones instead of Justin Fields 😬
"Everybody keeps telling me that it's going to be Mac Jones… I will believe it when I see it! I can't get out of my mind that they gave away all of that to go up to three to take Mac Jones." pic.twitter.com/BQP4VkxqlE
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) April 14, 2021
If Shanahan and Lynch pass on Fields at three, then the Patriots clear their first hurdle to land Justin.
The Return of Super Man
Secondly, head coach Belichick and owner Robert Kraft demonstrated a measure of confidence in their current starting QB Cam Newton.
New England re-signed the prolific ex-Carolina Panthers QB through 2021, agreeing to a one-year contract worth upwards of $14M.
Comp update: Patriots are finalizing a 1-year deal worth close to $14 million for Cam Newton to return to New England, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2021
However, although Newton is secured this season, the determining factor is dependent upon if Fields will provide a greater return.
Facts are the 31-year-old Newton is entering his 11th season and injured four times in the past four years.
For all intents and purposes, New England re-signing Newton is most likely an insurance move; keeping the door open at QB.
As such, Fields provides a much bigger upside; thereby giving Belichick an incentive to help Justin “fall” in their lap.
New England Must Move Up in the Draft
If Justin Fields tumble past San Francisco with the third pick, then New England is in control of their own fate.
The likelihood for teams currently sitting between the fourth through tenth picks in selecting a QB is slim to none.
The 11th pick belongs to the New York Giants, which opens the door to possibly selecting a QB.
Therefore, Belichick must trade up to at least tenth for Justin to have any chance of falling to the Patriots.
Stock Rises for Justin Fields as Draft Approaches
Many NFL analysts support the thought of New England making a big move to get Fields.
ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper related to Daniel Jeremiah on the NFL Network:
“They [Patriots] absolutely have to make the move up. This isn’t the Tom Brady era. Tom Brady is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer winning a Super Bowl. You have to get that quarterback, close that gap. DJ talked about Josh Allen‘s emergence as a superstar in this league. Tua in Miami and, soon to be, Zack Wilson with the New York Jets.”
Kiper also expressed he is big on Justin Fields, mentioning:
“You gotta get out of that cellar in that quarterback situation. If it’s Justin Fields, if he slides, go get him…I think, DJ, you have to be agressive. I projected a trade from 15 to seven with the Detroit Lions…If it’s Justin Fields, you can go up to seven.”
“When you’re in a division with Josh Allen, and Tua, and Zack Wilson, you have to go get somebody like Justin Fields, who I think is the second-best quarterback in this draft…New England, to me, is front and center…So, I think when you look at New England, if Justin Fields does slide, the opportunity then presents itself for teams like New England, Greeny, to move up and get him.”
.@MelKiperESPN sees the Patriots trading up for Justin Fields.
"New England, to me, is front and center." pic.twitter.com/4YkzvgqI1a
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) April 13, 2021
Justin’s announcement he is managing epilepsy drew much support from players, coaches, and will not affect his draft value.
— Alan Faneca (@afan66) April 21, 2021
Justin’s health, toughness and work ethic have never been an issue and I am incredibly proud of his professionalism and the character he displays on and off the field. The fact that he never missed a game at Ohio State speaks volumes about how he takes care of himself.
— Ryan Day (@ryandaytime) April 21, 2021
So, in short, the answer to the question: “Could Justin Fields fall to the Patriots?” on Thursday, April 29, 2021, is yes.
It is possible, but only with some help.