Rule No. 1 of being a Patriots fan during the NFL Draft is: Never get your hopes up. If you want the first round fireworks of a Saturday skill position stud, being a Patriots fan is not for you.
The Patriots don’t shop name brand during the draft. They rarely take “Mel’s Top Player Available.” Hell, they rarely take someone from his top 212 available. Bill Belichick doesn’t take the box of Fruity Pebbles on the top shelf, he grabs the giant dog-food-sized bag of Confruity Crisp (I looked up that name, it is real) from the bottom shelf at the end of the aisle.
Every year, Patriots fans watch the draft, rooting for specific guys to fall to them at the bottom of the first round knowing, in our heart of hearts, that even if they’re still available, Bill is going to trade out or take a tackle from Fresno State (thank you, Logan Mankins).
The best example is 2011. Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram, falls to the Patriots at 28 when the team clearly needed a running back. Bill traded the pick to New Orleans for picks that later in the draft became Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. Ingram has had a great career, but Ridley had a 1,000-yard rushing season and Shane Vereen became the link in the pass-catching running back chain between Kevin Faulk and James White.
Less isn’t more in the draft. Warren Sharp explained it recently on the “Ringer NFL” show.
“It’s better to have more arrows in your quiver than less.”
With the Patriots at the 15th pick in what appears to be a loaded draft, I have my hopes up. Try as I might, I’ve read one (or 101) too many mock drafts, listened to 75 too many draft podcasts that have said North Dakota State QB Trey Lance COULD find himself in New England.
I’ve said it relentlessly since Tom Brady left, that I don’t see the Patriots trading up to take a quarterback but, if one were to fall to them, perhaps they would grab someone. They didn’t take Lamar Jackson when he fell to them in the 2018 draft. Lance could be there Thursday night.
I want the Patriots to pick Trey Lance for all the wrong reasons. I won’t pretend to have some secret insight into him as a player as so many are wont to do this time of year. I want them to pick a first-round quarterback to have someone to get excited for playing behind Cam Newton.
I want someone to monitor the way you do a minor-league phenom where you only hear reports of radar gun readings and poise. I want the giddy anticipation that comes with a Powerball ticket when you can dream of what you would do with $800 million, fantasizing that Lance could be to the Patriots what Patrick Mahomes has been to the Chiefs — better than Mahomes!
Is this logical? No, of course not! Trey Lance played one game in 2020 and it was against Central Arkansas (shoutout to Scottie Pippen). The same amount of people have seen Trey Lance throw as saw Sidd Finch.
Lance has played essentially one full season of college football and threw 28 touchdowns against teams like North Alabama, Montana State and Colgate. Does this sound like the sort of name-brand-priced box of uncertainty that Belichick ever uses a first-round draft choice on? Heck no, never.
Twenty years of watching Belichick pick players tells me he won’t take Lance, or any other quarterback for that matter, in the first round. But are my hopes up? Yes, all the mock draft experts have fired me up to the point that I feel a glimmer of faint but excited hope of the Patriots making a splash, but I’m ready to be disappointed. I’m ready to get hurt.
Under Belichick there are only two things the Patriots never win: the offseason and the draft. The Browns and Jets usually spend big bucks to get guys that’ll grace Sports Illustrated NFL Preview covers, while the Patriots get savvy vets or hungry undrafted players who prove to be more valuable.
Not this year. Belichick won the offseason with a spending spree that would make Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn blush.
As the old Foxwoods Casino TV ad said, why not “Take a chance, make it happen, pop the cork, fingers snappin’, spin the wheel, round and round we go. Life is good, life is sweet, grab yourself a front-row seat. And let’s meet and have a ball. Yes, let’s live, for the wonder of it all.”
Sterling Pingree is the senior staff writer for Jeff Solari’s Maine Sports Chowdah newsletter and a co-host of the 3 Point Stance Podcast with NFL veteran Mike DeVito and Aaron Jackson. An avid golfer, Pingree has been a member for more than a decade at Bangor Muni. He is a native of Kingfield and was a 4-year letterman in basketball and baseball at Mount Abram High School.