More than most years, the Patriots' first-round pick represents more than a selection.
It could be a chip used in a franchise-altering trade for a quarterback.
It could be an opportunity to add the last elite player in this year's class before a widely viewed drop-off after the top 15.
It could be a trap laid to ensnare a desperate front office eager to move up and leverage them into a lopsided deal.
To fully understand all that's on the table at 15th overall, the Pats' highest pick in more than a decade, here is every available option for the front office in tonight's first round.
The Pats' most obvious and enticing options are one in the same.
Package the 15th pick with other selections in a trade that allows them to draft the quarterback of their future.
Ohio State's Justin Fields, North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Alabama's Mac Jones are the names to know. Following recent projections, Fields is the mostly likely passer to fall into range. That includes mock drafts and betting markets.
After Denver traded for Teddy Bridgewater on Wednesday, it appears the sellers market that had been the top 10 has grown friendlier for the Patriots. Teams like the Falcons, Lions and Panthers won't be able to demand for the same ransom San Francisco paid to acquire the third overall pick, and the Pats aren't ones to bet the farm.
Still, any deal is likely to involve the Pats' second-round pick or a future first-rounder. Perhaps they can wait for Fields or Lance to slide to Dallas at 10th, where a future first should be off the table. Despite the market shift, it's unlikely either falls much farther. Elite quarterback prospects, even developmental ones, are too valuable.
Following Bill Belichick's words earlier this month, the more likely trade scenario is the Pats wait until No. 12 overall or later, where the cost is mitigated and the trade-happy Eagles sit.
"I'd say normally something would happen and there could very well be a player there that either you don't expect to be there or maybe he is a couple spots, maybe at 12, 13, he's still on the board and you really thought that he'd be gone in the top six, seven picks," Belichick said. "Then the question comes, do you move up and try to get that player that's fallen a little bit?"
Quarterbacks aside, the top trade targets should be at wide receiver and cornerback. Alabama receivers Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith are top-10 talents who would warrant sacrificing an extra pick to acquire. A teammate, Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr., deserves the same consideration. If Surtain Jr. goes early, the Pats could be motivated to move up for the second-best corner available, South Carolina's Jaycee Horn.
Make a pick
None of the Alabama prospects mentioned above are expected to drop to 15th overall, though any one of them would have the Pats sprinting in to submit their draft card.
Horn is another no-brainer pick, as a physical cover artist who projects as a potential rookie starter and might replace Stephon Gilmore or J.C. Jackson next year. Though buzz about a run on first-round cornerbacks has grown stronger lately, meaning it's possible he and Surtain Jr. are gone long before the Pats pick. In this case, Northwestern's Grant Newsome II would be another logical choice.
Newsome ran sub-4.4 at his Pro Day and hails from a versatile defensive system. His high football IQ would play instantly within Belichick's system. He averaged more than one pass breakup per game in college and allowed just one completion of longer than 10 yards last year. Newsome's all-around game should mitigate injury concerns, which could be eased by a full year in an NFL strength and conditioning system.
Other possibilities include Georgia outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips, Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins and USC offensive lineman Alijah-Vera Tucker.
The Pats' least exciting and least shocking options are one and the same.
Trade down to stockpile picks and hunt for value.
In Belichickian fashion, the front office could easily move back and add another mid-round selection to fill the void left by their vacated third-round pick taken as punishment for the 2019 Bengals videotaping scandal.
Potential trade partners to watch are Las Vegas (17th pick), Pittsburgh (24th), Baltimore (No. 27 and No. 31) and New Orleans (No. 28). The Saints are rumored to be looking to trade up and have dealt with New England in the past, as have the Raiders and Ravens on draft days
If the Patriots drop into the mid-20s, potential targets that should be available are Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, TCU safety Trevon Moehrig, Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore, Oklahoma State offensive tackle Teven Jenkins and Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore.
The Patriots might also convince themselves Stanford quarterback Davis Mills, who threw all of 458 college passes, is worthy of a first-round selection. Mills is currently projected to go in the second or third round.