FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots nailed the transition the first time.

By his third year, Jimmy Garoppolo was clearly ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. A damn good one, it seemed.

Garoppolo’s experience as a rookie and sophomore was largely limited to the preseason. And it wasn’t always pretty. But when he was thrust into action for his first regular-season start, a Week 1 Sunday night game at Arizona in which the Patriots were nine-point underdogs, Garoppolo was nearly flawless.

So much has transpired since then. Tom Brady returned from suspension, dominated the league, and led the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. The Patriots dealt Garoppolo at the trade deadline the following season, mostly because Brady’s brilliant play left them no choice. Brady then won the NFL’s MVP award and put together a record-setting Super Bowl performance in defeat. And a year later, Brady won another Super Bowl – his sixth.

It’s been a wild few years in New England. Really, there’s only one thing that hasn’t happened: The Patriots haven’t settled on a new succession plan at quarterback.

There’s no “right” way to do it. The Packers sat Aaron Rodgers behind Brett Favre for three seasons. He learned in the background and instantly became one of the league’s best quarterbacks. The Colts pulled off a prolific single-season tank, rotating quarterbacks Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky en route to a 2-14 record, then landed Andrew Luck as the No. 1 pick in the draft (it’s hard to envision the Patriots ever taking this route, though).

There are multiple ways for the Patriots to play this. They could try their own numbers game, taking stabs at several quarterbacks with mid-round picks and low-risk trades or signings over the next few years.

They could invest in a quarterback with a high draft pick and aim to replicate the original Garoppolo timeline: Let the player sit behind Brady for two seasons and have him ready to start by Year 3.

Today, the Patriots’ plans are unclear. But by next weekend, that could be a much different story.

Recent draft history: Danny Etling in 2018 (seventh round); Jacoby Brissett in 2016 (third round); Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014 (second round); Ryan Mallett in 2011 (third round); Zac Robinson in 2010 (seventh round); Kevin O’Connell in 2008 (third round).

Best early-round fit: Drew Lock, Missouri

This might require an aggressive move up the draft board, similar to how the Texans jumped from No. 25 to No. 12 to land Deshaun Watson and the Chiefs moved from No. 27 to No. 10 to draft Patrick Mahomes two years ago. Both teams needed to part with a future first-round pick to make it happen.

Lock is undeniably talented. He has a big-time arm, ideal size, and plenty of athleticism to move around and create plays beyond the structure of the offense. Lock simply needs to polish his pocket presence and the consistency in his mechanics. That’s where Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels come in.

Best mid-round fits: Jarrett Stidham, Auburn; Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

Both Stidham and Thorson possess traits that don’t necessarily match their college production.

A two-year starter at Auburn, Stidham displayed good arm strength and adequate mobility. Stidham’s numbers declined from his sophomore to junior season – regressing from a 66.5 completion percentage to 60.7 – but many analysts have pointed to Auburn’s offensive scheme as a limiting factor. Stidham’s composure and competitiveness stood out in a 2017 upset win over Alabama.

“Stidham is one of the true wild cards because he spins it as well or better than anybody in this entire draft,” said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah. “In short, he’d be a top-five pick. Unfortunately, it hasn’t clicked on the field like you’d want to see at Auburn. Some of that is the lack of protection. Some of it is an offensive system that’s not great for him. But just throwing the football, he’s a great athlete.”

Jeremiah added that Stidham has “as much upside as any quarterback in this class.”

Thorson was a four-year starter at Northwestern, but didn’t make much progress – at least statistically – after a breakout sophomore campaign. As a senior, Thorson averaged a middling 6.5 yards per attempt while throwing 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions (he was coming off a torn ACL suffered in the Music City Bowl his junior year).

The 6-foot-4, 223-pounder remains a mid-round prospect because of his physical tools and profile as a high-upside pocket passer.

Best late-round fit: Jacob Dolegala, Central Connecticut; T.J. Linta, Wagner

It would be slightly surprising to see the Patriots go the late-round route for the second consecutive year.

If they do, Dolegala is worth a flier. He’s 6-foot-6, 240 pounds with a big arm and decent athleticism.

Linta comes from the same conference as Dolegala. He possesses desirable intangibles (42 on the Wonderlic test) and size (6-foot-3, 232 pounds, 10 1/8 hands).

Potential veteran acquisitions: Josh Rosen, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard

Rosen is the obvious one. If the Cardinals take Kyler Murray with the No. 1 pick, they’ll almost certainly look to move Rosen. This could be a buy-low opportunity for the Patriots. Rosen, the No. 10 pick a year ago, struggled as a rookie in a wholly dysfunctional offense.

Mullens and Beathard played extensively for San Francisco following Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending knee injury. The Niners do not need to keep both.

Mullens started the final eight games and averaged 8.3 yards per attempt, which ranked fifth in the league behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, Patrick Mahomes, Philip Rivers and Jared Goff. Perhaps the Patriots could pry away Mullens for a mid-round pick.

Keep an eye on: Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston

Don’t expect either of these players to be moved anytime soon.

Both, however, are on expiring contracts. The Bucs haven’t committed to Winston, the No. 1 pick in 2015, as the quarterback of the future. If the Titans are sold on Mariota as their franchise quarterback, they haven’t done anything to show it. Mariota hasn’t received a contract extension, and the team traded for Ryan Tannehill earlier this offseason.

Depending on how this year plays out, both Winston and Mariota could become available in the 2020 offseason.

They’ll both be 26 next spring. It’s not crazy to think the Patriots could be interested at the right price (for context, the Rams signed Blake Bortles for one year at $1 million this offseason).