Patriots Don't Have to Draft Ryan Mallett's Replacement Early

Scott Cunningham

Selecting the heir to Ryan Mallett is extremely important, but don't let that inflate your value for the draft necessity.

We know that the Patriots are likely planning on drafting Ryan Mallett's eventual replacement in this upcoming draft. Just like 2011 where the Patriots carried both Mallett and Brian Hoyer, we can expect the Patriots to plan on a similar roster build in Mallett's likely final season with the team.

What makes this selection of even greater importance is the potential implication down the road. Tom Brady will be 37 this season and will be 40 during the final season of whatever draftee's final contract season. That's where the Patriots will hit their cross road.

In Brady's 40th year, do they extend their draftee from 2014? Or do they act the same way as they will with Mallett and select the real replacement for Brady in 2017, giving them a year on the bench before assuming the starting role?

Or Brady might just play until he's 50, but that's for another discussion in four years.

The way the Patriots have positioned themselves opens up many doors at quarterback:

1) They don't need a quarterback, which means they can afford to select a player with greater upside and less polish (hence all the noise surrounding Tom Savage).

2) They don't need to draft an imminent starter- they can do that in 2017- which means they can take a slightly bigger risk on their project.

3) They do need a viable contingency plan in case Tom Brady's ol' bag o' bones should be hurt, so they can't afford to go the Curtis Painter route.

As a result, the team doesn't have any need to go after the top four or five names in this draft. Instead, they can wait it out. And wait, and wait, and wait.

Looking at historical averages, only four or five quarterbacks are generally selected in the first three rounds. The nature of the position also reduces the desire for teams to select a probable back-up. That means that plenty of talent will fall beyond the teams looking for a starting quarterback.

If we're considering Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr, and Blake Bortles as the first tier of quarterbacks, and Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Savage, Zach Mettenberger, and A.J. McCarron in the second tier, odds are fairly high that a couple of these players will still be on the board come day three of the draft and the start of the fourth round.

And that's ignoring players with high ceilings and low polish like David Fales and Brett Smith, or players who've fallen due to injury like Aaron Murray.

Most of these players could do well to sit for four years. Most probably aren't the quarterback of the future. But they're all exceptionally viable options to take on Mallett's back-up role, with the ability to start in a pinch.

The team doesn't have to take a quarterback early to still get one with the desired ability. The smarter play would be to wait out the draft board.

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