When the New England Patriots traded away backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on Monday, the team created both a short- and long-term void at the position. While Tom Brady is and will remain the starter, the spot behind him on the depth chart is in flux. And while New England will bring a backup – potentially former Patriot Brian Hoyer – on board soon, the long-term outlook at the position is very much in question.
This brings us to the 2018 NFL draft; the potential source to end the Patriots' questions behind their starting Hall of Fame quarterback (both on the depth chart and possibly the future). Overall, the upcoming draft class was initially regarded as one of the best in recent memory at the quarterback position. And while the group was not quite able to live up to the preseason hype so far this season, the group is still a deep and intriguing one.
Let's take a closer look at the most noteworthy members of it and find out who might be on New England's radar as Garoppolo's de-facto successor:
Sam Darnold (USC; 6'4, 225 lbs): While Darnold has been up and down so far this season, he brings a lot of talent to the table and is as intriguing a quarterback as you will find in the draft: He has the size, arm strength and football IQ to be a successful passer at the next level. For the Patriots, however, this means that he likely will be long gone by the time they are on the clock.
Josh Rosen (UCLA; 6'4, 210 lbs): Possibly the most pro-ready quarterback to enter the draft, Rosen is the complete package, not only from a physical standpoint: Rosen also is mechanically sound passer who completes 60+% of his attempts and has displayed a high football IQ and situational awareness. But unless New England moves up into the top five, he will be out of the team's reach.
Josh Allen (Wyoming; 6'5, 220 lbs): Allen brings intriguing traits to the table but has not lived up to his immense talent in 2017. Part of the problem is his supporting cast at Wyoming, part is his own up and down play in terms of decision making and accuracy. Despite his struggles, he still has a foundation to build upon and in the right situation could grow into quality NFL quarterback – which might lead to him being out of New England's draft day range.
Lamar Jackson (Louisville; 6'3, 205 lbs): The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is an impressive athlete, who can make plays with both his arm and his legs. But while he might fall into the Patriots' draft day range, it appears likely that the team would go another route. After all, New England would have to adapt its scheme to fit Jackson's strengths – and with Brady as the starter this will not happen.
Luke Falk (Washington State; 6'4, 205 lbs): Falk had his fair share of issues this season and has already been benched twice. Still, when on the top of his game, he can be a quarterback capable of carrying an offense – he just needs to do it more consistently. Falk, who comes from a spread offense and would have to learn a new system at the next level, will likely be in the Patriots' draft range and could very well be on the team's radar due to his accuracy and experience.
Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State; 6'5, 235 lbs): At first glance, Rudolph looks like a great NFL prospect: He brings both very good numbers, size and experience to the table. However, he comes with his fair share of questions about his mechanics, vision, and ability to perform at the next level. Rudolph certainly is a player that needs time to adjust to life in the NFL – something he would get in New England. It would not be a surprise, though, if he comes with too many question marks for the team's liking.
Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma; 6'2, 215 lbs): Like Rudolph, Mayfield has some outstanding statistics. And like Rudolph, he comes with questions about his vision and mechanics (particularly his footwork) while also adding some about his maturity (he has an offseason arrest on his record). With all that in mind, there is no question that Mayfield can sling it – which will likely result to him getting drafted on day two. But as is the case with Rudolph, New England might choose technique over big play ability.
Ryan Finley (NC State; 6'4, 205 lbs): Playing in a pro style offense, Finley displays poise and accuracy and is slowly climbing up position rankings. The former Boise State quarterback also brings plenty of experience to the table and despite his limited-looking upside would make an interesting selection in the mid rounds. It would not be a surprise to see him on New England's draft radar.
Jarrett Stidham (Auburn; 6'3, 215 lbs): Despite playing in the SEC, Stidham is posting some impressive numbers while completing 66% of his pass attempts. While he does not stand out with his athletic abilities, the 21-year old has proven himself capable of playing against top competition. Therefore, Stidham could very well be on the Patriots' radar despite the fact that he needs time – which he would get behind Tom Brady – to learn how to run an offense from under center.
J.T. Barrett (Ohio State; 6'2, 220 lbs): Barrett has some outstanding numbers as both a passer and a receiver, while also having proven himself under pressure. However, he does not look like a realistic option for the Patriots given his duality as a quarterback. As is the case with Jackson, Barrett's strengths make him less suited to perform in an offense like New England's; one that uses its passers almost exclusively within the pocket.
Riley Ferguson (Memphis; 6'4, 210 lbs): A skinny, accurate passer? The Patriots have had success with that recipe in the past and might also take a close look at Memphis' starting quarterback. However, Ferguson needs some work on his mechanics and vision on the next level in order to become a successful NFL quarterback. He would get all that in New England, if the team is willing to take the risk and invest in him.
Naturally, the quarterback class will evolve over the next few months and names listed above might see their stocks rise and fall accordingly. Still, an overall assessment shows that it is a broad group that offers some intriguing options for the Patriots to fill the vacant spot behind Tom Brady on the depth chart.