Sitting at 9-3 after their first twelve games, the New England Patriots are in the middle of another winning season — the 17th with quarterback Tom Brady as the starter. The team’s current run of excellence is remarkable, but all things eventually have to come to an end (even though we cannot yet rule out the possibility of Brady being a cyborg created to permanently destroy all joy and happiness outside of New England).
With Brady turning 42 next August, the Patriots need to start looking for a long-term succession plan that Jimmy Garoppolo did not turn out to be. And with practice squad quarterback and seventh-round rookie Danny Etling probably also not filling Brady’s shoes once he decides to end his Hall of Fame career, the team might look at next year’s draft to address the position again.
When it comes to a new mock draft by advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus, the Patriots will do just that next April — in the first round:
Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
The Pats nab their QB of the future. Grier has his issues, but he has NFL-level accuracy that can be molded over time. His 75.9 adjusted completion percentage is 11th best in the country.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier certainly appears to be an interesting candidate as a potential heir to Brady’s throne. The redshirt senior, who led his team to the 15th rank in the nation and a bowl game berth, is having an outstanding season for the Mountaineers: the 6’2, 215 lbs quarterback is completing 67.0% of his pass attempts (266 of 397) for 3,864 yards, 37 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.
Grier’s accuracy, touch and decision making are his best traits and will make him a highly touted prospect next spring. However, he is a player that needs plenty of time to develop into a starting-caliber player at the next level (something he would get in New England as Brady’s backup): his mechanics and feel for the pocket still need some fine-tuning while his progressing speed needs to improve as well.
What Grier also needs to learn is taking snaps from under center. Playing in an up-tempo Air Raid scheme under head coach Dana Holgorsen, the 23-year old lined up almost exclusively in the shotgun. If the Patriots feel like he can make the transition to a more traditional NFL pocket passer and are also happy with his foundational skills, it would not be a surprise if they at least took a closer look at him leading up to the draft.