NFL Network’s draft guru Mike Mayock hosted a press conference to share his thoughts of the 2018 NFL Draft class ahead of the combine and a few reporters asked important questions related to the New England Patriots.
Which quarterbacks would fit in New England? And which Alabama players could end up with the Patriots?
Mayock believes the Patriots need to find an heir for Tom Brady is “getting more and more urgent” and that we can’t count out Bill Belichick using his first round pick on a quarterback, calling Lamar Jackson “the most electrifying player in this draft” and one that would make defensive coordinators nervous, especially under the eye of Belichick.
But there are other quarterbacks that are also on the Patriots radar.
“As far as the Patriots are concerned, I think there are some interesting second and third round potential quarterbacks this year,” Mayock continued. “I think Mason Rudolph from Oklahoma State is a really logical player. Prototypical, dropback type of guy. I don’t think he has great escapability, but I think he can do what the Patriots offense asks him to do.
“Along with him, I would say Luke Falk and Mike White, I think, are very interesting players. Then a notch below that, I take Kyle Lauletta and Logan Woodside.”
I’m in the camp that thinks Rudolph makes a lot of sense. While his throwing motion is a little elongated, that same flaw didn’t prevent the Patriots from drafting players like Ryan Mallett and Jacoby Brissett (although their successes in the NFL, compared to the quick-motioned Jimmy Garoppolo, would raise reasonable questions about drafting another quarterback with a long throwing motion).
I like Falk and Woodside as late-round picks that could be Brian Hoyer-type players that would be solid back-ups and potential spot starters, while White and Lauletta are boom-or-bust prospects. Mayock had a fair comparison for Lauletta.
“I think he opened some eyes at the Senior Bowl,” Mayock said about Lauletta. “He’s a very solid, does everything well, does not have any one elite trait, but does everything pretty well. Case Keenum reminds me of that a little bit, those kind of traits when he came out. So I think he went from an afterthought to somebody that could legitimately be a third round quarterback in the NFL.”
Those are all players that could be fits with the Patriots and they would likely be drafted in the first three or four rounds in an average draft- but this isn’t an average draft for quarterbacks. There are plenty of prospects available and that means some of these prospects could be selected with great value later in the draft.
“If you look at the five potential first rounders [Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Jackson], Mason, Rudolph, Falk, White, Lauletta and Woodside -- that’s 10 quarterbacks,” Mayock noted. “In a typical draft only 11 to 12 quarterbacks get drafted overall. So I think there’s a little bit better quality at the top end through three or four rounds than we’re used to seeing in the quarterback draft.”
Over the past five drafts, teams have selected an average of 11.4 quarterbacks and when you add in Memphis’ Riley Ferguson and Virginia’s Kurt Benkert, and even Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett there are going to be options on day three.
And if the Patriots choose to wait for a quarterback, they can turn their focus to other prospects in the first couple of rounds where a few University of Alabama players could be of interest.
“The way [the University of Alabama runs] their program speaks for itself,” Mayock said. “So I would imagine, and I can’t speak for Bill [Belichick], but obviously Alabama players are interesting guys because when they come out, they’ve been coached hard, you know what you’re getting.
“Rashaan Evans is a great off-the-ball linebacker. He can run, shows up in coverage, comes downhill, tackles. He’s going either late one to early two.
“[Ronnie] Harrison the safety, all over the field. I’ve got him as a second round pick, but he could go in the first round. Again, I think he can drop down and cover people, but I don’t think that’s his forte. In today’s NFL, I think you’re looking to get safeties that can drop down and cover a slot. He could, but I think he’s better in the box.”
The Patriots could really use another linebacker to supplement the oft-injured Dont’a Hightower and also Kyle Van Noy as New England needs a strong set of linebackers to play quality defense.
Harrison would also make sense as a potential heir to Patrick Chung, although he’d be notably less versatile. He would compete with Jordan Richards for time on the field.