The 2018 NFL draft saw two teams in the AFC East – the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills – invest first-round draft picks in quarterbacks. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill is coming off a season-long stint on injured reserve following an ACL tear. Safe to say that the division is in a state of uncertainty when it comes to the most important position in all of football – with one notable exception: the New England Patriots.
Even though Tom Brady will turn 41 in not even three months, the reigning league MVP is still the best quarterback in the NFL and giving the Patriots a distinct advantage over their divisional peers. The recent quarterback confidence rankings by ESPN's Dan Graziano also reflect this: While Miami (28), New York (31), and Buffalo (32) all rank near the bottom, New England ranks near the top at the third spot.
Here's what Graziano had to say about the team's quarterback situation:
3. New England Patriots
Tom Brady turns 41 in August, hasn’t been to offseason workouts, seemed to at least dangle the possibility of retirement at one point this offseason and doesn’t seem to be on super-great terms with coach Bill Belichick. As long as Brady is playing, he’s in the discussion for best QB in the league, along with the guy we discussed at No. 2 [the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers]. But Brian Hoyer isn’t the most confidence-inspiring backup, given the loftiness of the Patriots’ goals, and seventh-round pick Danny Etling isn’t likely the long-term successor. Brady’s brilliance keeps the Patriots this high on the list, but a high level of uncertainty locks them out of the top spot for now.
Graziano's analysis of New England's quarterbacks is spot on. Brady is the reason why the Patriots have one of the best groups in all of football but the future outlook appears to be a murky one: At the moment, neither Brian Hoyer nor Danny Etling inspire confidence as the potential leaders of the franchise once the future first-ballot Hall of Famer decides to step away from the game.
Of course, a lot depends on Etling: If he is able to adequately fill the shoes of former Patriots developmental backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the long-term prospects of the position become better looking. At the moment, though, there appears to be little urgency when it comes to Etling's development as Brady is still on top of his game and there are little signs that his tenure as New England's passer will end soon.
As long as this remains the status quo – potentially up to the next five seasons – the team should remain near the top of Graziano's list. Whether the Dolphins, Jets, and Bills will join them anytime soon, on the other hand, is up in the air.