The New England Patriots are in familiar territory when they enter the playoffs later this week: they are a top-two seed, have one of the best records in the AFC, and will host a postseason game — all while being led by a record-breaking quarterback. That quarterback is 41-year old Tom Brady and despite his advanced age, he is in the middle of another successful campaign as the driving force behind New England’s offense.
With Brady turning 42 next August, however, the Patriots need to start looking for the long-term succession plan that former second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo did not turn out to be. And with practice squad passer 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 SB Nation’s Dan Kadar, the Patriots will do just that next April — in the first round:
Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
Here is your quarterback surprise of the week. The Patriots desperately need a young quarterback behind Tom Brady, and Jones could make for an excellent understudy.
Daniel Jones, who declared for the draft last week and will not return to Duke for a fifth year, is an interesting prospect — one that is coming off a good third season as the Blue Devils’ starter: appearing in 11 of the team’s 13 games, he completed 60.5% of his pass attempts this year for 2,674 yards, 22 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Solid numbers, but enough to put him on the Patriots’ radar in the first round? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Jones certainly has an intriguing combination of size — he stands at 6’5, 200 lbs — and footwork to serve as a pocket passer in the team’s scheme. Furthermore, the 21-year old has a natural feel for the pocket and is a smart passer able to go through his progressions if need be. He also has the necessary arm talent and is displaying good touch while also performing well when it comes to throwing the deep ball.
“Jones knows how to arch his back, dip his shoulder and really launch a throw for distance, and due to the fact that he does have such a feel for the football, he’s often quite accurate with throws of long distances,” says The Draft Network’s Trevor Sikkema about the North Carolina native. He also points out some of Jones’ weaknesses, however, most prominently the velocity he fails to consistently put on his passes to fit them into tight windows.
“I like a lot of Jones’ game, but watching him fail to have the ball velocity I believe is needed in the NFL makes it tough for me to think he’s anything more than a mid-round guy,” Sikkema continues. If the Patriots think that they can work with Jones’ technique to get him to a point at which he can overcome his issues with zip and compete against NFL competition, it would not be a surprise if they at least had him on their draft board.
But even in that scenario, seeing him get graded as a first-round option by the team appears to be a slight stretch at this point in time. With all that in mind, though, Jones would enter the perfect environment in New England: an established starter in Tom Brady that would allow him to watch and learn before hitting the spotlight, with an outstanding coaching staff to support him.