In the past few years, the NFL’s combine week was traditionally kicked off by a press conference with NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. With Mayock joining the Oakland Raiders as their new general manager, however, his press conference as an executive have a different tone this year. In his place, NFL Network made former scout Daniel Jeremiah available to talk about all things draft — including the New England Patriots.
Jeremiah was asked about his thoughts on the team drafting a quarterback with the 32nd selection, and he quickly pointed out that predicting the Patriots’ moves is impossible. “I’ve been trying it on the media side for six years, and it’s tough to do. So I don’t know exactly what they’ll be thinking in terms of trying to find that quarterback right now,” Jeremiah said before offering two names the club might have on its radar.
“If they were going to be looking at some guys at 32, I look at Daniel Jones,” continued Jeremiah. “If he were to fall down that far [Jones] would make a lot of sense for them. “He’s somebody that’s just... he’s very bright. He’s going to be able to kind of swallow the information you’re going to have to swallow in that offense in due time. He’s got touch and accuracy, does not have a huge arm, but just a real smooth rhythm quarterback, which is something they value in a big way.”
Jones is a popular name when it comes to the Patriots this draft season. After all, the 21-year old offers some enticing traits from his solid technique to his smarts and accuracy. That being said, he will need some work at the next level — something he would get sitting behind Tom Brady — to turn into a starting caliber quarterback: his velocity and ability to work under pressure are both question marks at this point in his career.
Of course, New England might wait until later in the draft to go after a quarterback. And according to Jeremiah, one passer in particular would make sense for the world champions. “Outside the first round [...] Ryan Finley from NC State, who’s almost a little bit of a poor man’s Jared Goff, same build, kind of that skinny frame, but great anticipatory thrower, very accurate and tough,” said NFL Network’s top draft analyst.
“That would be another name that would kind of make some sense that would fit in with what they’ve done there at the position. So those would be a couple quarterbacks I would keep an eye on,” Jeremiah continued before pointing out that another position might get addressed early on during late April’s draft as well: tight end. While the club has Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen under contract, both players’ futures are in question.
Gronkowski, who struggled with back and ankle injuries for much of 2018 but delivered a strong postseason, is reportedly again weighing retirement. Allen, meanwhile, is a serious candidate for either a contract restructure or a straight-up release: even though he is one of the NFL’s best blocking tight ends, the 29-year old’s salary cap hit of $7.3 million is hefty for his rather one-dimensional usage in New England’s offense.
“We’ll see what Gronk decides to do,” said Jeremiah. “If the two Iowa kids are gone, if [T.J.] Hockenson and [Noah] Fant are gone, I have Irv Smith right in that range — from Alabama — who I think would be a great fit there, and he’d be able to kind of plug in. You can play him in line, you can move him, just a real smooth, clean route runner who’s pretty nifty after the catch and has some toughness that I know they covet there. He’d be somebody that would make some sense.”