While New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is enjoying his 19th full offseason in the league, the next generation of NFL quarterbacks is performing in front of scouts, coaches and team officials to show its value to potential suitors entering the draft. But while the focus obviously lies on the task at hand, Brady’s name and the possibility of maybe becoming his understudy appears to be an enticing outlook for some of the passers.
Three of the players New England might target were asked about the future Hall of Famer during the scouting combine, and it sure sounds like all three of them are looking up to Brady. And considering that the Patriots once again appear to be in the market for a developmental mid-round quarterback, N.C. State’s Ryan Finley, Boise State’s Brett Rypien, and West Virginia’s Will Grier all have realistic shots to play alongside Brady in 2019.
“That would be unbelievable, just a chance to learn from them and that whole organization would be awesome,” said Finley when asked about this scenario. The 24-year old added that he is looking forward to any opportunity, but that playing alongside the greatest of all time would still have special meaning. “An opportunity like that would be pretty awesome just to learn and grown and see how things are done.”
The Wolfpack’s quarterback is projected to get drafted between rounds four and five due to some of the same pre-draft criticisms Brady faced. Like New England’s passer, however, he also brings plenty of the attributes to the table that helped the 41-year old grow from sixth-round afterthought to most successful player the NFL has ever seen — with one standing out in particular: a dedication to his craft, from eating habits to film study.
Finley is not the only draft prospect to model his approach to football after Brady. A former teammate of his and eventual replacement as Boise State’s starting quarterback, Brett Rypien, also tries to follow the path that is still taken by the six-time world champion. “I think his ability to stand in the pocket and make plays,” he told reporters during the combine when asked about what specifically he tries to emulate.
“That’s something I’ve always tried to do — hang in the pocket as long as I can and make throws downfield,” the nephew of former Washington starting quarterback Mark Rypien continued. “And obviously, just how consistent he’s been for so many years. It’s not an easy thing to do at all, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for how high of a level he’s playing at the age he’s at right now.”
Rypien, who is on the lower end of the the Patriots’ historical ideal-size-spectrum at 6’2 with nine-inch hands, also is expected to be taken in the middle rounds of the draft — right where another quarterback connected to New England as a possible target comes in: Will Grier, who also would not mind to learn from the best to ever suit up. “The opportunity to learn from a guy like that would obviously be priceless,” he said.
A popular mock draft pick for the Patriots, Grier brings plenty of traits to the table you would want from an NFL quarterback: from a strong arm that has the right amount of touch, to solid decision making and mechanics. And watching Brady might just have contributed to his development into one of the 2019 draft’s upper-tier passers. “Me and Jake Spavital, my O.C. at West Virginia, watched a lot of Patriots film and built our offense off a lot fo what they do. We watched a lot of Tom Brady film,” said Grier.
Whoever comes to New England — if a quarterback even gets drafted by the club, that is — will take the next step when it comes to watching Brady or trying to model his game after him. And ideally, this experience would be the basis for a career that at least comes somewhat close to the future Hall of Famer’s. “It’s definitely inspiring and something I think every single guy here wants to achieve,” said Rypien.
Chances are that this does not happen — too perfect is the storm that is the 21st century Patriots of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick — but getting a chance to work in a building like New England’s would certainly be a best-case scenario for developmental passers like Finley, Rypien or Grier.