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Top 10 Patriots Draft Fits #8: NC State QB Ryan Finley

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Finley’s solid decision making skills as a passer should benefit the Patriots at least in the capacity of Brady’s potentially final backup.

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - North Carolina State v Texas A&M Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Patriots are certainly on the look for a QB who can stick on the roster for a while, either as a starter or as a backup. Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer are both scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency when the season ends barring an extension for either or both. There isn’t a QB who I’d grade with a starter or future starter role that will be on the board when the Patriots pick in the first round, so I think they’ll wait until Round 3 before getting their guy.

Combine Data

Height: 6’4”
Weight: 213
Hand: 9.5”
Vertical: 30.5”
Standing Jump: 9’8”
5-10-5 Shuttle: 4.20
3-Cone: 7.20

Strengths

  • Solid decision maker
  • 3 Years of Experience vs. Power 5 competition
  • Played in Pro Style offense at N.C. State
  • Navigates the pocket pretty well

Weaknesses

  • Needs to add muscle to 6’4” 213 frame
  • Arm strength is mostly average
  • Loses touch on deeper throws
  • Poor performances in rivalry games

Reasons Why the Patriots Would Draft Him

From a system fit perspective, Finley at worst has a floor of a backup QB in Brady’s final years. His short area decision making skills and quick release make sense especially in an offense where they try to break down the defense pre-snap with motion, personnel, and formations. If he can process the game even 75% as fast as Brady has been able to the last 7-8 years, he’ll do fine as either a future starter or long-time backup.

Reasons Why the Patriots Won’t Draft Him

It could be a case where the Patriots aren’t interested in drafting a quarterback. Adding Finley means the team will likely carry 3 QBs on the 53-man roster, which Bill Belichick isn’t opposed to doing. Given that Finley played in a pro style offense in his 3 seasons at N.C. State, the Patriots wouldn’t be the only team interested in drafting him in the capacity of at least a capable backup with a small chance of developing into a starter with a good QB Coach and Offensive Coordinator.

Who He Needs to Beat Out: Danny Etling and/or Brian Hoyer

Rookie Year Projection

Finley would spend his rookie season mostly studying the playbook, adding 10 pounds of muscle in the weight room, and getting reps in preseason as the #3 QB. The team is already carrying Brady, Hoyer, and Etling on the QB depth chart although taking Finley in the draft probably spells the end for Etling in a Patriots uniform. He would likely be inactive for all 16 games during the regular season as the Patriots never carry three active QBs into a game when Brady is mostly healthy.

Long Term Projection

Finley would have to prove he’s capable of being a longer term answer at the backup QB position than Hoyer as a rookie, otherwise he’s pretty much gone in Year 2. Tom Brady has expressed interest in wanting to play well into his 40s, so a starting opportunity might not exist for a few years. In the meantime, should Finley prove to be a capable backup that is a position that’s figured out for the next 3-4 years while the Patriots go to work on finding the potential Brady heir.

Grade: 3/5 Role Player

Depending on how you frame the argument, he is both a Future Starter (4) or a Backup (2) so I took the average. In the Patriots’ case, he’s closer to a 2 than a 4 unless he comes much better than advertised.

Round: 3rd

Given the team has 3 picks in the 3rd round (DET 3rd plus 2 comp picks), that seems to be the sweet spot for the Patriots to take a potential backup QB. Historically, the Patriots have drafted backups in the 3rd round (Kevin O’Connell, Ryan Mallett, Jacoby Brissett), so in a draft where there aren’t many QBs with starting potential they could take a high floor backup with low odds of developing into a starter. If he’s anything like Brady, perhaps the odds I’ve giving him are too low.