For the first time since the early 2000s, the New England Patriots are heading into the draft with questions at quarterback — at least relative to the stability that they have had at the position over the past two decades: with future Hall of Famer Tom Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, the Patriots need to find a man to succeed the six-time world champion and to lead their offense in 2020 and ideally beyond.
While it seems likely that second-year man Jarrett Stidham has the best shot at the job, he is far from a sure thing at this point in time. After all, Stidham has virtually no NFL in-game experience after attempting only four passes during the 2019 regular season and serving as Brady’s number two throughout the year. He did put his work in behind the scenes, but until he actually shows that he can deliver the goods when on the field he is very much a wild card.
This means that the Patriots appear to be in the market for a quarterback entering this year’s draft. It seems somewhat unlikely that the team will invest a first-round selection in one of the candidates that might be available at pick number 23 (i.e. Utah State’s Jordan Love or Oregon’s Justin Herbert), considering their boom-or-bust potential and developmental nature, but New England adding a mid- or late-round QB would not be surprising.
After all, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick praised the quarterback group’s overall depth during a recent media conference call: “Certainly there’s a lot of interesting players and guys who have really good arms, can really throw the ball and some very athletic players, some players that have won a lot of games and have shown their competitiveness and instinctiveness. So, interesting group and probably one that has decent depth to it.”
While LSU’s Joe Burrow, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and the aforementioned Jordan Love and Justin Herbert have dominated the national narrative over the last few weeks, other quarterbacks such as Jake Fromm out of Georgia, Anthony Gordon out of Washington State or Florida International’s James Morgan could very well be on the Patriots’ draft board as potential players to target on the second or third days of next week’s draft.
“There’s quite a range of players and some of the systems that they play in in college are different, either than what we run or what traditional NFL systems would look like, and some are more closely schematically to that,” said Belichick when breaking down this year’s class, noting that it does have similarities to previous ones in terms of the range he mentioned. “Each guy has his own set of skills; he has his own circumstances.”
“Some players have played well over a sustained period of time; some players have had an exceptional year in the past year or two — maybe 2019, in some cases 2018 — and then for whatever the reasons were, the two years didn’t quite match up. But, that’s I’d say about the way it always is. There are always a variety of things you have to try to put together and look at,” continued the Patriots’ head coach under whose leadership the organization has drafted 10 quarterbacks since Brady’s ascension to the starting role in 2001.
The list growing by at least one other name this year should be expected, if only to add more competition to a quarterback room that currently consists only of Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer. Even though New England may not find its starter for the 2020 season via the draft, the team could still add some developmental upside and try to take advantage of the “decent depth” that Belichick mentioned.