The first round of this year’s NFL Draft is less than a week away, and the New England Patriots appear to have multiple options when it comes to the 23rd overall selection. One of the most popular routes that New England could go, at least in mock drafts and media circles, is selecting a quarterback in Round One to act as Tom Brady’s eventual successor and as somebody to push presumed starter Jarrett Stidham in 2020 and beyond.
The latest to fan the flames was NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, who appeared on the Rich Eisen Show earlier this week and noted that the Patriots “are going to take a quarterback, probably with a premium pick [...] I would just imagine it’s not at a pick they currently have.” While the statement seems to be based more on projection than on facts, Rapoport is far from the only person that can see the team investing in a passer early in the draft.
At various points, ESPN’s Mel Kiper, SB Nation’s Dan Kadar, The Draft Network’s Joe Marino and Jordan Reid, NBC’s Phil Perry, CBS’ Chris Trapasso and NFL Network’s Charles Davis all had New England pick a quarterback in the first round in their respective mock drafts. According to Anthony Treash over at Pro Football Focus, however, the best-case scenario for the Patriots in this year’s draft would be to stay away from a QB on Day One:
New England Patriots — Stay away from Herbert and Love in the first round
Justin Herbert will likely be off the board by the time New England picks at No. 23, but there’s a real chance Jordan Love is there, so they have to be careful not to buy into the potential hype. No quarterback in this class had a higher rate of QB-fault incompletions than Love; his overall accuracy is suspect, and he fell short of the 25th percentile among FBS quarterbacks in the percentage of uncatchable passes thrown 10 or more yards downfield. Jalen Hurts or Anthony Gordon on Day 2 are far better options than Herbert or Love in the first round.
Both Herbert and Love are boom-or-bust prospects: they have the athletic skillsets and highlight-reel plays that make them look like surefire first-round picks as well as future franchise quarterbacks, but they have also struggled with consistency and made their fair share of questionable decisions in the past. Their ceilings are undoubtably high, but they are no safe bets to adequately fill the shoes worn by Tom Brady for the last two decades.
Seeing PFF name the Patriots passing on them in the first-round as a best-case scenario is therefore no surprise, especially when adding the advanced analytics website’s own numbers for further contextualization:
The one stat that would terrify me if I'm considering draft Justin Herbert or Jordan Love is this...— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) April 13, 2020
% of uncatchably off-target throws targeting when an OPEN receiver 5-18 yards downfield in 2019:
While the statistic of uncatchable off-target throws intended for open receivers between five and 18 yards downfield is a rather specific sample to judge players by, it does illustrate some of the problems both Herbert and Love have despite their developmental upside: they need to get more consistent in their decision-making and ability to distribute the football. Could they do this and develop into starting-caliber passers at the next level? Certainly, but there is a risk associated with them either way that surpasses that of players at other positions.
Eventually, the Patriots will have to make a call if they should find themselves in a position to draft one of the two early next week: Are their mistakes correctable, and how do they project in New England’s system compared and when compared to Jarrett Stidham?