The New England Patriots are heading into the unknown at the quarterback position. After Tom Brady’s free agency departure as well as the subsequent release of former third-round draft pick Cody Kessler, the team is left with just two passers on its current roster: second-year man Jarrett Stidham, who is projected to be the team’s starter as things stand at the moment, and veteran Brian Hoyer, who was signed after his release by the Indianapolis Colts.
New England could decide to roll into 2020 with the Stidham-Hoyer duo battling for the starting role, but the expectation is that the team will add another body to its quarterback room through the draft. There are plenty of potential fits at the position, and players who would be intriguing based on their innate abilities. One passer falling into that second category is Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, who was once seen as the number one player in this year’s draft class before a hip injury suffered last year hurt his stock.
When Tagovailoa eventually comes off the board remains to be seen, but one prominent columnist thinks that he might even end up falling into New England’s lap: Peter King of NBC Sports released his new mock draft on Monday morning and it has the Patriots trading up from the 23rd to the 13th overall selection with the San Francisco 49ers for the rights to pick Tagovailoa:
13. New England (trade with San Francisco) — Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback, Alabama
So Tagovailoa could drop, and Bill Belichick really doesn’t want to take a quarterback now, with one draft pick in the top 85 this year and needs all over his roster. And truly: I have no indication, no inside information, that says he’d do this. It’s simply a guess. But think if you’re Belichick. Because your team never finishes 3-13, you never have a chance to get one of the best quarterbacks in the college game. Until Tagovailoa’s hip popped out of the socket last November, forcing immediate and urgent surgery, he was 1/1A with the transcendent Joe Burrow to be the first pick in this draft. And you don’t want to pillage the lone first or lone second-round pick from next year’s draft. But do you do it for a great but pockmarked talent such as Tagovailoa five months after major hip surgery? I do know Belichick would have confidence in his player-procurement skills.
Tagovailoa would certainly be a interesting addition to the Patriots’ roster due to his high ceiling and ability to start in Brady’s place on Day One. After all, his skillset translates very well to the pro level due to his accuracy in combination with a quick processor and the ability to remain calm under pressures. The 22-year-old may not have the strongest arm in this year’s class but he certainly knows how to use it to his advantage and make plays.
There are some considerable questions from New England’s perspective, however. Would the Patriots be willing to put all their proverbial eggs into one basket — King has them use both this and next year’s first-round pick to trade up — for a single player? How do they feel about his injury history that extends beyond a season-ending hip dislocation and also includes a broken hand and two high-ankle sprains? Is his 6-foot-0 size a concern for a team that has never drafted a quarterback shorter than 6-foot-2?
Tagovailoa certainly has the potential to turn into a great quarterback at the next level, but the Patriots’ history under head coach Bill Belichick when it comes to investing considerable resources in one player and picking an undersized quarterback would make it seem unrealistic the team goes after him this aggressively. Then again, Belichick has never really been in a situation like this one, heading into a season without an undisputed starting quarterback on his roster.