With future Hall of Famer Tom Brady taking his talents to Tampa in free agency, the New England Patriots need to find a new starting quarterback for the first time since the early 1990s. Second-year man Jarrett Stidham currently looks like the frontrunner to earn the job, at least this year, but nothing appears to be set in stone just yet when it comes to the long-term outlook at the position. The Patriots are therefore in the market for another quarterback in the draft.
There is a chance that they address the position on the first or second day of the event, but the team might be more willing to look for a developmental prospect to groom alongside Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer in one of the later rounds. One player who would fit this description is Washington State’s Anthony Gordon. Let’s therefore take a closer look at the redshirt senior, who was one of the most productive quarterbacks in college football last year.
Name: Anthony Gordon
School: Washington State (redshirt senior)
Opening day age: 23
2019 stats: 14 games; 687 attempts, 493 completions (71.8%), 5,579 passing yards, 48 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 109.3 passer rating
Size: 6023, 205 lbs, 9.75 hand size, 31 arm length
Workout numbers: N/A
Expected round: 4th-5th
Strengths: Gordon has the natural arm talent to find success at the next level: his release is quick and compact, and it allows him to work especially the short and intermediate areas very well; he has proven himself an accurate passer in these portions of the field but also has had some deeper completions that were on point; he has a really good feel for reading leverage and the touch to exploit potential openings in coverage systems; he also is a good anticipatory thrower and knows how to put the ball away from defenders while hitting receivers in stride.
In general, Gordon is a natural rhythm passer whose mechanics and platform can be very good when he is protected and gets the time to lock on to his targets and focus on his throwing motion. That said, he has shown that he can be successful as well when plays start breaking down: he has the short-area quickness to escape the pocket as a willing scrambler, and tries to keep his eyes down the field even when on the move. He does, however, also possess the poise to stay in the pocket with bodies flying around him.
Gordon has shown that he can quickly process information and react accordingly. He also can read the entirety of the field when his first reads are not available, while making throws to both sides of the field and putting the necessary zip on his passes. While his form looks somewhat unconventional at times — he has a tendency to side-arm his delivery — he has been able to produce even when altering his throwing angle.
Weaknesses: At this stage of his career, Gordon can best be described as a gunslinger: while he makes plenty of plays and can be a spectacular passer, he is inconsistent and has head-scratching plays all over his tape. His decision making certainly needs to improve at the next level considering that too often he tries to make plays where none are available — leading not just to sacks but also turnovers that could easily have been avoided. Gordon needs to learn to live for the next play rather than making risky plays.
He may have arm talent but does not have the most explosive cannon, which does impact his results and regularly shows up on when he tries to exploit tighter windows: he oftentimes attempts passes his arm strength cannot deliver on. Gordon also has to get more consistent when it comes to his footwork and overall mechanics — getting sloppy with his upper body and restless in his lower half — especially when under pressure or playing off rhythm. His feet tend to be all over the place and he needs to learn to step into throws even when under duress.
Gordon also brings only limited experience to the table: he started two years in high school, one in junior college back in 2015, and only became Washington State’s top option after the departure of Gardner Minshew in 2019. Furthermore, his numbers were likely inflated by playing in Mike Leach’s Air Raid system. At the next level, he needs to show that he can succeed in a more traditional offense: lining up under center and also serving as the main communicator.
What would be his role? While Gordon offers some intriguing traits for the Patriots to work with, he needs some considerable development to succeed in a new scheme built around different concepts and terminology than what he experienced at Washington State. He would therefore likely serve a depth option in Year One: either the number three behind Stidham and Hoyer, or maybe even the number two spot in case the team does not see a need to keep the veteran around for 2020. Either way, Gordon should not be expected to see any regular action outside of preseason and practice.
How many downs can he play? In theory, Gordon is able to play all three or four offensive downs — he was a starter at Washington State in 2019. That said, the best-case scenario for 2020 would be that he serves as a backup and only sees the field during preseason or maybe late in blowout games.
What is his special teams value? Like most quarterbacks, his special teams value is virtually non-existent. While Gordon could serve on field goal and extra point attempts as a backup holder behind Jake Bailey, he would likely only be handed this role if he can carve out the number two spot on the roster and in turn become a safe bet to make the 48-man game day squad on a week-to-week basis.
Does he have positional versatility? Other than the aforementioned emergency holder duties in the kicking game, Gordon does not offer any versatility. After all, he lacks any truly outstanding athletic traits that would make him a candidate be used in a non-quarterback or gadget role — despite some successful scrambles over the course of the 2019 season.
Will his role change from Year One to Year Two? Gordon’s role in both 2020 and beyond will likely depend on the players ahead of him on the quarterback depth chart upon his arrival in New England, especially Jarrett Stidham. The best-case-scenario from the Patriots’ perspective would be that either Stidham or Gordon established themselves as the clear-cut QB1 by 2021. Compared to Gordon, Stidham appears to have the inside track to do that from the current perspective: he has the experience in the system and showed promise during his rookie year. However, a lot could change over the next 12 months.
Which current Patriots will he have to beat out? New England currently has two quarterbacks under contract, and one of them — Stidham — is a lock to make the team this year. This means that Gordon might have to fight not just for the number two role versus Brian Hoyer but maybe even a roster spot, depending on when he comes off the board. Nevertheless, it seems likely that he would compete with Hoyer for the backup role behind Stidham in 2020.
Why the Patriots? With Stidham appearing to be the favorite to earn the Patriots’ starting job in 2020, the team could opt to invest one of its late-round selections in a high-upside developmental quarterback like Gordon. The 22-year-old has the necessary foundational tools — size and natural arm talent — to find success at the next level, but needs time to improve and adapt to an NFL system. If New England feels confident in Stidham’s ability to lead the offense, giving Gordon that time would not be a problem.
Why not the Patriots? Gordon brings some intriguing skills to the equation but he is a difficult projection after having spent his college career in an Air Raid scheme. While players such as Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield, and Gardner Minshew did find success in the NFL coming from such a passer-friendly system, there is no guarantee Gordon can join them. The Patriots, however, might prefer going with a safer option in case Stidham fails to develop into a proper starter.
Verdict: Gordon may be a raw prospect but his natural talents make him an intriguing player early on Day Three. If the Patriots think that Stidham can hold down the fort as the starting quarterback — the early indication is that they do — bringing him aboard as a developmental passer and potential quality backup would therefore be a solid decision: Gordon has the skillset to succeed as a QB2, with the upside to one day maybe even turn into a starter or quality trade chip.