The search for The Next Guy for the Patriots continues. This week, we'll be at the combine trying to find out everything we can about the quarterbacks in attendance, and if there are any Bill Belichick could snag as a possible Tom Brady successor.
Before heading to Indy, NFL Media's draft analyst Mike Mayock held a lengthy (1 hour and 49 minutes) conference call to share all he could on the prospects he's studied to this point. Among those prospects have been a boatload of quarterbacks. Mayock, like many others, believes this is a deep class at the game's most important position.
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And he thinks the Patriots will have options in the second or third rounds if they'd like to spend a pick in that area.
"As far as the Patriots are concerned, I think there are some interesting second and third-round potential quarterbacks this year," he said. "I think Mason Rudolph from Oklahoma State is a really logical player. Prototypical, dropback type of guy. I don't think he has great escapability, but I think he can do what the Patriots offense asks him to do. Along with him, I would say Luke Falk and Mike White, I think, are very interesting players.
"Then a notch below that, I take Kyle Lauletta and Logan Woodside. Now, if you look at the five potential first rounders -- Rudolph, Falk, White, Lauletta and Woodside -- that's 10 quarterbacks. In a typical draft, only 11 to 12 quarterbacks get drafted overall. So I think there's a little bit better quality at the top end through three or four rounds than we're used to seeing in the quarterback draft."
Rudolph's resume paints him as a Patriots type, in some respects. He's a three-year starter with good size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds), a strong career completion percentage (63.2) and an impressive career touchdown-to-interception ratio (92-to-26). He's coming from a college offense, though, that will require a significant level of adjustment when he gets to the NFL.
Falk, from Washington State, is an intriguing prospect. He was incredibly productive in coach Mike Leach's "Air Raid" offense, and despite some questions about his arm strength, he'll draw plenty of attention this draft season because he may be one of the most accurate passers in the class. Falk does not have the quickness that some at his position do, and he has taken a beating over the course of his career, meaning the medical evaluation portion of the combine may be the most important for him.
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White, from Western Kentucky, has a huge arm. Like Falk, he's not the world's best athlete, and he likes to crow-hop into his throws which may elongate his release times. But when White has time and space to throw, he can put the ball anywhere it needs to be.
If the Patriots want to wait into the middle (or late) rounds, depending on how things fall, it sounds like Richmond's Lauletta and Toledo's Woodside are two of Mayock's favorites. Lauletta, who has plenty of good-but-not-outstanding on-the-field traits, was the MVP of the Senior Bowl. Woodside, meanwhile, had his team hanging tough with Miami due in large part to his playmaking ability.
"He's an interesting guy," Mayock said of Lauletta. "The Senior Bowl has propelled a lot of quarterbacks in the last 15 years. Not necessarily just first-round guys, but other guys. I think he opened some eyes at the Senior Bowl. He's a very solid, does everything well, does not have any one elite trait, but does everything pretty well. Case Keenum reminds me of that a little bit, those kinds of traits when he came out. So I think he went from an afterthought to somebody that could legitimately be a third-round quarterback in the NFL . . .
"What I like about [Woodside] is the kid makes a lot of plays. At the end of the day -- I'm trying to remember which tape it was, I'm trying to look it up for you right now -- I think he's got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder because he wasn't recruited and all the rest of that. He's a self-made kid. I watched three of his tapes, and he broke all of Gradkowski's records, every ball was in a good location that I saw. His accuracy, forget that he was at 69 percent one year . . . Forget those numbers. He put the ball where the receivers could run with it. So at halftime of the Miami game, they're up 16-10, and he continued to push the ball downfield. I saw, the Miami game, I really liked because that chip on his shoulder where, 'Why didn't you recruit me?' You could almost see it on tape. So when I looked at him earlier, I kind of put him and Kyle Lauletta in the same conversation because they're similar height, body types, et cetera, but I think Logan Woodside has not gotten enough credit, and he's the guy I'm looking forward to watching throw the ball at the combine."
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What will be interesting to see will be where Louisville's Lamar Jackson ends up being drafted. Some believe he's a lock to be a first-rounder. Others believe he's more of a Day 2 prospect. Still, others believe he's a receiver, not a quarterback.
Mayock believes Jackson is special, but he wouldn't go so far as to say that if Jackson was available the Patriots would go after him.
"The one-way, outside-the-box conversation is Lamar Jackson, who I think is the most electrifying player in this draft, and I think somebody's going to take him and commit their offensive philosophy to him," Mayock said. "I would tell you that the most nervous 31 people in the league would be the defensive coordinators that would have to play against him. Now, it's a different kind of commitment and a different kind of philosophy, and I'm not suggesting the Patriots are going to do that. I just want to get that out there in general for anybody looking at quarterbacks."