Patriots draft positional preview: Quarterback
Patriots draft positional preview: Quarterback
PATRIOTS NEED LEVEL: 3
I kicked around the idea of making this a Level 1 issue. But after stewing on the question a little longer -- Do the Patriots really need a quarterback? -- it seems eminently reasonable for Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio to draft one this year. Why? First, there's the possibility that the Patriots will need another quarterback in the short-term. If Tom Brady ends up being suspended for the first four games of the season, the Patriots will obviously require someone at the ready behind backup Jimmy Garoppolo. In all likelihood they'd want that player to be a veteran who could step in immediately should Garoppolo miss time, but perhaps there's a rookie in this class that the Patriots think could fit the bill. Flip the calendar forward to this time next year, though, and the more pertinent reason to draft a quarterback becomes clearer. Brady will still have three years remaining on his deal. Garoppolo will have one. And it stands to reason that after 2017, Garoppolo will want to test free agency to try his hand as a starter somewhere else. In that situation, the Patriots may look to trade the Eastern Illinois product to a quarterback-needy team before he becomes a free agent and leaves them with nothing more than a compensatory pick. Drafting a quarterback this year would allow the rookie to learn behind Brady and Garoppolo and then be ready to serve as a backup in 2017 and through the remainder of Brady's contract. Why not wait to draft a quarterback until next year, you ask? The Patriots could do that if they really like next year's class of passers. But by waiting, they'll back themselves into a bit of a corner. In that case, they may not feel comfortable trading Garoppolo until they have another quarterback in-house -- long after the start of free-agency when most teams in need have already filled their vacancies -- which would then likely reduce whatever return they'd get in a trade involving their 2014 second-round pick. The Patriots aren't desperate for a quarterback. Not right now. But looking long-term? It's not a Level 1 need, either.
Carson Wentz, North Dakota State, 6-5, 237 pounds
Wentz has the arm strength and the athleticism to succeed in the NFL. The only question is did he see enough in the way of competition to be worthy of the No. 1 overall pick?
Jared Goff, California, 6-4, 215 pounds
Touted as the more pro-ready prospect when compared to Wentz, Goff is accurate and can make plays on the run. But coming from an air raid offense could make for a difficult transition as a pro.
Paxton Lynch, Memphis, 6-7, 244 pounds
Lynch moves very well for a quarterback his size, and his ability to push the ball down the field rivals anyone's in this class, but he's raw and probably shouldn't be trusted as a starter out of the gate.
Connor Cook, Michigan State, 6-4, 217 pounds
Dogged by questions about his leadership, Cook has the kind of experience that is coveted by NFL front offices. A four-year starter in a pro-style offense, he won the MVP award in the 2013 and 2015 Big Ten Championship games.
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State, 6-4, 223 pounds
Bill O'Brien's star pupil as a freshman back in 2013, his sophomore and junior seasons were a mess accuracy-wise. Projections are all over the map with Hackenberg. Pro Football Focus calls him undraftable. ESPN's Jon Gruden says he'll be surprised if Hackenberg isn't drafted in the first round.
Brandon Allen, Arkansas, 6-1, 217 pounds
Undersized (criticized in particular for his small hands), Allen was a three-year starter for the Razorbacks. He hit on 66 percent of his passes last season and threw for 30 touchdowns. That kind of production may be worth a selection in the middle rounds.
Cody Kessler, Southern California, 6-1, 220 pounds
Another accurate quarterback whose measurables won't exactly wow evaluators, Kessler possess a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 68-to-12 over the last two seasons. He's thought of by some as a solid backup someday instead of a potential starter, but that may be all the Patriots are looking for late in the draft.
Kevin Hogan, Stanford, 6-3, 218 pounds
Belichick hasn't been shy about scooping up players from coach David Shaw's program in recent years. Hogan may have some mechanical issues that need polish, but he's quick (4.78-second 40-yard dash, 6.90-second three-cone drill), and he went 36-10 running a pro-style offense. His grandfather James O'Brien played football at Navy in the 1940s, a little over a decade before Steve Belichick began his career in Annapolis.
Jake Rudock, Michigan, 6-3, 207 pounds
Rudock (pronounced ROO-dock) started for two seasons at Iowa under coach Kirk Ferentz before transferring to Michigan. Executing Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh's pro-style scheme, Rudock threw for 20 touchdowns and over 3,000 yards. Might another late-round Michigan quarterback pay dividends for New England?