Would the Patriots really add a quarterback in this year's draft? After spending a first-round pick on Mac Jones in 2021 and a fourth-rounder on Bailey Zappe in 2022?
They could. While it looks as though Jones will get an opportunity to show what he can do in a more functional offensive situation this season, maybe the team isn't sold on either of its young passers to this point. Bill Belichick would also likely want to have a third quarterback for camp to replace the departed Brian Hoyer.
So if they're looking at that position, what are they looking for?
Report: Bill Belichick has 'shopped' Mac Jones on trade market
Well, since 2000, Belichick has typically selected quarterbacks who played in Power Five conferences and stood 6-foot-2 or taller. Their hands usually measure more than nine inches. He's exclusively drafted quarterbacks who have spent at least four years in college, even if they didn't have four years of playing experience.
Belichick draftees at quarterback have career touchdown-to-interception ratios that have averaged out to be better than 2-to-1. Their yards per attempt was often 7.5 or better. And they normally completed more than 60 percent of their passes. Most had at least 800 pass attempts under their belts.
Not every quarterback checked every one of those boxes -- Zappe isn't 6-foot-2 and didn't play in a Power Five conference -- but most checked most of the boxes. For more context on what Belichick has looked for at the position, it's also worth noting what he told Browns scouts back in the 1990s when he was establishing his program there. The following is from a Cleveland scout's notes, passed along by NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah.
"[No. 1] is to make good decisions -- then arm, size, physically tough, leadership, guys look up to and have confidence in," the notes read. "A real competitor. Accurate rather than a guy with a cannon. Emphasis on our game will be on decision, timing, accuracy. Guy needs to be confident.
"Intelligence is important but not as much so as field awareness and judgement. Can't be sloppy fundamentally unsound guy with ball-handling, [techniques] ... footwork, drops, release, etc. Quarterback has to be able to throw the ball with accuracy."
Nothing there about athleticism or mobility or making the first pass-rusher miss.
Which is part of the reason why you won't see Florida's Anthony Richardson -- who had a historic combine and looks like a special talent -- on this list. He may be the next superstar at the position, but as a career 54.7 percent passer with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of less than 2.0, he's not a Prototypical Patriot. You also won't see Alabama's Bryce Young -- presumed by many to be the first quarterback taken -- because of his height (5-10) and his three years as a collegian.
Who qualifies? Let's find out ...
Hendon Hooker, 6-foot-3, 217 pounds
Had it not been for a season-ending knee injury, Hooker may have ended up as a first-round pick. When it comes to the markers the Patriots often want checked at this position come draft weekend, he's the best fit of the bunch. Between stints at Virginia Tech and Tennessee, he has more than enough collegiate experience (six years, five years playing, 944 attempts). And he was efficient (66.9 percent completions, 9.5 yards per attempt, 80 touchdowns, 12 picks). The SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2022, he set a Vols record by throwing 261 passes without a pick. He'll be 25 years old as a rookie -- he's about nine months older than Mac Jones -- and he's coming off a torn ACL suffered late last season. He ran what's considered a relatively simple college offense, but he's considered an intelligent player who'll be able to handle more at the next level. If there was a Day 2 option the Patriots invest in, Hooker looks like their type.
CJ Stroud, Ohio State, 6-foot-3, 214 pounds
Stroud is a relatively young passer with just three years in college and only two years as a starter. But he has 832 career attempts on tape and completed 69.3 percent of his throws. His yards-per-attempt figure is more than sufficient at 9.8 and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is about 7-to-1 (85-to-12). He checks almost every box, and he had a dynamite workout at the combine -- for whatever that's worth -- which leads one to wonder: If he's a Patriots fit, will Josh McDaniels and the Raiders be interested in nabbing him near the top of Round 1?
Aidan O'Connell, Purdue, 6-foot-3, 213 pounds
O'Connell has the size (10-inch hands) and Power Five experience (over 1,200 attempts) that the Patriots would appreciate. He's also played in an offense that asks him to work from under center, operating it to the tune of a 66.7 percent completions mark, 65 touchdowns against 30 picks, and a yards-per-attempt number that just misses the preferred Patriots mark of 7.5 (7.4). O'Connell has the kind of take-a-profit playing style that may make him a suitable camp option, but traits-wise he won't wow anyone. In New England he may be a practice-squad option behind Jones and Zappe.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA, 6-foot-2, 203 pounds
The Patriots just got a chance to spend a lot of time with Thompson-Robinson out at the Shrine Bowl so they'll have a very good idea of what he can and can't handle at the next level. But when it comes to his fit on paper? It's there. Power Five. Enough height. Enough hand size (10-inch hands). Five years as a starter. Over 1,300 attempts. Efficient numbers (7.9 yards per attempt, 63 percent completions, better than 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio). If the Patriots liked what they saw in Vegas earlier this offseason, maybe "DTR" is a Day 3 option for them.
Clayton Tune, Houston, 6-foot-3, 220 pounds
No need to worry about any efficiency metrics with Tune, who heads to the NFL from the Cougars pass-happy offense. With nearly 1,500 attempts as evidence, he was accurate enough (64 percent completions) with a yards-per-attempt figure of 8.0 and more than 100 touchdown passes in five seasons behind center. Is he an above-average athlete? Nope. Is he going to anticipate consistently? Probably not at this point. But he's a three-time captain. He's willing to read the field. And he has enough arm to dial up the RPMs when needed. Maybe reuniting him with teammate Marcus Jones would be a move Bill Belichick would be open to in later rounds this spring.
Tyson Bagent, Shepherd, 6-foot-3, 213 pounds
Bagent doesn't have the Power Five experience the Patriots often draft, but he set the Division II record for passing touchdowns (159) while keeping his interceptions down (48) over five seasons. He averaged over 8.0 yards per pass for the Rams and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes. He's about to take a significant leap to the pro level, but as a later option on Day 3? Bagent has a lot of what the Patriots have drafted in the past.
Max Duggan, TCU, 6-foot-2, 207 pounds
Duggan is another one who just sneaks by on the height preference, but he checks plenty of boxes. Over 1,200 attempts. Average of 7.9 yards per attempt. Better than 2-to-1 on the TD-to-INT ratio. Just enough when it comes to completion percentage (60.3). He's not the most physically-talented player on this list, but he's a worker who had enough athleticism to help the Horned Frogs with his legs (28 rushing touchdowns). If you're looking for a character add, Duggan could be the guy, but he likely has some work to do when it comes to strengthening his arm and making better decisions consistently.
Malik Cunningham, Louisville, 6-feet, 192 pounds
Never a comforting thing to see "dual-threat" and "undersized" in the same scouting report, but that's what Cunningham is. He's a dynamic runner at the position (ran a 4.53.second 40 at the combine), having racked up more touchdowns in his five-year career (120) than Lamar Jackson. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes and tallied almost 9.0 yards per attempt. His 70-to-29 touchdown-to-interception ratio is adequate by Patriots standards, but less-than-ideal accuracy on passes that travel 20 yards or more (31 percent, per Pro Football Focus) may give the Patriots pause. Would the team be willing to add him and build an offense that would fit his skill set should he ever find himself in game action? Worth asking. But having an athlete at the position would give the Patriots a dynamic they don't currently have, and with the game getting faster every year, it might not be a bad idea to invest in Cunningham -- especially since he's a likely Day 3 pick.
Jake Haener, Fresno State, 6-feet, 207 pounds
Would the Patriots dip back into the draft for another Zappe? Like Zappe, Haener isn't the biggest and doesn't have the strongest arm. But, like Zappe, he's considered a highly-intelligent player. Additionally, Haener impressed behind the scenes at the Senior Bowl. And his numbers are eye-opening. He attempted 1,085 passes, completing 68.2 percent for 8.4 yards per attempt, 68 touchdowns and just 18 picks in four years. He'd be the opposite of Cunningham in terms of the reasons why you'd invest. He's not bringing a different element to the offense. But if Belichick wants to load up on undersized, pocket-bound players who can deliver accurately in the right circumstances ... Haener fits that mold.