Patriots

Mayock likes Rudolph, Falk, White as potential QB options for Patriots

Mayock likes Rudolph, Falk, White as potential QB options for Patriots

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. 

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. 

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."

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."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Saints the new 2007 Patriots? Former Patriot makes bold comparison

Saints the new 2007 Patriots? Former Patriot makes bold comparison

The 2007 New England Patriots remain one of the best teams in NFL history despite losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, and one member of that 18-1 Pats squad sees similarities to one of this season's championship contenders.

Former Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson, who currently plays for the Saints and was a part of New England's '07 roster, believes New Orleans' offensive firepower is comparable to what he experienced with Tom Brady and Co. 11 years ago.

“Obviously, 2007 in New England was really special,” Watson told Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. “And this year, in many ways, it kind of does [feel the same], just in the way that we’re able to execute on offense. We get up to the line of scrimmage, there’s not much that we call that we don’t think we can execute. You’ve got a variety of different guys that contributing in different ways. The only thing I would say different would be that the guys that are the stars of this offense are probably younger than they were in New England.

“We had guys like Randy Moss, Wes Welker, veteran players. We’ve got guys like Tre’Quan [Smith] and we’ve got Michael Thomas obviously and Alvin [Kamara] and Mark [Ingram], and Mark’s the oldest of those four. The offenses are a little bit different, but when you’ve got a guy like No. 9, when you have a guy like No. 12 in New England like we had, it just brings a whole lot of confidence.”

The offensive comparisons certainly are warranted after the Saints destroyed the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles in a 48-7 win to improve their record to a league-best 9-1.

New Orleans has scored 30-plus points in eight of their first 10 games. The 2007 Patriots scored that many points in nine nof their first 10 games, including two wins with more than 50 points over that span. The most obvious comparison between these teams is at quarterback, where Drew Brees brings Super Bowl-winning experience, like Tom Brady does for the Patriots. Depending on the sportsbook you look at, Brees is either first or second in NFL MVP odds. 

Similar to the 2007 Patriots, the 2018 Saints likely will live or die by their defense. The Saints defense enters Week 12 ranked 16th in points allowed per game and 17th in yards allowed per game. Those numbers aren't bad, but they aren't dominant, either. Brees likely will have to carry the Saints back to the Super Bowl, and if New Orleans is able to secure homefield advantage and play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome throughout the NFC playoffs, you have to like their chances of getting to Atlanta in February.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Tom Brady fired up to get Rob Gronkowski back: He's a big difference-maker

Tom Brady fired up to get Rob Gronkowski back: He's a big difference-maker

By the time the Patriots kick off with the Jets this weekend, Rob Gronkowski will have had nearly a month off from NFL game action. The assumption is he will be active and available to the Patriots offense, and though his quarterback wouldn't confirm that, he did acknowledge that he's looking forward to getting his tight end back on the field. 

Tom Brady joined WEEI's Mut and Callahan show Monday to discuss his teammate's potential impending return.

“We’ll see. I don’t know," Brady said. "We’ll see how it goes, We haven’t even practiced this week. I think he’s itching to get back. He’s a big difference-maker when he’s on the field. I hope he is out there, but we’ll see. It is up to the trainers and coaches and up to Rob to see how he feels. We have practice this week, and we’ll see what we can do.”

Gronkowski has been limited with ankle and back issues for weeks. He last played at Buffalo in Week 8, reeling in three catches for 43 yards. Prior to that, he sat out of his team's Week 7 game and caught three balls in Week 6 against the Chiefs. 

Gronkowski last eclipsed three catches against Indy on Oct. 4. He was last in the end zone in Week 1. 

If the Patriots can get Gronkowski back on the field, even if he's less than 100 percent, that should start a domino effect that benefits the entire offense. 

He's among the team's best run-blockers, which means opposing defenses may need to respect that threat more than they have in recent weeks -- particularly when Gronkowski, Shaq Mason and Sony Michel have been out. 

With an improved run game -- or simply the threat of an improved run game -- that should open up the play-action passing game. Gronkowski's presence in the middle of the field should also help draw some coverage away from Julian Edelman, James White or Josh Gordon. He may not be the physically dominating threat he was a year ago when healthy, but he's better than anything the Patriots have had at the position in recent weeks. 

The Patriots offense isn't broken. But having Gronkowski available could help them make a few tweaks to a few of the areas that have been issues -- we identified third-and-short passing as one of those issues here -- and could help the unit's overall output for the stretch run. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE