Could the New England Patriots find Tom Brady's replacement or his eventual successor in the 2020 NFL Draft?
The Patriots are projected to have as many as 12 picks (including compensatory selections) in April's draft, beginning with No. 23 overall in the first round. That's where ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the Patriots picking a quarterback in his 2020 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 released Tuesday.
Here is Kiper's reasoning for slotting Washington's Jacob Eason at No. 23 with the Patriots:
Yes, that's right, I'm now going with a quarterback for the Patriots, who still don't know if they'll have Tom Brady under center in 2020. Even if the 42-year-old free agent returns on a short-term deal, the Pats have to address the position on the first two days of the draft, so why not do it now? I like 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham's potential, but I'm not sold on him as a long-term starter. Eason has been getting a lot of buzz from people I talk to in the NFL lately, though he's not a lock to be the fourth quarterback taken; he's still battling with Utah State's Jordan Love, but I'll give the 6-6 Eason the edge for now. He has the best arm of any signal-caller in this class, though he can be erratic at times. It'd be ideal if he got a year or two to sit behind Brady, but he has a much higher ceiling that Stidham. Safety and linebacker are other positions to keep an eye on for New England's top pick.
Eason spent his first two collegiate seasons at Georgia before transferring to Washington. He completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,132 yards with 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season. The Huskies earned an 8-5 record and beat Boise State 38-7 in the Las Vegas Bowl. Eason is the son of a former Notre Dame wide receiver named Tony Eason. Jacob Eason is NOT related to former Patriots quarterback Tony Eason.
It wouldn't make much sense for the Patriots to take a quarterback in Round 1 if Brady is coming back for the 2020 season. In that scenario, the Patriots should try to surround Brady with as much offensive talent as possible. This means finding a tight end who can make a genuine impact in the passing game, improving the wide receiver depth and bolstering an offensive line that was ravaged by injuries last season. The 2020 draft class is absolutely loaded with talented wide receivers.
The Patriots also drafted Auburn's Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round of last year's draft. He has yet to get an opportunity to prove himself.
Regardless of what Brady decides in free agency, the Patriots need to nail the upcoming draft if they're going to compete for a Super Bowl title in the 2020 season.