Patriots

Patriots take a shot on Stidham as quarterback with upside

/ by Phil Perry
Presented By Papa Gino's
Patriots

FOXBORO -- The word that came to mind when the Patriots made Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham their choice with pick No. 133 in the fourth round? Value.

The Patriots love them some value when they can find it, and if they've found a capable passer on Day 3, hard to recoup any better value than that. There's certainly evidence that Stidham has the potential to make good on New England's investment.

Stidham landed on our list of "Prototypical Patriots" in the pre-draft process. He played three years of Power 5 conference football -- one at Baylor and then two at Auburn after transferring -- and checks every box from a production standpoint. His 64.3 completion percentage, 8.5 yards per attempt, 48 touchdowns and 13 picks are all within range of the marks posted by quarterbacks previously drafted by Bill Belichick.

Going into last season, Stidham was viewed by some as a potential first-rounder. He had a great 2017 in his first year as a starter for the Tigers, earning Newcomer of the Year and second-team all-conference honors in the SEC. He also beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl that year. No small feat.

Last year didn't go as planned for Stidham, though. His completion percentage dropped to 61 percent and Auburn went a disappointing 8-5. Stidham was not a favorite of Pro Football Focus last season and was ranked 24th among draft-eligible quarterbacks on throws from a clean pocket.

 

Stidham has had a nice four months, however. At the end of December, he walloped Purdue in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, 64-13, completing 15 of 21 attempted for 373 yards and five touchdowns.

He also helped himself at the Senior Bowl in January, where he was widely considered to have had one of the best weeks among players at his position. Having an opportunity to play in a pro-style system, and against strong competition, he excelled and was named the practice player of the week at quarterback. Like Jimmy Garoppolo back in 2014, who played in a quarterback-friendly system at Eastern Illinois, he made the most of his week in Mobile, Ala., and the Patriots apparently took notice.

I asked NFL Network lead draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah what he thought of Stidham's fit in New England.

"Stidham is one of the true wild cards because he spins it as well or better than anybody in this entire draft class," he said. "In shorts, he'd be a top-five pick. Unfortunately, it hasn't clicked on the field like you'd want to see at Auburn. Some of that is the lack of protection. Some of it is an offensive system that's not great for him. But just throwing the football, he's a great athlete.

"I think it's going to take a little bit of time to develop him, but I could make a case he makes a lot of sense for the Patriots because they've got a little bit of time, no pun intended, with Tom there. He's not going anywhere right now. That would give you a chance to really develop a guy like this with a potential huge upside. Really as much upside as any quarterback in the draft class. Stidham is very talented. So that might be a risk worth taking."

Stidham made a top-30 visit to Gillette Stadium, and he met with director of player personnel Nick Caserio before Auburn's pro day, indications of New England's pre-draft interest. Along with veteran Brian Hoyer, he'll have an opportunity to serve as Tom Brady's backup in 2019 and beyond. He looks like an ascending talent.

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