Patriots

Perry: Could Patriots' 'Next Guy' be drafted next year?

Perry: Could Patriots' 'Next Guy' be drafted next year?

In all likelihood, Danny Etling isn't going to factor into how the Patriots handle their search for Tom Brady's successor. Never say never, but as a seventh-round pick, the LSU product probably isn't going to be the next face of the franchise. 

Many wondered if the Patriots would be all-in on finding that guy in this year's relatively deep class of quarterbacks. And according to Baker Mayfield's agent, they might've been all-in had Mayfield fallen to the No. 2 pick. 

But maybe that move is coming next year. 

The Patriots finished the draft last weekend having added future second and third-rounders, which provides them with all kinds of ammo to move up the board in 2019 if they so choose. At the moment, they own a first-rounder, two seconds, three thirds (including two projected compensatory selections), a fourth, a fifth, a sixth and three sevenths next spring.

It's impossible to know where exactly those picks will be slotted, but if the Patriots make it to the conference finals for the eighth consecutive season, they could move up from the bottom of the first round into a range that would be in or around the top-five if they were to package their first, both seconds and all three thirds. 

That's a haul, and more than the Patriots have ever dealt away to land one player under Bill Belichick. But the Patriots have never been in a spot under Belichick where the clock is ticking down on their search to find their next great quarterback.

Knowing that they could trade up - and jumping off of Tuesday's headlines that they might've been willing to trade up all the way from No. 23 to No. 2 for Mayfield - we took a look at a handful of the draft-eligible quarterbacks for next season to see which ones might be the best fits. 

Going off the criteria we used for this year's Prototypical Patriots series - the Patriots have typically drafted tall passers with good production in Power 5 conferences (though Jimmy Garoppolo bucked two of those three trends) - here are some quarterback names to keep in mind if you're watching college football this fall...All heights and weights are pulled from DraftScout.com.

PROTOTYPICAL PATRIOTS
RYAN FINLEY, NC STATE, 6-3, 210


Finley is another tall-enough, strong-armed quarterback with good production who the Patriots could find intriguing. For a team that typically likes at least a 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the passers it drafts, Finley hits that on the nose (38-to-19). He's also averaging 7.4 yards per attempt and he's completing 62.6 percent of his passes - both strong marks from a Patriots perspective. He runs a pro-style offense at NC State, Jacoby Brissett's former home, and looks like one of the best Patriots fits in next year's class.

JUSTIN HERBERT, OREGON, 6-5, 225
Herbert has plenty of size compared to quarterbacks the Patriots have drafted in the past. And his production, when on the field, has been tremendous. His touchdown-to-interception ratio over his career is 34-to-9, he's averaging 8.5 yards per attempt, and he's completing 65.3 percent of his passes. Those all slot in range for what the Patriots have sought in the past. His issue has been durability. He's played in 16 games at Oregon over the last two seasons.

IMPERFECT BUT INTRIGUING
DREW LOCK, MISSOURI, 6-3, 225


Let's start with Lock in our "imperfect" grouping. He's among the quarterbacks who look the part, but whose numbers in college are slightly below the ideal marks for a team that values accuracy and efficiency. (We'll later get to the quarterbacks who don't meet some of the team's typical height standards but have great numbers.) Lock's rocket arm has helped him post a 71-to-31 touchdown-to-interception ratio and rack up a 7.8 yards-per-attempt average, but his 54.5 career completion percentage could use a bump. Even some of the sub-60 percent quarterbacks the Patriots have drafted before weren't that low: Kevin O'Connell (57.7), Ryan Mallett (57.8), Brissett (59.5).

JACOB EASON, WASHINGTON, 6-4, 235
Eason left Georgia after suffering an injury early last season and losing his starting job. Will his time under Kirby Smart help him in Belichick's eyes -- the Patriots just drafted two of Eason's offensive teammates in the first round -- or will the fact that he split the program hurt him? He has the size to succeed at the next level, and he sports a 2-to-1 ratio (16 touchdowns to eight picks), but he's also well below 60 percent completions for his career (55.2). 

NICK FITZGERALD, MISSISSIPPI STATE, 6-4, 230
Good size, great conference, OK production. That's Fitzgerald at this point. Can he keep his pick total low in 2018? Can he boost his 6.7 yards per attempt and 55.4 percent completion percentage? If he puts together a big year, who knows how far up boards he may climb. He has prototype size. 

CLAYTON THORSON, NORTHWESTERN, 6-3, 225
Thorson hasn't had the talent that some of the others on this list have had around them, but he's widely considered a draftable quarterback in next year's class. He's a sub-60 percent completions quarterback for his career, but accuracy may not be his biggest question mark at the moment. Thorson tore his ACL in last season's Music City Bowl making a catch on a trick play. He holds the record for wins as a starting quarterback at Northwestern (27).

JARRETT STIDHAM, AUBURN, 6-2, 214
Garoppolo was 6-2 coming out of Eastern Illinois so the Patriots aren't totally averse to taking passers who measure in less than 6-3. It's just that when you look at their draft history under Belichick, they typically lean toward taller players at the position. (Another reason why trading up for Mayfield, who's almost two full inches shorter than Garoppolo, would've been a break from the norm.) Stidham has been very productive (67 percent completions, 9.2 yards per attempt, 30-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio), and if he can keep that up in the SEC he should get some consideration at One Patriot Place.

JAKE BENTLEY, SOUTH CAROLINA, 6-2, 220
Bentley beat up on Harbaugh's squad in the Outback Bowl back in January. He completed 19 of 32 passes for 239 yards, two scores and a pick in the 26-19 win. He's completed 63.4 percent of his passes and if he's really as tall as the Gamecocks website says he is (6-4), then he'll end up much closer to the top of this list than the bottom by next spring. 

WILL GRIER, WEST VIRGINIA, 6-1, 214 
Grier can launch it deep, and he has some ability to extend plays with his legs and find open receivers down the field. A transfer from Florida, he's produced in a big way throughout his career, hitting about 65 percent of his passes and accumulating a nearly 3-to-1 (44-to-15) touchdown-to-interception ratio over his career. His size and style of play will draw some comparisons to Mayfield this time next year.

SHEA PATTERSON, MICHIGAN, 6-1, 193
Another undersized, athletic quarterback who transferred from the SEC. Patterson played seven games for Ole Miss before transferring and is expected by many to be one of the more exciting signal-callers to watch in college football next season under Jim Harbaugh.

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Patriots draft prospects tracker: Notable players to meet with New England

Patriots draft prospects tracker: Notable players to meet with New England

Unlike in past years, the NFL Draft could help the New England Patriots address some serious needs.

The Patriots enter the 2019 NFL Draft armed with 12 total picks, more than any team in the league. With holes to fill wide receiver, tight end and defensive end (among others) and a potential quarterback of the future to target, head coach Bill Belichick and Co. actually might use a lot of those picks.

Exactly what the Patriots have up their sleeve when the draft kicks off April 25 is anyone's guess. But we can get a feel for their strategy by observing which prospects the team holds individual meetings with in the days and weeks leading up to the draft.

Below is a list of notable NFL draft prospects (organized by position) who have already met with or plan to meet with New England this offseason, as confirmed by reports or the prospects themselves:

QUARTERBACK
Will Grier, West Virginia
Daniel Jones, Duke
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

WIDE RECEIVER
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
David Sills, West Virginia
Gary Jennings, West Virginia
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Riley Ridley, Georgia
Andy Isabella, UMass
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
Hunter Renfrow, Clemson

N'Keal Harry, Arizona State
Miles Boykin, Notre Dame

Nsimba Webster, Eastern Washington
Mecole Hardman, Georgia
Jalen Hurd, Baylor

TIGHT END
Noah Fant, Iowa
Irv Smith Jr., Alabama

Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
Kaden Smith, Stanford
Isaac Nauta, Georgia

OFFENSIVE LINE
OT Kaleb McGary

SAFETY
Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State

CORNERBACK
Joejuan Williams, Vanderbilt

LINEBACKER
Blake Cashman, Minnesota
Terez Hall, Missouri

DEFENSIVE LINE
DE Jalen Jelks, Oregon
DE Zach Allen, Boston College
DT Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
DT Kingsley Keke, Texas A&M

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NFL Rumors: Patriots met with LB prospect Terez Hall last week

NFL Rumors: Patriots met with LB prospect Terez Hall last week

The New England Patriots have used a good portion of their 30 allotted pre-draft visits on offensive skill players, namely wide receivers and tight ends.

But they reportedly added a linebacker to the mix last week.

That'd be Missouri's Terez Hall, whom the Patriots hosted on an official visit last Wednesday, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss.

After injuring his pectoral muscle and running a disappointing 4.9-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, Hall projects as a late-round pick. But as Reiss points out, he still was important enough for the Patriots -- and new linebackers coach Jerod Mayo -- to devote time and energy on evaluating.

The Patriots "invest(ed) notable resources to finalize their evaluation of (Hall), with newly hired assistant coach Jerod Mayo playing a significant role in the process," Reiss wrote.

Hall joins Minnesota's Blake Cashman as the only two linebackers who reportedly visited the Patriots. It's not exactly a position of need, as Dont'a Hightower, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy and Ju'Whaun Bentley highlight a group that was solid in 2018. 

But it shouldn't surprise you that Bill Belichick and his staff are leaving no stone unturned before the 2019 NFL Draft begins Thursday.

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