Prototypical Patriots quarterbacks in the 2019 draft class
We kick off our Prototypical Patriots series with the position that just might be the most difficult one to peg when trying to decipher what will interest the Patriots. Physical traits are clearly important, but intangibles like leadership skills and competitiveness are vital yet harder to quantify. The easiest way for us to go about it -- for this exercise, at least -- is to take those unquantifiable aspects of a player's game and put them to the side to focus on the other stuff.
For reference, what we've found based on prior drafts is that the Patriots have typically drafted quarterbacks who played in Power 5 conferences and stood 6-foot-3 or taller. (Though, to give you an idea of why this is tough, the team's lone first- or second-round selection at the position, Jimmy Garoppolo, was 6-2 and played FCS football). Their hands usually measure more than 9 inches. (Though 2008 third-rounder Kevin O'Connell didn't hit that mark). They've exclusively drafted quarterbacks who've spent four years in college. (Though Ryan Mallett only played three years because he sat out one season after transferring from Michigan to Arkansas). Their career touchdown-to-interception ratio averaged out to be 2.2-to-1. Their yards per attempt was often 7.5 or better. And they normally completed better than 60 percent of their passes.
With those characteristics in mind, let's take a look at quarterbacks who look like the best fits in this year's draft class . . .
RYAN FINLEY, NC STATE, 6-4, 213 POUNDS
Finley isn't considered one of the top quarterbacks in this year's class. He's firmly outside of the top-four, according to most experts. But he is the one quarterback prospect in this class who checks every box listed above. Five years of college football. (He transferred from Boise State to NC State prior to the 2016 season). Plenty of height. Plenty of production in his career (64.2 completion percentage, 7.6 yards per attempt, 63 touchdowns, 30 picks). First-team all-conference in the ACC. Hands that measure 9.5 inches.
There are questions about his arm strength, his accuracy when forced off his spot, and his decision-making. But Finley has an impressive body of work in a pro-style offense that the Patriots have dipped into in the past. It would come as little surprise if the team likes Finley in the middle rounds, just as they liked NC State product Jacoby Brissett as a third-rounder back in 2016.
DREW LOCK, MISSOURI, 6-4, 228 POUNDS
Lock won't be available to the Patriots at No. 32, but he offers up just about everything the Patriots typically look for in a quarterback. (Other first-round players at the position in this year's class don't necessarily fit the "prototype" mold for the Patriots. Kyler Murray's size and Dwayne Haskins' experience level keep them off this list, though they'd seem like home run selections late in the first.)
Lock's a senior who had a career yards-per-attempt number of 7.9 and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 99-to-39. His accuracy numbers aren't overwhelming, though. He completed 56.9 percent of his attempts in his career -- lower than what the Patriots have taken in the draft before -- but he posted a career-high 62.9 percent figure in 2018.
2019 NFL Draft Highlights: QB Drew Lock, Missouri
WILL GRIER, WEST VIRGINIA, 6-2, 217 POUNDS
When it comes to that which can be measured, the only box Grier doesn't check is height. But he's right up against the 6-3 threshold we identified, and again, the highest pick Belichick ever spent on a quarterback also checked in at 6-2. So Grier -- and others we'll mention here -- still deserves to be in the "prototype" conversation. Senior. (Though, like Mallett, he only had three years of playing experience after transferring from Florida to West Virginia.) Healthy production (65.7 completion percentage, 9.1 yards per attempt, 81 touchdowns, 23 picks) in a Power 5 conference. Hands that measure almost 9.5 inches.
What makes Grier seem like a less-than-ideal fit for the Patriots is how he might handle their system. He saw soft defenses in the Big 12, played out of the shotgun exclusively, and when he was handed a pro style offense against better competition at the Senior Bowl, it didn't go well. (Garoppolo, meanwhile, passed with flying colors at both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl when he was entering the draft out of Eastern Illinois.) But Grier was at Gillette Stadium for a pre-draft visit, and one could see why the Patriots might want more information on him.
2019 NFL Draft Highlights: QB Will Grier, West Virginia
JARRETT STIDHAM, AUBURN, 6-2, 218 POUNDS
Like Grier, the only thing keeping Stidham from being labeled a total prototype is his height. Though, like Grier, he's damn close in that regard. And, like Grier, Stidham had just three years of college playing experience despite being in school for four (he left Baylor after one year and sat out 2016). The numbers (64.3 completion percentage, 8.5 yards per attempt, 48 touchdowns, 13 picks) are all where Belichick will probably like them -- even if Stidham took a step back last year (completed 61 percent of his passes) surrounded by what at times looked like a mess of an offense.
In 2017, Stidham earned 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 Stidham was projected by many to be a first-round pick. Now it seems like he could be available in the middle rounds, where he may end up providing a team some real value.
DANIEL JONES, DUKE, 6-5, 221 POUNDS
Reportedly visiting Gillette on the same day as Grier, Jones is the prototype from a physical perspective. His height is more than sufficient, and he possesses almost 10-inch hands that should allow him to control the football in inclement weather. His numbers, though, leave something to be desired. He's right on the cusp of the 60 percent completion threshold at 59.9 for his career. His yards per attempt sit at 6.4, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio was 52-to-29. All of those are slightly below what the Patriots have typically drafted in the past.
Working in Jones' favor, though, is an understanding among evaluators that the talent around him at Duke was subpar. According to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, his teammates dropped a whopping 38 passes this year alone. A good athlete who could blossom with some time to learn behind a veteran quarterback, Jones is expected by some to be a top-15 pick in the draft later this month. If he slides, the Patriots will have to determine whether or not the struggles Jones had dealing with pressure and pushing the ball down the field are correctable before they make a decision on him one way or the other.
2019 NFL Draft Highlights: QB Daniel Jones, Duke
BRETT RYPIEN, BOISE STATE, 6-2, 210 POUNDS
Part of the reason Finley transferred from Boise State was because the starting job went to Rypien, and Rypien wasn't going to let it go. Though slightly undersized, Rypien starred on the blue turf, completing 64.0 percent of his passes in his career for a yards-per-attempt mark of 8.4. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was better than 3-to-1 (90-to-29), and he started for four years.
Rypien isn't an eye-opening athlete. He's reluctant to scramble and doesn't always buy himself time when he knows he's facing pressure. But he's courageous, willing to stare down the barrel of big hits and still make accurate throws down the field. His size isn't ideal. And he excelled in something other than a Power 5 conference. But Rypien is big enough and faced competition good enough to make his way onto this list -- even if he's down the list.
EASTON STICK, NORTH DAKOTA STATE, 6-1, 224 POUNDS
Four-year starter. Big-time numbers (61 percent completions, 8.9 yards per attempt, 88 touchdowns, 28 picks). Requisite hand size (9.25 inches). Stick meets most of the marks in which the Patriots have so often invested on draft weekend at this position. He's a well-respected leader, a three-time FCS championship winner, and he earned the Walter Payton Award in 2018. (Garoppolo, you might remember, won the FCS Heisman in 2013.)
Stick isn't quite as tall as the Patriots might like, and the level of competition he faced wasn't pro-caliber. He also had issues during East-West Shrine Game practices. But he's a very good athlete (4.62 40-yard dash, 6.65-second three-cone time, 4.05-second short shuttle) and he could attract the Patriots as a Day 3 choice.
MANNY WILKINS, ARIZONA STATE, 6-3, 200 POUNDS
Wilkins is very slight for the position, but he's been durable for the Sun Devils, playing 13 games each of the last two years. A three-year starter, his numbers through the air in the Pac-12 have been solid (63.2 percent completions, 7.7 yards per attempt, 52 touchdowns, 23 picks). He also scored 15 rushing touchdowns the last two years.
Wilkins looks like a late-round selection or a priority free agent, but his size, experience level and production make him look like a fit for the Patriots as we roll through this exercise. The Patriots were present at Arizona State's pro day, where Wilkins reportedly put on a strong performance.