Patriots

Rudolph has the size, but would need to develop

Rudolph has the size, but would need to develop

The second of a five-part series looking at quarterbacks - and possible heirs to Tom Brady as the starter - the Patriots could draft. Click here for Part 1, a look at Louisville's Lamar Jackson. 

The last Oklahoma State quarterback the Patriots draft was a kid by the name of Zac Robinson back in 2010. With the exception of Tim Tebow, he was the most out-of-place signal caller I’ve seen come through Foxboro in nearly two decades of covering the team. Robinson signed his contract in late July of that year and was released six weeks later. Safe to say it didn’t go well.

Is Mason Rudolph destined for the same type of career? If he is, then the Mel Kipers, Todd McShays and Mike Mayocks of the world got it all wrong. The OK State product is considered in some circles as a late first-rounder and is widely believed to be at the head of the class in that second tier of QBs, trailing only the group of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. 

When you watch Rudolph, the first thing that sticks out is his size. He’s 6-foot-5 and plays that way, standing tall in the pocket. He can see over the rush and has decent enough feet to slide side to side and still deliver the ball with accuracy. Rudolph hit 62 percent of his passes as a junior and improved that to 63 percent a year later, throwing only 13 interceptions over the course of those two seasons, a number that no doubt catches the eye of Patriots scouts and the man himself, Bill Belichick.

It’s also safe to say that Brandin Cooks would smile at Rudolph’s deep ball ability. The tape shows that’s Rudolph’s best throw. He has the arm strength to get the ball down the field, the right arc and a tendency to put it where only his receivers can get it. I highlight one example here but there were plenty others. 

The bad news? Let’s start with the offense Rudolph was in. When people call him a system quarterback, it’s hard to argue. Look at the aforementioned Robinson and Brandon Weeden before him. They put up huge numbers for the Cowboys but when they turned pro couldn’t match that production, not even in 7-on-7s. Rudolph will have to prove that he’s not just a product of Mike Gundy’s play-calling and spacing and playing Kansas and Baylor once a year.

Progressions? Let’s just say that’s not Robinson’s strength. If the first read wasn’t there, the big kid’s feet started moving and then the accuracy got spotty and defensive backs were in our far more plays then you’d like. When Rudolph’s inner clock sped up, he struggled to put the ball on the spot. It was those moments when you thought Gundy might pull the hair out of his own magnificent mullet. 

Lastly, I noticed time and time again in tighter areas where - once again - Rudolph’s ball placement wasn’t what it needed to be. Is that a mechanical issue? Sometimes it doesn’t seem like Rudolph brings his feet with the rest of his body on those types of throws. You’d think that could be coached out of him, but then there’s always the fear that if Rudolph’s been doing it this way for a long time, he’ll just revert to what he knows when the blood starts boiling.

Where will Rudolph fall? I just can’t see round one - no matter what anyone says - but if one of those QB hungry teams come up short on Day One then midway through round two would be the sweet spot. It just so happens the Pats have one of their picks right around there, 43rd overall. Perhaps Rudolph slides to round three if another arm usurps him, say Kyle Lauretta of Richmond and Luke Falk of Washington State. Otherwise, it’s that pick, or reaching at the tail end of round one with pick No. 31. That is pushing it, but if the Pats don’t trust Tom Brady’s master plan, or don’t think it’s wise to put all their eggs in that basket, then maybe, just maybe, Rudolph is the guy. That means you pick him where you can be sure you get him. Period. End of story.

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NFL conference championships see ratings drop without Patriots

NFL conference championships see ratings drop without Patriots

Love 'em or hate 'em, the New England Patriots garner the attention of the masses.

That was evident during last year's AFC Championship game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, when an average crowd of 53.9 million people tuned in to watch the Patriots win in an overtime thriller and advance to Super Bowl 53.

To put that into perspective, this year's late-window matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers drew only 42.7 million viewers, per Austin Karp of Sports Business Daily.

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Of course, much of that discrepancy has to do with Pats-Chiefs being far more competitive than Packers-Niners. Plenty of viewers likely tuned out of the latter matchup when San Francisco led Green Bay 27-0 at halftime.

Even so, it just goes to show how much more attention is paid to the NFL playoffs when Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the rest of New England is involved. This year's AFC Championship featuring the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs marked the first without the Patriots since 2011, and it was the smallest audience (41.1 million) for an AFC title game in 11 years.

In comparison, the early game in 2019 (Los Angeles Rams vs. New Orleans Saints) averaged roughly 44 million.

The Chiefs and 49ers will meet in Miami for Super Bowl 54. It'll be interesting to see how those ratings compare to last year's Patriots-Rams matchup.

Perry: Examining the state of the offensive line

George Kittle celebrated Super Bowl berth with hilarious Jimmy Garoppolo shirt

George Kittle celebrated Super Bowl berth with hilarious Jimmy Garoppolo shirt

George Kittle had a little fun with his quarterback after the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers in Sunday night's NFC Championship Game to clinch a berth in Super Bowl LIV.

The All-Pro tight end showed up to his postgame press conference with a custom t-shirt that included a shirtless photo and autograph of 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Check it out in the tweet below:

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Garoppolo was asked by reporters about Kittle's shirt, and he couldn't hold back his laughter.

“I got him earlier in the week with a shirt, showed it to the media and everything, so he had to get me back a little bit," a smiling Garoppolo said, per 95.7 The Game. "I thought it was a nice shirt he had on. Maybe we’ll get them in the team store soon.”

Garoppolo is no stranger to the Super Bowl. He made two Super Bowl appearances with the New England Patriots as Tom Brady's backup, and in two weeks he'll make his first start on that stage.

The 49ers quarterback hasn't had to play at an elite level for his team to reach the Super Bowl, but that should change in Miami on Feb. 2. The AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs have an offense that looks unstoppable right now, so Garoppolo likely will need to play one of his best games as a pro to give San Francisco a strong chance to win its sixth Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

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