Patriots

Western Kentucky's Mike White's arm is his biggest plus . . . and minus

Western Kentucky's Mike White's arm is his biggest plus . . . and minus

The fourth of a five-part series looking at quarterbacks - and possible heirs to Tom Brady as the starter - the Patriots could draft. 

PREVIOUSLY IN THE SERIES:

 

You want a smart quarterback? Mike White might be your guy. If you haven’t seen the video yet, it’s worth a look. Dude was in a zone. Come to think of it, the Western Kentucky product was in a zone for the better part of Senior Bowl week and capped it with a nice game, going 8-for-11 for 128 yards and one pretty touchdown pass.

If QBs were drafted based strictly on arm strength, White would be a first-rounder. He has the kind of arm others in this class dream of. A two-year starter for the Hilltoppers, White can squeeze a ball between two blades of glass on a beautifully manicured field. The ball comes in hot, even outside the numbers. That hose serves him well while attacking the middle of the field, again putting him in a class with some of the higher profile QBs in this class.

Here’s another plus in White’s favor: he ran a real offense. This isn’t Lamar Jackson’s spin and grin attack in Louisville, or whatever it is that Mike Gundy does in Oklahoma State that helped influence Mason Rudolph’s numbers for the Cowboys. If a team wants to run a pro-style attack, they have tape that can give them clues to whether or not White will work at the next level. There’s plenty of people who would rather deal with the known versus the unknown/projection.

Unfortunately for White, one of his strengths is also one of his weaknesses. His belief in his arm is so strong that sometimes he just makes throws that are...Unwise? Foolish? Idiotic? Maybe read the defense instead of trying to throw it through defenders. Just a thought. 

His feet aren’t high class. He can get static in the pocket and was sacked 46 times in his final season. That wasn’t all on him; the protection was so bad that plenty of evaluators have indicated it’s been more difficult to gauge White’s campaign then they had hoped. But like plenty of younger QBs, White also will take his eyes off the downfield combinations and instead focus on the bodies around him, leading to more sacks or some of those suspect throws. He could have saved himself some punishment and his team some issues by just throwing the ball away. Maybe that will come with time. Or maybe that’s just who he is.

Where will White fall in the draft? Third round seems to be the consensus though the Pats are at the end of that round, 95th overall. I’d have no problem with White being the choice there. It doesn’t seem like a reach. If the Pats wanted to wait around and hope White becomes a third-day guy, they’ll have to wait 41 selections from the last second-day pick. It would seem unlikely White will be there that long.

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Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Bill Belichick was there. Josh McDaniels was there. The Patriots had a large contingent down in Mobile, Ala. for this week's Senior Bowl practices (the game will air Saturday on NFL Network at 2:30 p.m.), which should come as no surprise.

Just look at how the Patriots have drafted of late. 

In 2019, they selected Jarrett Stidham, Byron Cowart and Jake Bailey -- all of whom participated in the Senior Bowl. They also signed undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers, who played in the game. 

In 2018, they grabbed Isaiah Wynn in the first round, Duke Dawson, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Braxton Berrios after they'd competed in the Senior Bowl.

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Three of their four draft picks from 2017, plus two undrafted rookies, were in the Senior Bowl. 

From 2013-16, they brought aboard 20 Senior Bowl participants as rookies.

"The great thing about the Senior Bowl is that you're seeing some of the best players," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said last spring. 

"There have actually been some underclassmen who have been incorporated into that mix. So you're seeing them against good competition and it's a different dynamic or different situation that they've been placed in. You're kind of taking them out of their environment that they've been in and kind of giving them something new and seeing how they handle it against good people."

The small-school players -- or the players who are asked to do something they didn't do much as collegians -- are the ones who have an opportunity to really land on radars during Senior Bowl work. For the Patriots, who constantly harp on the benefit of having seen players work against great competition on a regular basis when they hail from an SEC program, seeing some of the best in the country work against one another matters.

"It’s one thing if they do it against a lower-level team," Caserio said back in 2016, when asked about the Senior Bowl. "I mean, look, not all teams are created equal. Not all conferences are created equal. That’s just a fact. We can’t control that. So when you can see them actually play against really good players or good players that are at a comparable level of competition that they’re going to see every Sunday, that has to be a part of [the evaluation], no question."

The next year, the Patriots took two Senior Bowlers from smaller programs: Youngstown State's Derek Rivers and Troy's Antonio Garcia. 

"Where [the Senior Bowl] probably helps a little bit is players on a lower level that maybe haven’t competed against the same level of competition," Caserio said back in 2017. "Obviously, they’re making a big jump. . . Garcia was down there. That’s going to be a big jump in competition because this is what they’re going to be playing against. 

"With all due respect to whatever conference Youngstown State is in, there’s not a lot of NFL players in that conference. I mean, that’s just the way that it is. You’re going to have to see him against NFL competition, which the Senior Bowl is usually a pretty good indication of that because you’re talking about the top seniors in the country. It’s a part of the process. You’re not making a decision based off of that, but maybe a player who doesn’t have as much experience against that level, you’re going to see how he fares, and then you just kind of continue to move forward."

Some small-school prospects who may have caught Belichick's eye this week? 

Dayton tight end Adam Trautman was already considered one of the better tight ends in the draft class and seemed to only help his stock.

Safety Kyle Dugger -- who hails from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University -- impressed. Ditto for Division III offensive lineman Ben Bartch out of Saint John's, who saw rushers from Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and other high-end programs and reportedly held his own.

Perhaps the most recent success story out of Senior Bowl week for the Patriots wasn't with a small-school prospect, though. It might've been with Shaq Mason, a guard coming out of a run-heavy system at Georgia Tech. The Patriots simply hadn't seen him do much in the way of pass protection for the Yellow Jackets.

But Mason got to the Senior Bowl, took to the coaching he received, and the Patriots took notice. 

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"The thing I’ll say about Shaq," Belichick said after drafting Mason in 2015, "is just watching him at the Senior Bowl, I mean it was only one week, but he made a huge improvement just in those, whatever it was, four or five practices, whatever it was down there. His stance is different. You could see each day progressively how he was taking to the coaching down there and his footwork and his hand placement and his body position. I know it was basic. It wasn’t like it was a big scheme thing at the Senior Bowl, but just doing things on a daily basis better than the day before, looking more comfortable doing them. And it was different than what they did at Georgia Tech."

Big school. Small school. Everyone had something to gain in Mobile this week. And that includes the Patriots. That's why -- with more time off this year than recent years -- they were well represented down there.


 

NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

The New England Patriots reportedly have made an addition to their coaching staff.

According to Jim McBride of The Boston Globe, they've hired ex-Los Angeles Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.

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Fisch's official role with the Patriots offense is to be determined. But now that there's an opening at wide receivers coach with Joe Judge joining the New York Giants, Fisch could be a candidate for the job.

He brings plenty of experience to the table having coached Denver Broncos wide receivers in 2008 and Michigan receivers from 2015-16. Fisch also coached Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks in 2010 and was the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator from 2013-14.