Next Heir Up

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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Report: QB Lamar Jackson had private workout for McDaniels

Report: QB Lamar Jackson had private workout for McDaniels

The Patriots-picking-Lamar-Jackson rumors Thursday night in the first-round of the draft are bound to heat up in the next 24 hours after a report by Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated's MMQB that the Louisville quarterback had a second workout for the Pats - this one a private session in South Florida for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Jackson, the Heisman Trophy winner in 2016, previously made a visit to Foxboro, where he even got a laugh out of Bill Belichick. 

The Patriots, with picks No. 23 and 31 in the first round, would likely have to trade up to get Jackson, whose mobility is one of his key assets. Our Phil Perry has him going 15th to the Arizona Cardinals in his latest mock draft.

Speaking at the site of the draft in Dallas on Wednesday, Jackson, via NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman, sounded excited at the prospect of New England trading up to get him and he's sticking by his mother as his manager.

Jackson already has kind of an endorsement from Brady via Instagram earlier this month. And click here for our Mike Giardi on Jackson from our "Next Heir Up" series on possible Pats future QBs.

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Undersized, overperforming Woodside could be a late-round gem

Undersized, overperforming Woodside could be a late-round gem

The final installment 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:

I’ll just come out and say this right off the top: I am a fan of Logan Woodside. The Toledo quarterback has a little magic in him. Just pop in the tape of the Rockets' loss to the University of Miami. That was when the Hurricanes were in the middle of their climb into the top five in the entire country. All Woodside did that day was chuck three touchdowns passes to no interceptions while completing 28 of 48 throws. Yes, Toledo ended up losing, but did lead 16-10 at the half. That’s a MAC school that was doing that. 

The first thing that catches your eyes about Woodside is his quick release. The ball comes out cleanly and quickly, often times with good anticipation. It’s that release that allows the slight quarterback - Woodside is just 6-1, 202 pounds - to put the ball into places you wouldn’t think he’d be able and to throw receivers open, a pretty important trait in the NFL.

Then there are those feet. Woodside ran an offense that had a fair share of RPOs (run/pass options) and deftly handled the football and has the footwork needed in those situations. He showed a willingness to stand in the pocket in the face of the rush but could slide side-to-side or step up and still deliver the ball with accuracy.

There’s no stat that measures another one of Woodside’s strengths but it’s real. The kid fights. He’s had to do it throughout his career. He lost his job not just once, but twice at Toledo but still emerged to become an All-MAC performer in his final two seasons and lead the Rockets to their first league title in more than a decade. That part of his makeup is real and it’s spectacular. 

Of course, it’s going to be hard for coaches and GMs to get past Woodside’s lack of size. While there are a few shorter, slighter QBs who have had or are having terrific NFL careers - Drew Brees and Russell Wilson jump to mind immediately - there isn’t a long list. Based on his size alone, Woodside will fall down many a draft board.

Then there’s the arm. It’s not great. The release helps make up for it but it's a measurable that will be held against Woodside. The tape also reveals it, especially on balls outside the numbers. Toledo would help mitigate some of those issues by putting Woodside on the move. That’s not a common element in many NFL offenses. Woodside would also try and make up for it himself but that led to some overstriding which then hurt accuracy. He’s spent the winter and spring working on marrying the lower half to his very sound upper half and if Toledo’s pro day was any indication, there was progress made but that still bears watching.

So, what will it take to pluck Woodside in the draft? Well, he’s a third-day guy at best and there remains the possibility that he could go undrafted. I personally don’t think that will be the case, but I’m not controlling any draft boards. I could see him being a fit for the Pats in either the sixth (pick 210) or the seventh round (pick 219). Hey Bill, take my advice on this one and just make the call. You’ll thank me later.

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