Patriots take a shot on Stidham as quarterback with upside

Patriots take a shot on Stidham as quarterback with upside

FOXBORO -- The word that came to mind when the Patriots made Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham their choice with pick No. 133 in the fourth round? Value.

The Patriots love them some value when they can find it, and if they've found a capable passer on Day 3, hard to recoup any better value than that. There's certainly evidence that Stidham has the potential to make good on New England's investment.

Stidham landed on our list of "Prototypical Patriots" in the pre-draft process. He played three years of Power 5 conference football -- one at Baylor and then two at Auburn after transferring -- and checks every box from a production standpoint. His 64.3 completion percentage, 8.5 yards per attempt, 48 touchdowns and 13 picks are all within range of the marks posted by quarterbacks previously drafted by Bill Belichick.

Going into last season, Stidham was viewed by some as a potential first-rounder. He had a great 2017 in his first year as a starter for the Tigers, earning 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 didn't go as planned for Stidham, though. His completion percentage dropped to 61 percent and Auburn went a disappointing 8-5. Stidham was not a favorite of Pro Football Focus last season and was ranked 24th among draft-eligible quarterbacks on throws from a clean pocket.

Stidham has had a nice four months, however. At the end of December, he walloped Purdue in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, 64-13, completing 15 of 21 attempted for 373 yards and five touchdowns.

He also helped himself at the Senior Bowl in January, where he was widely considered to have had one of the best weeks among players at his position. Having an opportunity to play in a pro-style system, and against strong competition, he excelled and was named the practice player of the week at quarterback. Like Jimmy Garoppolo back in 2014, who played in a quarterback-friendly system at Eastern Illinois, he made the most of his week in Mobile, Ala., and the Patriots apparently took notice.

I asked NFL Network lead draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah what he thought of Stidham's fit in New England.

"Stidham is one of the true wild cards because he spins it as well or better than anybody in this entire draft class," he said. "In shorts, he'd be a top-five pick. Unfortunately, it hasn't clicked on the field like you'd want to see at Auburn. Some of that is the lack of protection. Some of it is an offensive system that's not great for him. But just throwing the football, he's a great athlete.

"I think it's going to take a little bit of time to develop him, but I could make a case he makes a lot of sense for the Patriots because they've got a little bit of time, no pun intended, with Tom there. He's not going anywhere right now. That would give you a chance to really develop a guy like this with a potential huge upside. Really as much upside as any quarterback in the draft class. Stidham is very talented. So that might be a risk worth taking."

Stidham made a top-30 visit to Gillette Stadium, and he met with director of player personnel Nick Caserio before Auburn's pro day, indications of New England's pre-draft interest. Along with veteran Brian Hoyer, he'll have an opportunity to serve as Tom Brady's backup in 2019 and beyond. He looks like an ascending talent.

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Prototypical Patriots still available for Belichick, Caserio on Day 3 of the draft

Prototypical Patriots still available for Belichick, Caserio on Day 3 of the draft

FOXBORO -- The Patriots are loaded with picks on Day 3. 

After some wheeling and dealing on Day 2, their Saturday haul includes No. 118, 133 and 134 in the fourth round. They also have No. 239, 243, 246 and 252 in the seventh round.

There's a sizable gap of more than 100 selections between their final fourth-rounder and their first seventh-rounder, and the possibility of a trade (or two...or three) remains. Whether they continue to deal or not, when it comes time for them to pick early in the afternoon on Saturday, there's going to be plenty of talent available to them. "Prototypical Patriots" remain at just about every position.

QUARTERBACKS

RYAN FINLEY, QB, NC STATE

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 is willing to make an investment there at this point in the draft. WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Ryan Finley

JARRETT STIDHAM, QB, AUBURN

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. After a solid performance at the Senior Bowl, he could represent nice value for the Patriots on Day 3. WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Jarrett Stidham

RECEIVERS

BISI JOHNSON, WR, COLORADO STATE

While his 40 time (4.51) didn't quite meet the average the Patriots typically like from their early-round wideouts, Johnson's athleticism is certainly worth a Day 3 choice: 6.88-second three-cone, 4.16-second short-shuttle, 38-inch vert, 124-inch broad jump. He could be an inside-out option at the next level. 

EMANUEL HALL, WR, MISSOURI

One of the most impressive athletes at the position this year -- and in the draft in general -- Hall has the speed to stretch the field and the leaping ability and size to make contested catches. He ran a 4.39-second 40, jumped 43.5 inches in the vertical and 141 inches in the broad. That's some explosiveness. He did drop 12 passes over the last two years, though, so if the Patriots are interested, that's something they'll have to take into account. 

HAKEEM BUTLER, WR, IOWA STATE

This one's a head-scratcher. Some experts believed he was worthy of a first-round selection. More than 100 picks have gone by and he's still available. Pro Football Focus tracked Butler as having 19 catches of 20 yards or more downfield -- the most of any wideout in the draft class. His long arms (35 inches) and huge mitts (11 inches) mean that he's often available even when he isn't necessarily "open."

CODY THOMPSON, WR, TOLEDO

One of the quickest short-shuttle times in the draft (4.03 seconds), Thompson could be an interesting slot fit to complement N'Keal Harry in New England. A quarterback in high school, is Thompson the next passer-to-slot conversion to get a locker inside Gillette Stadium after leaving the MAC? Thompson's teammate at wideout, Jon'Vea Johnson, is also a Prototypical Patriot and still on the board.

NSIMBA WEBSTER, WR, EASTERN WASHINGTON

He wasn't invited to the combine, but Webster clocked a 40 in the 4.4-second range at his pro day and checked in with a blazing 6.7ish-second three-cone time. He caught 84 passes for 1,379 yards and 11 scores last year. He also has loads of kick-return experience, which should interest the Patriots after they lost Cordarrelle Patterson via free agency.

NICK EASLEY, WR, IOWA

Easley is a solidly-built slot -- like 2009 seventh-round receiver Julian Edelman -- and lightning quick. His 3.87-second short shuttle at Iowa's pro day was better than Edelman's (3.92 seconds) blazing time coming out of Kent State, and it approached the ridiculous number posted by Deion Branch back in 2002 (3.78 seconds). Easley's three-cone time (6.55) was also remarkable. Late in the draft, we'd almost be surprised if Easley's name wasn't called by the Patriots.

STANLEY MORGAN, WR, NEBRASKA

His three-cone time (6.78 seconds) was one of the best at the position at this year's combine and matches up favorably with slots the Patriots have drafted in the past. His short-shuttle time (4.13 seconds) was nothing to sneeze at, and his jumps (38.5-inch vert, 125-inch broad) indicate better-than-average explosiveness for Patriots who've worked the middle of the field in the past.

TIGHT ENDS

FOSTER MOREAU, TE, LSU

Moreau's athletic testing numbers check every box for the Patriots (4.66-second 40, 36.5-inch vertical, 7.16 three-cone, 4.11 short shuttle, 121-inch broad jump) at this position. Moreau also seems to fit from an off-the-field perspective. He wore the No. 18 at LSU, which is annually presented to the player who best exemplifies leadership and selflessness. 

TREVON WESCO, TE, WEST VIRGINIA

A 6-foot-3 tight end who tips the scales at almost 270 pounds, Wesco's game is reminiscent of Dwayne Allen's. They had identical 40s (4.89 seconds) and short shuttles (4.37 seconds), as well as near-identical three-cone times (7.12 for Allen, 7.18 for Wesco) and verticals (32 inches for Allen, 31 for Wesco) at their respective combines. If the Patriots have any concerns about Ryan Izzo after he missed his rookie season, Wesco could be drafted on Day 3, join his teammate Yodny Cajuste, and play the role of blocking tight end.

EDGE DEFENDERS

JUSTIN HOLLINS, EDGE, OREGON

An elite athlete (4.5-second 40, 36.5-inch vertical), Hollins is considered by some to have some off-the-ball flexibility. Judging by how valuable someone like Kyle Van Noy has become to the Patriots defense thanks to his ability to play on the line and off, Hollins could be a steal for the Patriots in the middle rounds.

CHRISTIAN MILLER, EDGE, ALABAMA

Miller's long arms (35 inches) and explosive jumps (38.5-inch vert, 118-inch broad) make him a relatively rare prospect physically. When you factor the fact that he looks like he has a variety of moves off the edge (8.5 sacks last season, Pro Football Focus' seventh in the class in pass-rush productivity), he could end up going to the Patriots with a good review from the 'Bama staff. WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Christian Miller

D'ANDRE WALKER, EDGE, GEORGIA

Like Miller, Walker has long arms (34 inches) that might allow the Patriots to look past some of his other physical traits. Like Miller, Walker comes from a program Belichick respects. And like Miller, he produced in the nation's top conference (24 tackles for losses, 13 sacks last two seasons). WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — D'Andre Walker

ANTHONY NELSON, EDGE, IOWA

Nelson's length (35-inch arms), his explosiveness (35.5-inch vert, 118-inch broad), and his quickness (6.95-second three-cone, 4.23-second short shuttle) are rare. You can hear more about Nelson and his potential fit in New England in this episode of The Next Pats Podcast with Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

RENELL WREN, DT, ARIZONA STATE

Would the Patriots take one of N'Keal Harry's most talented teammates on Day 3? Wren has 34-inch arms, 10-inch hands and he ran a 5.01-second 40 with a vertical of 32 inches a broad jump of 118 inches...at almost 320 pounds. Even if he needs to clean up some things technique-wise, he's a specimen and could join Mike Pennel to help the Patriots replace Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton.

DAYLON MACK, DT, TEXAS A&M

Hard to find someone with Mack's size (336 pounds), power (30 bench reps), and a history of production in a conference like the SEC. He played a significant role for the Aggies as a freshman and continued to provide a massive presence on the interior of the defensive line through his four years there.

KINGSLEY KEKE, DT, TEXAS A&M

Some NFL-caliber beef up front at Texas A&M, huh? Keke is not exactly the "prototype" physically, but he is an intriguing match for the Patriots. He has very long arms (34.5 inches) and might best be served by taking on an interior rusher's role in the NFL -- a role Adam Butler has dutifully taken on the last couple of seasons. (A role the Patriots tried to fill years ago with Dominique Easley.) At the Senior Bowl, according to PFF, Keke dominated his pass-rushing reps from the interior.

SAFETIES

AMANI HOOKER, S, IOWA 

Hooker is a versatile box safety with good instincts and great athleticism (37-inch vertical, 6.81-second three-cone, 4.1-second short shuttle) who could end up as a Patrick Chung-type wherever he goes.

CHAUNCEY GARDNER-JOHNSON, S, FLORIDA

Gardner-Johnson played all over the secondary -- deep safety, strong safety, slot -- in the SEC, and he can move. His 4.48-second 40, 36-inch vertical, 117-inch broad and 7.03-second three-cone time are all in the range of safeties the Patriots have drafted in the first three rounds over the last decade. WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

DEIONTE THOMPSON, S, ALABAMA

Thompson's 33-inch vert didn't do much to put to bed any questions about his athleticism (he didn't run during the pre-draft process) or explosiveness. He hails from a great program, though, and he has enough good tape to warrant a Day 2 choice.

CORNERS

JULIAN LOVE, CB, NOTRE DAME

The Patriots have often sought corners with 40 times under 4.5 seconds so Love (4.54) may not fit quite as snugly as some others. But otherwise, his movement skills are everything the Patriots would want. Combine those skills with rock-solid technique and good instincts? Could be a Patriot.

AMANI ORUWARIYE, CB, PENN STATE

We thought Oruwariye might be an early Day 2 pick, yet he remains available. His 6.82-second three-cone is good enough, especially with his 6-2, 205-pound frame. At the Senior Bowl, he had the highest win rate of any corner in 1-on-1s, according to Pro Football Focus.

ISAIAH JOHNSON, CB, HOUSTON

Johnson's 6.81-second three-cone is a tick slower than the elite number the Patriots like from their early-round corners in that event (6.75 seconds). But on Day 3? Why not loosen the standards? He's a big-time all-around athlete when you look at some of his other numbers (4.40-second 40, 38-inch vert, 129-inch broad). Add in the fact that he's among the biggest corners in the draft class (6-2, 208 pounds) and an ascending prospect (he played receiver for two years at Houston), and he's among the more intriguing fits for New England left on the board.

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Nick Caserio: 'There's some players I think we're going to like' on Day 2

Nick Caserio: 'There's some players I think we're going to like' on Day 2

FOXBORO -- Nick Caserio strolled into the media workroom at Gillette Stadium and saw a few dozen sets of bleary eyes staring at him.

"I appreciate everybody sticking around," Caserio said. "I’m sure everybody’s anxious to get home."

It was just after midnight, meaning it was technically Day 2 of the NFL Draft. After selecting N'Keal Harry at No. 32 overall, Caserio, Bill Belichick and the Patriots were looking at five selections later on Friday: No. 56 and 64 in the second round; No. 73, 97 and 101 in the third round.

"There’s definitely some good players that are left here," Caserio said. "So, I think we’ll work through it. There’s some players that I think we like, that I think we’re going to like, and we have some flexibility. Maybe if there’s a player that we think we need to target a little bit earlier, we could potentially go up and get him. If not, we can kind of sit back and pick. We’ll look at it, but I would say there’s certainly groups of players and some positions maybe have a little more depth than others, so we’ll just have to look at it relative to where we think we are as a team. It should be interesting."

Might the Patriots double-up at receiver? Will they be looking to dip into the tight end class? Is it a swing tackle they're after? How about a pass-rusher or a defensive back to help a talented but veteran defense? Could quarterback be on their radar?

Here are a handful of the "Prototypical Patriots" we identified in this year's draft who are still available and could end up on New England's roster before the weekend is through. 

DEEBO SAMUEL, WR, SOUTH CAROLINA
With a solid build (5-11, 214 pounds) and explosiveness (39-inch vertical) to win contested catches anywhere on the field, Samuel seems like an ideal fit in New England. Did we mention he returns kicks? Prototype. Ohio State's Parris Campbell is another slot with good size (6-feet, 205 pounds) and home-run ability with the ball in his hands (4.31-second 40).
WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Deebo Samuel

A.J. BROWN, WR, OLE MISS
Brown doesn't have the blazing straight-line speed (4.49-second 40), but he's fast enough. Plus, his change-of-direction numbers (4.25 short shuttle, 7.0-second three-cone) and jumps (36-inch vertical, 120-inch broad) are just about what the Patriots are usually looking for. A big slot with the ability to play outside, he'd be an intriguing fit in New England.
WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — A.J. Brown

MECOLE HARDMAN, WR, GEORGIA
Hardman is somewhat undersized at 5-10, 187 pounds, but he is clearly fast enough (4.33-second 40) and explosive enough (36.5-inch vertical) to play on the outside if the Patriots wanted a speed option on the boundary. UMass wideout Andy Isabella is another versatile wideout with crazy speed who can play both inside and out.

MILES BOYKIN, WR, NOTRE DAME
Boykin is one of the most athletic players in the draft, regardless of position. He checks every box the Patriots are looking for athletically, and his frame is difficult to matchup with (6-4, 220 pounds). If the Patriots want another contested-catch option to pair with N'Keal Harry, he'd make sense. Hakeem Butler from Iowa State fits a similar profile thanks to his long arms and his ability to be "open" even when he's not.
WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Miles Boykin

TERRY McLAURIN, WR, OHIO STATE
McLaurin is a scary athlete himself. His comps on Mockdraftable.com are players like Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson. Far from the most successful receivers to come through the Patriots' doors, but both were freaky athletes the team deemed worth of high-end picks. McLaurin is also thought to be one of the best kick-coverage players in the draft.
WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Terry McLaurin

IRV SMITH, TE, ALABAMA
Smith appears to be a true "move" tight end, a role Aaron Hernandez (6-2, 245) once filled. He put up big numbers in the SEC and could end up in New England with a good recommendation from Nick Saban.
WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Irv Smith, Jr.

KAHALE WARRING, TE, SAN DIEGO STATE
Warring is unrefined as a blocker, but he's a smooth receiver, and he more than meets Patriots typical thresholds here with his size, his hands (9.75 inches), his speed (4.67 40) and his explosiveness (36.5-inch vert).

JACE STERNBERGER, TE, TEXAS A&M
Sternberger is one of the players the Patriots have had in for a visit during the pre-draft process. His size and SEC production -- eighth in the class with 2.01 yards per route run, per PFF -- put him in the prototype conversation.

RYAN FINLEY, QB, NC STATE
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.
WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Ryan Finley

JARRETT STIDHAM, QB, AUBURN
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. After a solid performance at the Senior Bowl, he could represent nice value for the Patriots on Day 2.
WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Jarrett Stidham

JUSTIN HOLLINS, EDGE, OREGON
An elite athlete (4.5-second 40, 36.5-inch vertical), he's considered by some to have some off-the-ball flexibility. Judging by how valuable someone like Kyle Van Noy has become to the Patriots defense thanks to his ability to play on the line and off, Hollins could be a steal for the Patriots in the middle rounds.

CHRISTIAN MILLER, EDGE, ALABAMA
Miller's long arms (35 inches) and explosive jumps (38.5-inch vert, 118-inch broad) make him a relatively rare prospect physically. When you factor the fact that he looks like he has a variety of moves off the edge (8.5 sacks last season, Pro Football Focus' seventh in the class in pass-rush productivity), Miller could end up going to the Patriots in the third or fourth round with a good review from the 'Bama staff.
WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Christian Miller

D'ANDRE WALKER, EDGE, GEORGIA
Like Miller, Walker doesn't meet some of the physical markers typically drafted by the Patriots. And like Miller, Walker was coming back from injury (groin) during the pre-draft process. But like Miller, Walker has long arms (34 inches) that might allow the Patriots to look past some of his other physical traits. And like Miller, Walker comes from a program Belichick respects, and he produced in the nation's top conference (24 tackles for losses, 13 sacks last two seasons).
WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — D'Andre Walker

ANTHONY NELSON, EDGE, IOWA
Nelson's length (35-inch arms), his explosiveness (35.5-inch vert, 118-inch broad), and his quickness (6.95-second three-cone, 4.23-second short shuttle) are rare. You can hear more about Nelson and his potential fit in New England in this episode of The Next Pats Podcast with Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.

AMANI HOOKER, S, IOWA 
Hooker is a versatile box safety with good instincts and great athleticism (37-inch vertical, 6.81-second three-cone, 4.1-second short shuttle) who could end up as a Patrick Chung-type wherever he goes.

CHAUNCEY GARDNER-JOHNSON, S, FLORIDA
Gardner-Johnson played all over the secondary -- deep safety, strong safety, slot -- in the SEC, and he can move. His 4.48-second 40, 36-inch vertical, 117-inch broad and 7.03-second three-cone time are all in the range of safeties the Patriots have drafted in the first three rounds over the last decade.
WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

DAVID LONG, CB, MICHIGAN
Long checks every box -- the only corner in this class to do so -- that we looked for physically when comparing this year's class to Patriots corners taken in the first three rounds. Long may be a slot defender, and the Patriots just drafted one of those in Duke Dawson, but his 6.45-second three-cone time and 3.97-second short shuttle still might be worth a pick if Bill Belichick want to pour more into his secondary.

GREEDY WILLIAMS, CB, LSU
Considered one of the top corners in the class -- and likely putting him out of range for the Patriots at No. 32 -- Williams has the length and speed (4.37-second 40) to turn into an elite man-to-man corner at the next level. If he happens to fall, the Patriots could bite.
WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Greedy Williams

JOEJUAN WILLIAMS, CB, VANDERBILT
With rare size to match up with bigger-bodied receivers, one could certainly envision the Patriots overlooking Williams' 40 time (4.55 at his pro day) and taking him in the first couple of rounds. Belichick himself noted recently that at some point the Patriots are going to have to keep up with the trend of receivers getting bigger and bigger, answering with a longer coverage option.
WATCH: NFL Draft Reel — Joejuan Williams

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