When we did our "Prototypical Patriots" series last year, we conveniently left quarterbacks out. Why include them? At that time, Bill Belichick already had three on his roster: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. The likelihood of the team investing in another seemed slim.
These days the picture at that position has taken a much different shape, and the Patriots front office has been doing its due diligence on all types of passers in this class. So now we'll dive in, too.
This is a difficult position to peg when trying to decipher what might interest the Patriots. Whereas at other positions where there are measurables to help us come up with a "prototype" -- things like heights, weights and 40-yard dash times -- at quarterback, what seems to matter most is what goes on upstairs. Physical traits are important, but qualities like anticipation, reaction time and leadership skills are vital, and those are harder to quantify at pro days or the NFL Scouting Combine in Indy.
Yet, here we are, trying to come up with features of a prototypical Patriots quarterback. 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 leave them out. That's obviously where much of the work has been done this offseason by Patriots scouts and coaches looking at potential quarterback fits. But we'll stick with the measurements and a handful of important quarterbacking numbers -- stats that will help us come up with an idea of a passer's accuracy and decision-making, the two key factors to playing the position, per Belichick -- to get as close as we can to the ideal Patriots passer.
What we found, based on prior drafts, is that the Patriots have typically drafted quarterbacks who played in Power 5 conferences and are 6-foot-3 or taller (though their lone first or second-round selection, 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). 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.
Looking at all of those factors -- as well as other measurements and athletic testing numbers -- here's a look at how this year's class of quarterbacks meshes with what the Patriots have drafted in the past.
CREAM OF THE CROP
JOSH ROSEN, UCLA, 6-4, 226 POUNDS
Rosen's release, his footwork and his ability to read a defense will all help him be drafted in the top five, in all likelihood. Physically and athletically, he falls within every Patriots threshold. Statistically -- with a better than 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, an 8.0 yards per attempt average and a 60.9 completion percentage -- he checks every box.
SAM DARNOLD, USC, 6-3, 221 POUNDS
Darnold is a better athlete than Rosen so he cleared every measurable test for the Patriots with ease. His hands aren't as big (9 3/8 inches versus 9 7/8), which docks him slightly here, but they're big enough. Garoppolo's hands were 9 1/4 inches. His ratio (57-to-22 touchdowns-to-picks), yards per attempt (8.5) and completion percentage (64.9) are all stellar.
PROTOTYPES IN RANGE
KYLE LAULETTA, RICHMOND, 6-3, 222 POUNDS
This isn't how the board stacks up in most rankings, but based on the quantifiable information we've assembled, Lauletta is one of the best fits for the Patriots in this draft. His height, weight and hand size (9 3/4 inches) are all on point. Athletically, he was one of the best at this year's combine among quarterbacks. That he didn't play top-tier competition hurts him slightly here, as does his sub-standard arm length (at 30 5/8 inches, he'd have the shortest arms of any passer drafted by the Patriots since 2000). But his numbers -- 73 touchdowns, 35 picks, 8.8 yards per attempt, 63.5 percent completions -- should make him an attractive fit in New England. And, again, we're not accounting for intangibles here . . . which by all accounts, for Lauletta, are very good.
MIKE WHITE, WESTERN KENTUCKY, 6-5, 224 POUNDS
It's no surprise that Nick Caserio made a trip to the Hilltoppers pro day, where White put his arm strength on display. He looks like a Patriots quarterback. He doesn't have the Power 5 experience, and he was dreadfully slow in the three-cone (his 7.4-second time would be the slowest of any quarterback Belichick has drafted in New England), but he checks out elsewhere. And more important than the athletic testing numbers, White's production (74 touchdowns, 31 picks, 8.1 yards per attempt, 62 percent completions) was solid.
RILEY FERGUSON, MEMPHIS, 6-3, 212 POUNDS
This is where relying on the quantifiable can make things a little screwy. Based on physical measurements, athletic testing and college production . . . Ferguson looks like one of the best quarterback fits in the class for the Patriots. He's thin but tall, with good-sized hands (9 5/8 inches) and relatively impressive quickness (6.96-second three-cone). His numbers (70 touchdowns to 19 picks, 8.7 yards per attempt, 63.1 percent completions) are tremendous. His release is considered slow and he sometimes can be antsy in the pocket, which is why he's considered a late-round choice. But based on the measurables and numbers, he looks like a Patriots fit.
MASON RUDOLPH, OKLAHOMA STATE, 6-5, 235 POUNDS
Rudolph is the big pocket passer with the overwhelming statistical production that indicates he would be a Patriots fit. His hand size (9 1/8 inches) could be seen as an issue, and his quickness would be considered lumbering by Patriots standards (his 4.56 short shuttle would be the slowest of any quarterback Belichick has drafted since 2000). His numbers for the Cowboys, though boosted in part by their hurry-up spread system, are remarkable: 92 touchdowns to 26 interceptions, 94 yards per attempt, 63.2 percent completions.
CHAD KANOFF, PRINCETON, 6-4, 219 POUNDS
Scroll down the list of measurements and Kanoff crosses off just about ever one as a solid fit. Height, weight, hand size (10 1/4 inches) and arm length (33 3/4 inches) are all prototypical. His 40 time is fast enough (5.03 seconds), and his vertical is impressive (32.5 inches). When it comes to his production, he barely missed a couple of the ideal marks on our radar. Barely. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was a hair below 2-to-1 (43-to-22), and his yards per attempt were a tick below 7.5 (7.4). His completion percentage was more than solid enough (64.5), and it's no wonder the Patriots have reportedly met with Kanoff more than once in the pre-draft process.
IMPERFECT BUT INTRIGUING
JOSH ALLEN, WYOMING, 6-5, 237 POUNDS
Allen looks like a prototypical Patriots quarterback. He just didn't play like one. That's what knocks him so far down this list. His height, weight and athleticism more than fits the bill for what the Patriots want. But to not have played a Power 5 schedule, to narrowly hit the 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception marker (44-to-21), and to only complete 56.2 percent of his passes for his career? Looks, in this case, can be deceiving. Kevin O'Connell (57.7 percent) has the lowest career completion percentage of any quarterback drafted to the Patriots by Belichick.
LAMAR JACKSON, LOUISVILLE, 6-2, 216 POUNDS
At this position, it's safe to say Jackson is one of the best athletes to ever enter the NFL Draft. Even without having participated in some of the athletic testing during the pre-draft process, we can say he'd be the fastest quarterback the Patriots have ever selected. And in terms of his size, he checks every box. His height might not be ideal, but he's tall enough, and his hands (9.5 inches) and arms (33 1/8) fall within what the Patriots like. His career completion percentage (57.0) falls a shade below O'Connell's, knocking him down this list, but his other passing marks are strong (69 touchdowns to 27 picks, 8.3 yards per attempt), and the Patriots might be willing to work with his inconsistencies given his big-play potential.
LOGAN WOODSIDE, TOLEDO, 6-1, 215 POUNDS
Do the Patriots have a cutoff when it comes to height at this position? They've never drafted a quarterback shorter than 6-2, but if they'd be willing to look past that number . . . Woodside is about as good a fit as any. His hands (9 3/4 inches) are plenty big, and his arm length (31 inches) falls within the threshold established by quarterbacks the Patriots have drafted before. Athletically, he's solid across the board. Production-wise, even though he wasn't in a Power 5 conference, Woodside was great (93 touchdowns to 25 picks, 9.0 yards per attempt, 65.1 percent completions). If the Patriots can get past Woodside's height, the Patriots could pounce in the late rounds. Caserio made a trip to Ohio to see Woodside in person.
LUKE FALK, WASHINGTON STATE, 6-4, 215
Falk is difficult to assess in an exercise like this one where measurables mean something. He simply doesn't have any numbers for some of the athletic tests like the 40-yard dash, the three-cone and the short shuttle. Judging by his tape, that might've been a wise move. He's not an athlete. But it knocks him down the list here. If it weren't for some questions about his athleticism, Falk's size and production might bump him into the "Realistic Prototypes" range. He has the height to scan a defense, his hands match Garoppolo's, and in an "Air Raid" offense he threw a whopping 119 touchdown passes compared to just 39 picks.
NIC SHIMONEK, TEXAS TECH, 6-3, 220 POUNDS
Another tall passer with decent statistical production, Shimonek is likely a late-round pick or a priority free agent, but he shouldn't be completely dismissed. His hand size (9.25 inches), 40 time (4.88 seconds), short shuttle (4.32) and vertical (28.5) aren't going to blow anyone away, but they seem to meet Patriots standards. His three-cone is glacial (7.28 seconds), and his arms (30 3/4 inches) are short. But in his brief time as a starter he put up an 8.0 yards per attempt average, a 66.4 completion percentage and a 39-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
WOULD BE BREAKING THE MOLD
BAKER MAYFIELD, OKLAHOMA, 6-1, 215 POUNDS
When it comes to his physical profile, Mayfield simply isn't a prototype. He's short (for the Patriots). His hands are on the small end, though acceptable (9 1/4). And his arms are less-than-ideal in length (30 1/4). Athletically, like Woodside, he's fine. Not elite. His production, meanwhile? Elite. Would the Patriots be willing to look past the measurements -- and willing to trade up into the top 10 -- to grab a quarterback with numbers like Mayfield's (131 touchdowns to 30 picks, 9.8 yards per attempt, 68.5 percent completions)?
CHASE LITTON, MARSHALL, 6-5, 230 POUNDS
Litton has all the size the Patriots could ever want, but athletically he's stressing the bounds of the team's thresholds. His three-cone time (7.49 seconds) would be the slowest of any quarterback drafted by Belichick in New England. His 4.53-second short shuttle would tie for the worst, matching Jacoby Brissett. His yards per attempt (7.0) don't exactly reflect a big-armed quarterback, but his touchdown-to-interception ratio (72-to-31) and completion percentage (60.8) are fine. It's about athleticism with him.
KURT BENKERT, VIRGINIA, 6-3, 218 POUNDS
Another tall and lanky passer, Benkert meets just about every threshold when it comes to size and athleticism. His production, though, is lacking. His 57.7 completion percentage would tie O'Connell for the worst of any quarterback drafted by Belichick's Patriots, and his 6.3 yards per attempt would set a new low. Tanner Lee of Nebraska is another prospect who looks the part but had numbers that would seem to rule him out (46 touchdowns, 37 picks, 6.5 yards per attempt, 55.2 percent completions).
NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE
After missing out on coveted free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings, the Jets signed Teddy Bridgewater and brought back Josh McCown as short-term solutions at QB, but with the trade they made with the Colts on Saturday, their future franchise QB could be drafted next month.
The Jets acquired the No. 3 overall pick in the April 26 draft from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the sixth overall pick, two 2018 second-round picks (37th and 49th) and a 2019 second-rounder.
UCLA's Josh Rosen, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, Wyoming's Josh Allen and USC's Sam Darnold are considered the top QBs in the draft. The Cleveland Browns and New York Giants have the first two picks, the Browns have No. 4, too, and could be eyeing a QB. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley could be among the top picks as well.