As the New England Patriots headed into the 2017 NFL season, it was clear that they were going for it. They traded away their 1st Round pick for Brandin Cooks, moving down from the 3rd to the 4th to acquire Kony Ealy, who was cut and is now a productive member of the Jets, and they also unloaded late round picks to fix their special teams depth issue that came about after a plethora of injuries in the preseason, a preview of what was to come.
Yes, I understand that the Patriots finished 13-3, clinched homefield again, and have a chance at their 6th Super Bowl, but anyone who watches this team and a has pair of eyes realizes that they need to start rebuilding areas on this roster ASAP if they want to compete for a couple more titles with Tom Brady.
This appears to be the offseason to do just that.
Like in 2012, the Patriots not only have picks, they have some very valuable picks that they acquired through trade. They traded up that year to draft Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower, and they did it because they could, just like this year. They own one first round pick, their own, two second round picks, the second one coming from San Francisco, their own third round pick, two fourth round compensatory picks (most likely), one sixth round pick, and two seventh round picks, one being a compensatory pick.
That gives them four picks in the top 100, something that they desperately need after unloading many picks in trades for this season and the future. Nine overall picks will also allow them to draft depth into areas of major need, and it will also give them the freedom to take a quarterback relatively early to start the process of developing Brady’s replacement- again. It is very likely that the pick acquired for Garoppolo will be used on the next New England starting quarterback.
Linebacker is also a very weak area, and New England will address this problem in the draft (and probably free agency too) so they can avoid picking players up off the street and immediately putting them on the field. With their top four picks, they are likely to target quarterback, linebacker, defensive line, and the offensive line. Today we will take a look at some of the top quarterback prospects that would fit the Patriots and would also be available when they pick. I don’t see them jumping up to take a Darnold or Rosen, not because they wouldn’t trade up, mainly because it would cost a ton.
Here are five quarterbacks who may be taking their next snaps in Foxboro next season:
Lamar Jackson, Louisville– The super-talented Cardinal quarterback is being compared to former Clemson star and current Texan DeShaun Watson, and if he is available late in the first or when the Patriots select with the 49ers pick, Jackson could be the type of steal the Texans pulled off with Watson, and that would give New England their quarterback of the future. Jackson does have to work on his accuracy, but with good coaching, and the presence of Brady to assist in his development (Brady WILL be a mentor to the next young QB selected), Jackson could be a steal for New England. If he is available in the 20’s and the Patriots know they might miss on him, don’t be surprised if they trade up to get him, assuming their scouts like him.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma– Tough, accurate, leader- those are the three words that come to mind when thinking about Mayfield’s game. Yes, he is slightly undersized at 6’2, but Garoppolo is about the same size, and the Patriots drafted and developed him into what appears to be an excellent NFL starter. Could Mayfield be the next Patriots starting quarterback? Yes, he absolutely could be. Mayfield, who completed 71% of his passes, threw for 4,627, 43 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. In his career (three years at OKU, one year at Texas Tech, all as the starter) Mayfield completed 68.5% of his passes for 14,406 yards, 131 touchdowns, 30 interceptions, and he averaged 9.8 yards per completion. The number one trait of a great NFL quarterback is accuracy, and Mayfield has shown that he has elite ability in that department. That alone should guarantee him a long NFL career. The Patriots obviously value accuracy in their system, so Mayfield very well could be their main target in this draft, regardless of his Drew Brees-like size. Mayfield needs to work on his footwork to reach his potential.
Luke Falk, Washington State– Falk has great size (6’4), but he is thin-framed, which can be an issue when you take a pounding in the NFL. In his four years as a Cougar, Falk started 42 games, completing 68.3% of his passes for 14,481 yards, 119 touchdowns, 39 interceptions, and he averaged 7.1 yards per attempt. Falk has good arm strength, but he does have issues with reading coverage. Falk is not very good at working through his progressions, so he’ll need time to get coached up in any system he ends up in, especially if it happens to be New England. Falk also spent the majority of his career in the shotgun, so he’ll need to learn how to work from under center. If the Patriots decide to hold off until the 3rd or 4th round to select a quarterback, Falk could be the guy that fits their need.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State– Rudolph also has the size NFL personnel people are looking for, standing at 6’5, 230 pounds. He has the bulk that Falk doesn’t have, but he is not as accurate as the aforementioned trio, so that is definitely a point against him. He started 42 games in his four years at Oklahoma State, completing 63.2% of his passes for 13,618 yards, 92 touchdowns, 26 interceptions, and he averaged 9.4 yards per attempt, which is impressive. Rudolph does not anticipate well, a skill that is needed to succeed in the NFL, and that could also lead to even worse accuracy issues going forward. Scouts question his ability to throw it into tight windows, and that is another skill that is needed to be a good/great NFL quarterback. The physical ability is there, but he needs to be coached up on some of the finer points to become an NFL caliber quarterback. If the Patriots were to draft him, it would most likely be between the 4th and 6th rounds.
Mike White, Western Kentucky– You’re probably thinking- who the heck is this guy, and why would the Patriots take a quarterback from Western Kentucky? Well, let me be the first to remind you that the quarterback the Patriots traded to San Francisco was drafted out of Eastern Illinois, not exactly a huge school. Talent can be found in many places, and White has some serious ability. White, who is 6’4, 225, completed 66% of his passes for 4,177 yards, 26 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and he averaged 7.5 yards per pass. White spent two years at South Florida before transferring to Western Kentucky. He started a total of 44 games, completing 62% of his passes for 11,262 yards, 74 touchdowns, 31 interceptions, and 8.1 yards per attempt. His completion percentage jumped from 51.6% at South Florida to 66.4% at Western Kentucky, and he is known for being a very smart quarterback. He may not be the most athletic, but if he is smart, accurate, tough, and has the size needed to play in the NFL, he might be a steal. White is projected to go in the 6th or later, an area the Patriots have struck gold before. Keep an eye on this sleeper.
Tomorrow we will take a deep dive into the linebackers available in the 2018 Draft, mainly because that is the weakest position on the team as it is currently constituted.