Patriots Top Draft Targets: Quarterbacks
Tonight is the night we've all been waiting for...the 2020 NFL Draft. I'm usually the type to tune in for the first and second round before monitoring the rest on Twitter. This year though, the NFL really takes center stage as the only game in town. We're all stuck at home with nothing else going on, so why not take in the whole thing? I sure will.
Anyway, it's always a spectacle and tonight will have the added intrigue of the draft being fully online for the first time ever. We'll definitely have technical difficulties and some team will screw something up big time. It's going to be awesome entertainment throughout.
As New England fans, we're usually not that into the draft. Sure, we want to get good, young players but we also have kind of known that we'll be competing for a title regardless of what our rookies do. That is not so anymore and this might be the biggest draft of Bill Belichick's career. He has to go out and make some big moves and hit on the majority of players that can come in and contribute quickly. Pats fans won't accept a loser, so let's reload right now.
I'm going to go through a few positions today with prospects that the Pats could be looking into. We're going to start with quarterback because it's the most important and because we actually need one for once. Let's take a look at the candidates.
Tua Tagovailoa - This one holds a special place in my heart because I've been saying that Tua would be Tom Brady's successor for about a year and a half now. However, the Pats would definitely need to trade up from the 23rd pick to take him as most believe he'll be an early first rounder.
Would Tua be a great fit in the Patriots system? I believe so. He's a product of Nick Saban and Alabama, so he's been part of the closest thing to New England that college football has to offer. Big moments don't scare him and he seems to have the smarts, the leadership and the coachability needed to succeed under Bill Belichick. Should we worry about his poor Wonderlic score of 19, which was easily the worst in the QB class of 2020? Nah, those things don't make or break you. Plenty of good quarterbacks have done poorly on that test and plenty of bad quarterbacks have done well. All it is at this point is a funny narrative.
The concerns come with his injury history mostly. Do we really want to invest heavily into a mobile QB that has already had serious hip problems? It's a gamble, for sure and it could lead to a fall on draft night.
I'd love for the Pats to grab Tua though. It would be splashy (which admittedly, is not Patriot-like) and I think it would be his best chance at NFL success. His comps are Russell Wilson and Drew Brees, which are obviously lofty standards, but I could see the Hawaiian lefty and former Elite 11 MVP becoming a star and a cult-hero in New England. Would I bet on him being the guy the Pats take tonight? No. I think he's going no later than the sixth pick.
Justin Herbert - It's so weird to see the Patriots being linked to high profile QB prospects. They've never had the need and now, guys like Herbert and Tua are being floated as "the guy Belichick loves." We've definitely seen a lot of that about Herbert and similar to Tua, the Pats would need to move up significantly to get him. He's likely going to be the first QB off the board post-Joe Burrow.
Herbert is a polarizing prospect however. It seems like experts are almost exactly 50/50 on whether they love him or hate him. I'm kind of in the same boat. While I'd love to see a big move up to take a name like Herbert, I know he feels a little...bust-y. His play at Oregon was inconsistent and he could definitely end up as a career backup, rather than the face of a franchise. I think the risk-reward here keeps the Pats away and Herbert lands with a team inside the top 5.
Jordan Love - Okay, now we can fall back and stop reaching from that 23rd spot in the draft. The QB class after Burrow, Tua and Herbert drops off and becomes more about choosing the guy out of the pack that you like, rather than just going best available. Any of these next three guys feels like a late-first to second round pick.
I personally, like Jordan Love. I know I'm brainwashed by the fact that people are comparing him to Patrick Mahomes, which is dumb. His ceiling is incredibly high though and with his athleticism, arm strength and size, we could see Belichick take a crack at building an offense around the new style of QB. The game is gravitating towards the Mahomes, Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson type of QB and it'd be exciting to see the Pats follow suit.
Love also fits in to the idea that some have of Belichick starting Hoyer or Stidham in 2020 because the rookie would need time to learn and develop. I'm intrigued.
Jake Fromm - Fromm feels like the guy that everyone views as the realistic Patriots pick. He was great at Georgia a few years ago when he had weapons surrounding him, but his production took a nose-dive when those players headed to the NFL and the team wasn't quite as good. The upside to Fromm is that many are comparing him to Brady for his leadership qualities and work ethic. I'm just not sold on that being the reason to take a guy though. At this stage, it feels like talent should come first and foremost. The Fromm pick will be boring, so I'm guessing this is the one the Pats will make.
Jalen Hurts - A ton of people are in on Jalen Hurts, and I'm just not at all. I saw him play in college, as we all did, for Alabama and Oklahoma State, and I didn't like his game. I mean, let me rephrase that, I didn't like his game FOR THE NFL. His passing is suspect at best and despite his upside, that'll be what drops him down to a 2nd or 3rd rounder. He feels like a Tebow, to be honest. Is Jalen Hurts a great teammate, leader, winner and athlete? YES. Big time yes on all counts. Does that mean his game is suited to play QB outside of the SEC or Big 12? No. His draft stock is soaring after a great Pro Day and Combine, and I guess this would be an interesting pick, but I really hope the Pats don't take the bait.
Jacob Eason - These next four quarterbacks are in another tier down. They are all big time projects that will signal it's Stidham time in New England. Eason has been linked to the Patriots but I absolutely hate the idea of them taking him. While he's a big guy with a big arm, he lacks mobility and has been mostly a story of disappointment so far in his football career. After being the top-ranked QB coming out of high school in 2016, he lost his starting job at Georgia to Jake Fromm and then transferred to Washington. He didn't exactly set the world on fire there either.
There's been questions about effort and motivation with Eason, which you can always take with a grain of salt. However, those questions become more of a problem when the guy isn't that good to begin with. He would have been an interesting backup to an older QB like Brady, but with the Patriots current situation at the position, he feels slightly redundant.
Anthony Gordon - Every year I seem to irrationally fall in love with a low level QB prospect. This year, that's Gordon. The Washington State product is pretty fun to watch and his game reminds me of a Baker Mayfield, Gardner Minshew, Brett Favre type. In other words, he's a gun slinger with a little bit of athleticism to make plays with his feet when need be. Is he raw? Big time. I'd still love to watch a QB like him on Sundays, especially if he can be less Mayfield, more Favre.
James Morgan - Every year there's guys that are basically unknowns until right up close to the draft. That's James Morgan out of Florida International. The reason he's getting some attention is because it's been reported that the Patriots have done extensive research on him and have also met with him over FaceTime.
Morgan seems to have the definition of a "rocket arm." That's not necessarily a good thing, either. He's been known to fire the ball on short passes and airmail receivers downfield. It seems like his upsides are size, strength, intelligence and intangibles. His game is not exactly a selling point, which doesn't seem ideal. He's a total project and like Eason, lacks mobility. I'm not sure why the Pats would want to go the route of a slow moving QB again. Let's change this thing up.
Jake Luton - Luton is the QB that every outlet is calling a "sleeper." His draft stock is rising, but he'll still likely be a 4th or 5th rounder. The thing that hooked me on to him is how his scouting report reads. It's awful. One of the worst I've seen and that kind of drew me in and made me think of another late-round QB whom everyone overlooked. Luton's got terrible reviews about his mobility, his age (being 24 after a redshirt, a medical redshirt and transferring twice), his injury history and his arm talent. However, ball security equals job security in New England and he almost never gives up turnovers. He also seems to be pretty confident in himself despite the doubters and could be a guy that really benefits from a great system like the one that Patriots have in place. He wouldn't be an exciting pick, but for some reason he feels like a project Belichick would be willing to take on.
So that's the crop right there. It doesn't appear to be particularly loaded and it's tough to see which way the Pats are going to want to go. There's no sure thing besides Burrow, who is a mortal lock to go #1 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals (my never going to happen fantasy would be the Pats seeing Joe as the next Brady, giving up the capital to trade up and nabbing him before going on to win 6 more titles. The haters would be sick!) and is the best prospect since Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning.
My bet is they use a "premium pick" (aka in the first three rounds) on a QB like Ian Rapoport said they would. Will I be happy if they take a guy really high? Yes, because that will mean they love him and see him as the eventual heir. It's going to be risky though, so all we can do regardless of whether they step up, or wait, is trust in Belichick.
THE PICK THEY WILL MAKE: JAKE FROMM
THEY PICK THEY SHOULD MAKE: JORDAN LOVE