Welcome to the first installment of Patriots Draft Fits. Over the next month, we’ll be going over each position and identifying players in each segment (early round, mid-round, and late-round) that potentially fit the Patriots’ needs. During this segment, we’ll only be discussing realistic possibilities. For example, Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa will be long gone before the Patriots pick and would be nearly impossible to trade up for. Without further adieu, let’s get started with the QBs.
Current Situation: Following the loss of Brady, the Pats currently have Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer on the roster, with Stidham as the heavy favorite to start.
Level of Need: Moderate
SHS Take: I could see the Pats taking a QB in the mid-to-late rounds, but I’d be surprised if they took one early. Everything is pointing towards Stidham being the guy come Week 1.
Early Round Fits
Jake Fromm – Junior, Georgia, 6’2, 219 lbs
Fromm is one of those guys who won’t wow you with anything in practice or the combine. Doesn’t have great arm strength, isn’t super mobile, etc. What he does do well are two of the most important attributes for a Pats QB: Takes care of the ball and shows up in the 4th quarter. With 78 touchdowns to 11 interceptions over the entirety of his Georgia career, Fromm shows that he is more than capable of handling himself against tough competition playing in the SEC. He’s a cerebral quarterback capable of going through each of his progressions and making the right reads. He’s willing to throw downfield, but also more than happy to feed his check downs. His freshman year, Georgia made the College Football Playoff and advanced to the National Title Game. Fromm was outstanding in the Semi-Finals vs. Oklahoma, posting a nearly perfect quarterback rating at 152.5. His performance in the National Title Game left something to be desired, throwing two picks, but he proved that he could play with the big boys, taking mighty Alabama to overtime, albeit in a loss. If the Patriots were going to take a guy early, Fromm would be my pick. Worth noting that the Patriots did in fact meet with Fromm at the combine.
Projection: Late 1st to Early 2nd
NFL Comparison: Alex Smith with a more aggressive play style
Jacob Eason – Redshirt Junior, Washington, 6’6″, 231 lbs
If the Patriots want to go with a quarterback in the complete opposite mold of Brady, Eason is the guy. Forget check-downs to White and shallow crossers to Edelman, Eason is going to chuck it deep and do it often. If you watch some of Eason’s tape, you’re going to find a lot of deep comebacks, skinny posts, and fade routes. Playing in a spread offense in the PAC-12 at Washington, Eason was able to capitalize on poor competition and a wide-open field. His arm strength and accuracy outside of the hashes are excellent, and he is an outstanding thrower of the fade route. While Eason has a massive arm and excellent size, he doesn’t progress through his reads nearly as well as you’d like. Eason seems to be looking for the homerun play far too often, and that can lead to bad decisions downfield. Eason also lacks mobility, which will limit his playmaking ability in the NFL. Eason is a guy who would need a year or two as a backup to adjust to a pro-style offense and work on decision making. The talent is there, he just needs good coaching.
Projection: Late first round
NFL Comparison: Jameis Winston in his early years
Mid Round Fits
Jalen Hurts – Senior, Oklahoma/Alabama, 6’2″, 222 lbs
Hurts is really a fascinating prospect. After being benched for Tua Tagovailoa in the National Title Game in 2017, Hurts transferred to Oklahoma and became a Heisman candidate, leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoffs once again. While at Alabama, Hurts was seen as a mobile game manager that did an excellent job taking care of the ball (17:1 TD to INT ratio in 2017). When he got to Oklahoma last season, we saw a completely different player. Hurts was ripping the ball downfield, and making throws he never even attempted while at Alabama. Lincoln Riley was able to get the best out of Hurts, leveraging his mobility to set up the intermediate-to-deep passing game. A lot of this success can be attributed to the fact that Oklahoma is in the Big-12, a conference known for spread offenses, gaudy amounts of points, and non-existent defense. So which version of Hurts is the real one? The answer probably lies between both versions of the former five-star recruit. A playmaking, dual-threat QB that takes care of the ball, but lacks elite arm strength and accuracy. If Hurts is placed in the right system, he can become a serviceable starter with a decent ceiling. The Patriots did meet with Hurts at the combine and have plenty of insight with Belichick and Saban’s connection.
Projection: Early 3rd to Late 4th
NFL Comparison: A more mobile Dak Prescott with less arm strength
Nate Stanley – Iowa, Senior, 6’4″, 235 lbs
Another guy with a Belichick connection (Kirk Ferentz at Iowa), Stanley has potential, but needs a lot of work. A three-year starter for Ferentz, Stanley takes care of the ball and is capable of making NFL-caliber throws downfield. Something I noticed with Stanley is that he is able to throw guys open and let his receivers make plays on the ball. Playing in Ferentz’s pro-style offense will certainly help his transition towards to the NFL. The cons of Stanley are his accuracy and decision making. Throughout his college career, Stanley never had a completion percentage of over 60%. Not ideal for a traditional, pro-style quarterback. Nevertheless, Stanley looks poised and polished in the pocket and makes up for his lack of mobility with plus arm strength. Another QB who would need a few years as a backup to develop, Stanley has a shot to be a solid pro.
Projection: Early 4th to Late 5th
NFL Comparison: Kirk Cousins
Late Round Fits
Anthony Gordon – Redshirt Senior, Washington State, 6’1″, 205 lbs
Gordon put up Mahomes-like numbers at Washington State last year, throwing for over 5,500 yards and 48 touchdowns chucking the ball all over the yard in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. Despite playing in a college-style spread offense, Gordon shows the ability to make NFL-caliber throws consistently. His mobility is underrated, as he is able to escape the pocket with ease and make accurate throws on the run. His arm strength leaves something to be desired, but with the right coaching, Gordon can have success in the NFL. Gordon is probably best suited for a west coast type offense with a lot of RPO-action.
Projection: Late 4th to Early 6th
NFL Comparison: Ryan Tannehill
Jacob Knipp – Redshirt Senior, Northern Colorado, 6’4″, 218 lbs
The ultimate lottery ticket, Knipp was finally able to stay healthy after three straight season-ending injuries. Knipp played pretty well in 2019 to the tune of a 128.7 passer rating, albeit for a porous 2-10 Northern Colorado squad. Stats don’t tell the full story for Knipp, though as his intangibles and arm strength set him apart. His decision making is less than ideal, with a 4:3 TD to INT ratio last season, but a lot of that can be blamed on his terrible supporting cast. Knipp would be a solid developmental QB on a team with an aging quarterback. The injury history aside, Knipp could be a steal for the team that brings him in.
Projection: Late 5th to Early 7th
NFL Comparison: Ryan Mallett with legit upside
*All stats via ESPN, Walter Football, and NFL.com