NEPD Editor: James Christensen
Will Patriots fans ever see a scene similar to the one played out in Indianapolis earlier this year, with Andrew Luck defeating legendary Colts quarterback Peyton Manning?
It seems unfathomable at this juncture to picture Tom Brady leading a different team—let’s say the Vikings for arguments sake—into Gillette Stadium. As crazy as it sounds, I wouldn’t discount the possibility of Coach Bill Belichick moving on from Tom Brady before Brady is ready to move on himself.
Belichick might be the most and least sentimental coach in the league. The reverence that he holds for some players after they are done—see Bruschi, Tedy—is nearly unparalleled, but he also won’t hesitate to cut you or trade you—too many to name here—if you’ve outlived your usefulness to the Patriots.
While I certainly believe that Brady still has some productive years left in the tank—and Ryan Mallett could be the futurehere are some options that the Patriots might consider in the 2014 NFL Draft.
TRADE UP SOLUTIONS
The thought of the Patriots jettisoning Brady at this point in his career are unthinkable, especially by trading up and picking a rookie quarterback. That said, every year Bill Belichick does something that leaves everyone speechless.
Here are a couple of options, but don’t get your hopes up of having these two talented players on the Patriots anytime soon.
Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
Despite some recent struggles, Mariota is challenging for the #1 overall selection, a spot once thought to have only two possible inhabitants—Teddy Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney.
With offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels—the man who picked Tim Tebow in the 1st round—likely to have some input on who the Patriots would draft, speed and running ability would seem to be two traits in high demand. Mariota also exhibits enough touch and accuracy to develop into a top NFL quarterback.
Peter King from MMQB.com is a believer as well. “At least two teams love Mariota to the point that I believe if he comes out those teams would have him higher on their board than Bridgewater.”
With each Oregon loss, the prospect of Mariota returning to school—he is only a red-shirt sophomore—grows more likely. As much as Mariota on the Patriots seems like something you’d see in the Madden video game universe, another year into Brady’s career and Florida State phenom Jameis Winston perhaps pushing Mariota down the board a bit would make this scenario much less of a pipe-dream.
Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
While some fans might shy away from Carr due to his infamous last name, he is very much his own player.
Carr is nearly as fast as Mariota—4.5 speed!— and is very precise with the football, especially on the myriad screen and underneath routes that the Bulldogs run. His touch down the field is also noteworthy.
Carr is adept at making quick reads and placing the ball in locations that help his receivers maximize their yards after the catch. The one thing that Carr could work on is his footwork, which gets a bit sloppy when making quick throws.
Much like Mariota, the Patriots will almost certainly have to use some draft capital to move up to draft Carr.
FIRST ROUND SOLUTION
Zach Mettenberger (QB, LSU)
Mettenberger was highly-touted coming into the 2012 season, but ended up disappointing scouts and LSU fans alike. Our friends at Optimum Scouting, however, put his resurgence in 2013 into perspective.
“The 6’5” 230-pound quarterback is finally coming along in 2013, with one of the main reasons being that the offense no longer views a quarterback as a unfortunate necessity, but as a weapon. In three games alone, Mettenberger’s showed tremendous improvement, with a more compact throwing motion and shortened throwing base, and, depending on who you ask, those games have been his best three games in his career to date.”
Mettenberger has stood strong in the pocket this year and has held his own against some of the best defenses in the country. He might have the highest upside of the more traditional pocket-passers in the league this year.
DAY TWO SOLUTIONS
Tajh Boyd (QB, Clemson)
Blake Bortles (QB, Central Florida)
Brett Smith (QB, Wyoming)
AJ McCarron (QB, Alabama)
There are a variety of intriguing quarterbacks that are going to be available in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.
McCarron has the name-recognition, but he hasn’t shown the ability to make the toughest NFL throws—deep out for example—on a consistent basis. Boyd is a dual-threat quarterback that will intrigue McDaniels as well. Smith and Bortles aren’t widely known, but each has a big-time arm and enough mobility to stay upright in the NFL.
I can see the Patriots front-office attending one of these players’ Pro Days, having a great interview and workout and snatching them up with one of their day two picks.