The New England Patriots' quarterback position is among the most discussed topics in the entire league ahead of the NFL Draft.
How will things look without Tom Brady? Who will be the starter -- Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, or someone else? And will the team select a quarterback in the draft?
These are obviously all the questions that Patriots fans are begging to know. In just less than a week we'll actually have the answer to one question, will the Patriots draft a quarterback?
I guess the question that probably won't be answered until September is, who will actually start for the Patriots?
Even if Belichick did go out and get the Patriots a shiny new quarterback in the draft, that doesn't necessarily mean he's going to be all in on starting him next season. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if we saw Brian Hoyer starting for the Patriots.
Chris Guest of Clutch Points touched upon some of these questions on Friday.
After letting franchise stalwart and NFL legend Tom Brady walk in free agency, the New England Patriots actually head into the 2020 season with a question mark at the QB position for the first time in 20 years.
According to Ian Rapaport of NFL Network, the Pats will move quickly to address that need in the 2020 NFL draft using a “premium pick:”
“I would say the Patriots are very firmly in the quarterback mix,” he said. “They’re just so far back, so I’m having trouble figuring out, like, what are they actually going to do? Because they’re up in the 20s (No 23 overall). Jordan Love sliding into the teens and them grabbing him is a scenario that I’ve thought a lot about. They also had some success with Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round, so maybe they try to repeat that. The Patriots are going to take a quarterback, probably with a premium pick. I would just imagine it’s not at a pick they currently have.”
With Brady gone, the Pats will have a serious decision to make going forward. Will the team perhaps nab a promising quarterback prospect in the first round that slides all the way down to them at number 23 overall, or will they fish in the second round?
These are all potent and engaging questions, especially considering just how steady the Patriots have been over the course of Brady’s 20-year career there. With him gone, a new era will soon be dawning in Foxborough – with a new face at quarterback for the first time in a generation.
So who starts for the Patriots this season? Are the Patriots internal options good enough to keep the Patriots competitive? According to Adam London of NESN, a former Patriot who played with Stidham believes that Patriots fans should feel fine with Stidham behind center. But are they okay with it?
Patriots fans understandably might be feeling a bit uneasy about Stidham being the team’s new starter. While the Auburn product impressed at times last summer, the jury remains out on whether he’s capable of being a QB1 in the NFL. Former New England tight end Ben Watson, however, believes Stidham has what it takes to be a starter, and his review of the 23-year-old should be reassuring to Pats fans.
“Stidham has all that there needs to be for somebody who’s going to be successful,” Watson said Tuesday on FS1’s “First Things First.” “He’s a student of the game. You hear that a lot, but what that really means is that when we’re in the meeting rooms, he’s paying attention. When they’re in the quarterback room, he’s paying attention. When he’s on the field, he’s taking instruction from the coaches. He’s able to disseminate information to the guys in the huddle. He’s able to encourage them and kind of go through the minor details about route-running, about reading coverages, all those things. He’s eager to learn and he has a certain humility about him, with confidence. He had a chance to learn under arguably the greatest quarterback to play the game. He soaked that in for a year. Patriots fans shouldn’t be confident that he wouldn’t be in that room if Coach (Bill) Belichick didn’t think he could help the team.”
That's a great boost of confidence for Stidham from a veteran tight end who actually got to watch the kid work but, people like Ian Rapoport aren't on the same page as Watson. Ty Anderson from 985 the sports hub is reporting that Rapoport is leaning in a different direction all together.
Ian Rapoport gave a vote of confidence to veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer as the team's starting quarterback next season.
“My guess right now is Brian Hoyer is the starting quarterback of the Patriots in 2020," Rapoport offered. "But I think that is something that will be ever-evolving as we get through next season."
If there's one thing Hoyer has over Stidham right now, it's experience, as Hoyer has started 38 games over an 11-year career spent with seven different organizations. And while Hoyer hasn't exactly thrilled as a starter -- he has a 16-22 record along with 52 touchdowns with 34 interceptions over that 38-game sample as a No. 1 -- it's certainly better than the donut in Stidham's "games started" category. Hoyer also had more experience with the system based on his career longevity alone, as his latest run with New England will be his third tour of duty at Patriot Place since entering the league in 2009.
If the Patriots were serious about taking a quarterback, who would be the right guy for the Patriots? We've heard plenty of names being thrown around, but the two names that keep coming up are Jordan Love and Justin Herbert.
Let's start by looking at Jordan Love: Andy Hart of WEEI made the case for
Why the Patriots might draft him: Love may be a bit of a project, but there is no question he has physical potential and upside.
Love has the size (6-4, 224), athletic ability (4.74 40) and arm strength that NFL teams lust after at the quarterback position. He was a three-year college starter, but his production was very much hindered by a coaching change in 2019 that saw him struggle in a new offensive scheme with new personnel to the tune of 17 interceptions compared to 20 touchdowns. Love has the ability to make plays and off-platform throws in the mold of Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes. So there is that.
Jordan Love was the sexy pick for a while, but now Justin Herbert appears to be the new kid on the block, and Patriots fans are getting excited about Belichick replacing Tom Brady with the Oregon product.
As we know from earlier this week, the Patriots are apparently falling in love with Herbert. Shane Mickle of ClutchPoints touch upon this on Tuesday.
According to Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America, the team is currently trying to decide how they want to deal with the first round of the draft.
If the Patriots were to go after Herbert, they might have to get into the top five, which means they would have to give up a load of picks to move from the 23rd overall pick. To make a trade happen, the Patriots would probably have to give up their first-round draft pick next season:
“They love Justin Herbert, but enough to trade up for him?” one rival GM said. Pats do have 12 picks—second-most in the draft—for ammo, but only one of those comes in the top 85. If they want Herbert, they’d likely have to be willing to part with the 2021 first-rounder in a trove of picks.”
Do they draft a quarterback, do they go with you Jarrett Stidham, do they play the veteran Hoyer? These are all questions that are going to get answered sooner rather than later, and it will be very interesting to see how things end up working out for the Patriots.
But, I think one thing I would like to stress is, if you're one of those people who believe the Patriots are in for a hard road ahead in the 2020 season, I wouldn't be counting them out just yet.
Regardless of what the Patriots do at quarterback, they're still a great team.
As Connor Orr of Sports Illustrated points out, just because Tom Brady is gone, it doesn't mean the Patriots are done.
But the sub-truth is that Belichick could win again without Brady.
Putting aside for a moment the possibility that any quarterback may squirm at the chance to replace the greatest player in NFL history—a person eternally beloved in a stadium that even contains a facility for his own lifestyle brand—would it be truly stunning to see Andy Dalton win 10 or 11 games under center? Cam Newton? Teddy Bridgewater? This is not suggesting that any of them are as talented as Brady, even a post-40 Brady, or that any of them could gain a master’s degree in Josh McDaniels’s offense that would replace the institutional knowledge walking out the door.
However, people might forget why players routinely take less to play for the Patriots. Working with Belichick is like playing poker with the pocket camera on. Stephon Gilmore once told me that Belichick pulled him aside before a windy game one Sunday and cautioned him on how the ball speed on deep throws would lag just so, and how he should trail the wide receiver on longer plays. Kyle Van Noy said that it’s truly epic getting to wear the “green dot” on defense with a direct connection to Belichick’s thoughts and wisdom.
So I think what we're seeing is, yes Tom Brady is gone, yes the Patriots are starting a new era, but what people need to remember is, the Patriots still have Bill Belichick, and they still have a monster of a defense - even after the Boogeyman dispersing to Miami and Detroit.
There are people who want to see the Patriots tank for Trevor Lawrence, but I think Patriots fans should be getting ready to watch the Patriots make a playoff run. As the Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane points out, the AFC East still runs through New England.