The quarterbacks won’t be in the real NFL combine spotlight until Friday for their sessions with the media and then Saturday for their on-field workouts, but it’s never to early to examine the class and what they can be.
New England has 12 overall selections in April’s draft and six in the top 101, so it can realistically target anyone it sees best fit. But, this does not mean the team has to select a quarterback, either. Tom Brady has said he plans on playing until he’s 45, and that is at least a couple more seasons.
So, while the Patriots certainly need to have the future of the position in the back of their minds, it isn’t 100 percent necessary to draft the potential successor this year. They already have Danny Etling, a developmental quarterback selected in the seventh round last year, and veteran backup Brian Hoyer.
Here’s who to keep an eye on specific to the Patriots if they were to select a quarterback, based on different points in the draft — early, middle and late.
EARLY (Rounds 1-2)
Daniel Jones, Duke- Jones has been connected to the Patriots by a lot of draft experts with their selection at No. 32 overall. The Duke product checks a lot of the boxes the Patriots, and other teams look for — tall (6-foot-5), can make a number of different throws, good mechanics and is smart.
It’s worth noting while his numbers don’t compare to some of the other quarterbacks coming out, he did a lot considering what he was working with. What stands out most is his ability to make throws with velocity, but also touch when needed, as well. There are some injury concerns, which may make him less appealing to some teams.
Will Grier, West Virginia- This is another player who has a number of different attributes teams look for when selecting quarterbacks. He’s very accurate (67 percent completion percentage) and is also a strong leader that rubs off onto the rest of the team.
There are some negatives like a slow release and not having a great arm, but in college he used his brain to make up for it. If the Patriots want Grier, they may need to select him in the first round, unless they trade up in the second, because he likely will not be there when they pick at No. 56
MIDDLE (Rounds 3-4)
Ryan Finley, NC State- Finley is a very intriguing prospect, who could go as high as the second round depending on how things go at the combine and his pro day in a few weeks. The 6-foot-4 QB had a great senior season throwing for 25 touchdowns and a completion percentage of 67 percent. Accuracy is one of the biggest traits it seems the Patriots like out of their quarterbacks, and he has it.
The NC State product has already seen his stock rise quite a bit following a great week at the Senior Bowl. It seems he’s definitely an option in Rounds 2 or 3.
Brett Rypien, Boise State- Rypien is another solid option that likely could be had in the middle rounds. He finished this past season with a 67 percent completion percentage for 3,705 yards, 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. This is everything the Patriots love in quarterbacks.
The knock on him is his lack of size and arm strength, which hurt him on a number of plays. He does have a great release and throwing mechanics, which perhaps the team could feel it can work with and get good value on in the middle rounds. He could be the QB that ends up most projected to the Patriots heading into draft weekend.
LATE (Rounds 5-7)
Trace McSorley, Penn State — McSorley had a lot of promise going into this past year, but he didn’t have a season that propelled him up draft boards. He can be both a pocket passer and make throws on the run. He runs more than the typical Patriots quarterback would, but he actually had more success when standing in the pocket.
A major knock against him will be he only completed 53 percent of his passes and he’s also just six feet tall, but his smarts help make up for his below average arm. He’s likely a developmental quarterback, and if selected would replace Etling.
Gardner Minshew, Washington State- The No. 1 thing that stands out most with Minshew is his 71 percent completion percentage and his nine interceptions to 38 touchdowns this past season. Another thing is his leadership skills, which were a major part of his success at Washington State.
Some questions will be had since he didn’t play in a pro style offense, and who knows how he will handle taking snaps under center. Like McSorley, he’s more of a developmental prospect.