By trading Brandin Cooks to the Rams, the Patriots now have four picks in the first two rounds of April’s 2018 NFL Draft. Armed with picks at 23rd, 31st, 43rd, and 63rd, they have plenty of capital to load up on promising young talent that could potentially fill some serious holes on the roster.
But could they also be thinking about spending a pick on the quarterback of the future?
As long as the Pats are sitting with two picks at the end of the first round, debates will percolate over whether they will, or should, draft Tom Brady’s successor. At this point, if they do make such a selection as early as 23rd, they would have the kid pegged to take over once No. 12 is gone from New England.
Speculation will arise that they could make a push for one of the high-end QB options in the draft. Namely, the likes of USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, or UCLA’s Josh Rosen. But those guys are likely to go 1-2-3 in the draft.
What if the Patriots covet a guy like Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, and need to go to No. 4 to get him? Based on the NFL Draft Value Chart, the Pats could afford to get the 4th overall pick in exchange for the 23rd, 31st, and 43rd picks, and could also get the Browns to throw in a fifth-rounder.
That’s obviously a ton of draft capital to give up for a single pick, but they could pull it off if they wanted. And it would be with the mindset that they’re getting the next starter after Brady. In a word, invaluable. But that still doesn’t mean they’re going to do it.
Ultimately, the most likely scenario if the Patriots draft a QB this year is that they take one at 23rd or 31st. Perhaps they move up a little bit to secure a player, but leaping into the top-4 or anything close to it would be an unprecedented move for Belichick and Nick Caserio.
There’s a chance that Mayfield falls into the bottom half of the first round, which is the likely landing spot for Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. Neither of those players, however, would be similar to Brady in terms of their strengths or playing styles. So if the Pats ended up taking one of them, or even Mayfield, they’d be looking at a future starter who would have a different offense shaped around him.
As The MMQB’s Andy Benoit explained on Bob Socci’s first Sports Hub Draft Show of the season, the Patriots would be fine with tailoring the offense to a different kind of QB if he can be a legit starter for them. With this position, talent trumps system. Even Jimmy Garoppolo showed that, when he made plays with his legs. The kinds of plays that Brady never made, or needed to make.
“It looked weird to see a guy in a Patriots uniform doing that, because you don’t even think about that with Brady,” said Benoit. “It’s never even been a consideration with Brady. He’s just not that style of quarterback.
“Good coaches in the NFL … your offense becomes whatever your quarterback is. You shape your offense around your QB.”
So the system, or similarities to Brady, really won’t be a consideration for the Patriots when they draft their next starting quarterback. What will matter most is whether he has the aptitude and toughness to be a high-quality QB at the NFL level. Building the offensive system would be the next step.
But ideally, the Patriots don’t draft a QB this year unless they’re utterly convinced that they have found the next Garoppolo, the guy to take the reins when Brady finally reaches the end. Don’t take a kid just to take him, especially when you have holes at left tackle and on the defense to consider. Definitely don’t do that in the first round, when there will be legit talent available that could help them immediately.
That big QB move could potentially happen this month. But at the same time, they have other needs to address with their trove of early-round picks. Get ready for more debates and speculation, because the Cooks trade has opened up both possibilities.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.