By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Based on numerous reports ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots have been looking deeply into the many quarterback prospects that will be hear their names called starting Thursday night in Arlington, Texas.
This year's draft boasts a rare collection of high-upside options at the QB position, starting all the way at the top of the first round and continuing with a number of flawed-but-intriguing prospects in the mid-to-late-rounds. Bill Belichick and the Patriots have been linked to potential picks both high and low, and possess the draft capital to move way up in the first round if they wanted to target a specific player.
They've been unusually active with their scouting and workouts as compared to prior years, which suggests that they're doing more than just window-shopping or attempting to spread disinformation. That could also be a reflection of how deep the QB pool is this year, but it's likely that the Patriots are serious about getting out of the 2018 draft with another passer on the roster. Here's a rundown of the Pats' reported interest in quarterback prospects as the draft approaches...
Josh Rosen, UCLA: The smoke began to emanate from Foxboro on April 3, when NFL writer Benjamin Allbright tweeted that he got a text about the Patriots' interest in Rosen. NESN's Doug Kyed later reported on April 18 that the Patriots have expressed interest in the UCLA signal-caller. Two days after that, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported that he hears the Patriots are entertaining the possibility of trading up in the first round to get him.
The Pats would almost certainly have to move up from 23rd to snag Rosen, who is widely considered one of the top-4 QB prospects in the draft to go along with USC's Sam Darnold, Wyoming's Josh Allen, and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. However, Rosen is also considered the most likely QB to fall outside the top-5 picks. La Canfora speculates the Raiders at No. 10, just ahead of the Dolphins and Bills at 11-12, as a potential trade partner for the Pats if they wanted Rosen badly enough.
Josh Allen, Wyoming: Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey tweeted on April 3 that the Patriots sent scouts to Wyoming to watch Allen on multiple occasions.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported that the Jets are aware of the Patriots' "affinity" for Mayfield, who won the 2017 Heisman Trophy after being a finalist in 2016.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville: Bill Belichick's deep connections to Louisville have been widely reported, most notably by Yahoo! Sports NFL insider Charles Robinson. Nick Caserio closely watched Jackson's Pro Day workout. If the Pats were to stand pat with the 23rd and 31st overall picks, Jackson could end up being available to them at that spot. (UPDATE: The Patriots reportedly hosted Jackson for a pre-draft visit two weeks ago.)
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State: The Patriots held a private workout with Rudolph earlier this month, according to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Rudolph has met with a lot of other teams, but has mostly been projected as a late-first round pick. The Pats may not need to move up in the draft if they wanted to take him.
Mike White, Western Kentucky: Rapoport also reported that the Patriots sent Caserio to a workout for White.
Luke Falk, Washington State: The NFL Network's Tom Pelissero tweeted on April 18 that the Patriots have "quietly been conducting private workouts" with quarterbacks, with Falk among them. Falk is widely projected as a second-round selection at best.
Chad Kanoff, Princeton: The Boston Sports Journal's Christopher Price reported that Kanoff is also among the QBs who worked out privately for the Patriots.
Chase Litton, Marshall: The Patriots scouted Litton at Marshall's Pro Day, according to draft analyst Tony Pauline.
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: Belichick and others attended Ohio State's Pro Day to get a look at Barrett, among many other prospects.
Alex McGough, Florida International: Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweeted that the Patriots held a private workout with the FIU quarterback.
Kyle Lauletta, Richmond: Pelissero also had Lauletta on his list of QBs who worked out privately for New England. His connections to Belichick and the Patriots have gone beyond football; for instance, his father Joe was a quarterback at Navy, where Belichick's father Steve worked as an assistant football coach and scout from 1956-89. Lauletta also grew up playing lacrosse, which Belichick played at Wesleyan and loves perhaps more than any sport besides football.
However, Lauletta has also been described as an accurate passer who manages games well, which could make him a good fit for the Patriots' current system. Like Falk, Lauletta is projected to be picked on day two of the NFL Draft.
Is Tom Brady's Successor Among Them?
The answer to that question won't truly be known for years - unless Brady is serious about potentially walking away from football. But in all likelihood, Brady will be back. And if the Pats do take one of these quarterbacks, he will spend at least one year studying behind No. 12.
Though it's mathematically possible for the Patriots to move aggressively up the draft board to target a highly valued prospect, the most probable outcome remains that they select a QB with one of the picks they currently have (23, 31, 43, 63, 95, 198, 210, 219).
The Pats' scouting, workouts, and general interest in quarterbacks could also be something of a smokescreen, an attempt to force their AFC East rivals to over-draft signal-callers that they don't really want. But sending Caserio and other execs around the country for a charade like that would certainly seem like a waste of time.
For now, consider the possibility of the Patriots drafting a quarterback very real. They're too widely connected to too many prospects to look at it any other way.
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 [email protected].