For Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham, improving pocket awareness is at the top of the list

Auburn Tigerts quarterback Jarrett Stidham throws from the pocket. The New England Patriots drafted Stidham with the 133rd overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. (Courtesy Auburn University Athletics)
Auburn Tigerts quarterback Jarrett Stidham throws from the pocket. The New England Patriots drafted Stidham with the 133rd overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. (Courtesy Auburn University Athletics)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Patriots have a project on their hands. But Jarrett Stidham happens to be a quarterback, so Bill Belichick's newest project has A+ potential.

Stidham went to New England with the 133rd overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Saturday, marking the fourth draft in six years that the Patriots drafted a QB. He's the highest pick at the position since Jacoby Brissett went 91st to the Pats in 2016. But he fell to 133 for a reason.

The tape - the good tape - shows a quarterback with good arm talent and mobility. He's known for his ability to read defenses and diagnose plays before the snap. The tools are there, but the confidence might not be after a down 2018 season. It's the main reason he became a day 3 pick after looking like a potential first-rounder early in his college career.

Stidham admitted as much to reporters in his introductory conference call on Saturday. Despite his impressive on-field talent and off-field skills, Stidham didn't show it consistently, especially in 2018. As strong as his decision-making can be before the snap, it didn't look so hot once the bodies were flying.

The 2018 Auburn offense festered in dysfunction, and it wasn't all on Stidham. You can see in a film review from Strong Opinion Sports that much of his 60.7 completion percentage was due to receivers dropping catchable balls. He also faced a lot of pressure behind porous pass protection.

In his own words...

As Stidham explained, Auburn's overall issues with pass protection crept into his own game. Ghost sightings.

"I told Coach McDaniels and Coach Belichick, there were definitely times last year where for whatever reason, I just decided to get out of the pocket when I shouldn’t have or just didn’t trust my eyes at a certain point or my feet," Stidham said. "That’s something I’ve obviously been working on this spring up to the draft and it’s something I’m going to have to continue to work at in order to get better at the quarterback position. I’m really looking forward to doing that, and there’s no one better to learn from than Coach McDaniels and Coach Belichick and those guys in the quarterback room."

Even when Stidham stayed planted in a clean pocket, he often sailed throws over his receivers, particularly deep down the field. The inconsistent accuracy is certainly another concern for the Patriots, because can you coach inaccuracy out of a player? Can you eliminate bad habits created in your mind, from pressure that may not actually be there?

Well, that's why he's a project who fell to pick 133. He's quite far from an elite QB prospect, or someone with a chance to be a superstar. But can he eventually take over for Tom Brady and be a good NFL starter? If Stidham can get back on the track he was on as a freshman at Baylor and a sophomore at Auburn, he has that kind of upside.

It comes down to whether Belichick and the Patriots' coaches can correct the problems that made Stidham such a project in the first place.

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].