New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 06: Malik Cunningham #3 of the Louisville Cardinals rolls out against the Mississippi Rebels during the first half of the Chick-fil-A Kick-Off Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 06, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Whether the Patriots are sold on Mac Jones or not, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft a quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft. Even with Tom Brady on the roster for most of his tenure, Bill Belichick has still selected a quarterback more often than not on a year-to-year basis (13 QBs in 23 years).

Not many quarterbacks have been linked to the Patriots during the pre-draft process to this point. The closest has been UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who the coaching staff worked with extensively at the Shrine Bowl. That changed on Monday, with the first official reported pre-draft meeting for the team with a quarterback (they met with Anthony Richardson at the Combine, but it is unknown to what extent).

  • According to Ryan Fowler of The Draft Network, the Patriots are one of five teams who have met with Louisville QB Malik Cunningham. They’re joined by the Commanders, Raiders, Ravens, and Colts.

    The first thing that stands out about Cunningham is his experience. There aren’t any quarterbacks in this class that played more football than Cunningham did in college. In fact he’s been at Louisville so long he was teammates with Lamar Jackson, and took over for him as the starter after he was drafted in 2019.

    In his four years as the Cardinals’ starter, Cunningham proved to be a true dual-threat quarterback. He threw for 9,660 yards with 70 touchdowns and ran for another 3,179 with 50 more scores.

    2021 was Cunningham’s best individual season at Louisville. He completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,941 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions, while rushing for 1,031 yards with 20 touchdowns on the ground, all in 13 games.

  • Cunningham will need to be a more efficient passer when throwing the ball down the field to compete at the next level, but excels with quick passing concepts and was at his best when in the Cardinals’ RPO package. He also clearly has the ability not just to make plays with his legs, but be a full-time factor in the running game. There are also concerns about his durability as a rusher, as he comes in at 6-foot, 192 pounds. He’s currently projected to go in the middle rounds of Day 3.

    In New England, Cunningham would certainly add another dynamic to the Patriots’ quarterback room not had by Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe. That could provide value on the scout team, while he works on rounding out his game behind the scenes. In terms of the Day 3 quarterbacks in this draft he’s one of the more high-upside options (along with Jaren Hall of BYU and Jake Hener of Fresno State), which if the Patriots are looking for a potential future starter would make him a fit.

    For a full list of who the Patriots have met with, check out our Patriots Pre-Draft Meeting Tracker.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].

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