Column: Will the Pats find a successor to Brady this year?

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Heisman Trophy winner quarterback Kyler Murray smiles during the Davey O’Brien Award news conference in Fort Worth, Texas, Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. Murray accepted the award in his first public appearance since he announced his plan to pursue an NFL football career rather than report to spring training as a first-round pick of the Oakland A’s. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

When Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, a Eugene native who grew up dreaming of playing in their eclectic array uniforms, chose to return for his final year with the Ducks and play with his incoming freshman brother, he created quite a schism of upcoming quarterback quality.

A 6-foot-6 slinger with good mobility and solid intangibles, Herbert passed up the opportunity to likely be the top quarterback chosen in the 2019 NFL Draft. His absence sapped an already weak quarterback crop to just a feeble group of misfit toys. Meanwhile, the 2020 class will feature him, Heisman runner up Tua Tagavailoa of Alabama, two-year star Jake Fromm of Georgia and Jacob Eason of Washington.

The misfit toys of 2019 aren’t exactly broke, just deficient.

Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins is the mocked of the group, as many experts have him pegged to the New York Giants in the top ten as a replacement for Eli Manning. Still, there are concerns about his inexperience and ability to handle pressure or make elite reads.

After him the talent appears to fall off precipitously. Duke’s Daniel Jones is a popular commodity because of his association with the Mannings and Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe. He also has the IQ and physical traits that are desirable, but in Bill Simmons parlance, are we sure he’s good? The evidence doesn’t really indicate either way right now.

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock had a lot of hype coming into the year, but in transitioning from an air raid offense to a pro style, underwhelmed. He had a killer week at the Senior Bowl and is back in the mix as high draft choice.

Both are prospective first rounders. However, their actual evaluations suggest they shouldn’t be. Rather, it is the exaltation and the scarcity at the position that will force teams to reach for them. They just aren’t that enticing when truly scrutinized by the experts. If they go high, as of right now, it doesn’t seem like it will be because they necessarily deserved it.

After those two it falls off. ESPN’s guru Todd McShay loves to gas up NC State’s Ryan Finley. West Virginia’s Will Grier is a warrior and winner but also a day-two guy at best.

I’ve been a bit disingenuous. There is also the big wild card: Kyler Murray, whose situation will have the most outsized impact on the entire draft, is an enticing prospect. He is dynamic, quick and destroyed the competition this year on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma.

At 5-foot-10, he was a top 10 selection of the Oakland Athletics who still may be able to coax him to play Major League Baseball with either the promise of extra cash, the ability to preserve his health, or both. Murray reaffirmed his commitment to football, but I personally don’t consider the situation over. Plus, as good as Murray was, he is not regarded as a prospect at the same level as the typical crème de la crème prospect like his Sooner predecessor Baker Mayfield.

If you haven’t got the message by now, the word on the streets is that this quarterback class is bad. That is unfortunate for teams with clear needs at the position like the Jaguars and the Redskins, but it also is rather unfortunate for the good ole New England Patriots.

Any team with Tom Brady would not seem to have a need at quarterback. But Tom Brady is not an ordinary quarterback. He is old. Very old. He has aged magnificently and is determined to play until 45 if you believe his public declarations. But he can avoid all the nightshades he wants, total mitigation of risk of injury is impossible in the NFL, and age only exacerbates health deficiencies. He cannot play forever.

Jimmy Garroppolo was thought to be his heir before he got the boot out of town. But he was a second-round pick, and the fifth quarterback taken that year. Belichick’s feat of unearthing another Brady in the sixth round is unlikely to be repeated.

In Foxboro you have a situation where you need to cash in a valuable asset, an early round pick, to come in and start learning the ropes and the Patriot Way before Brady finally steps aside. Garroppolo was brought in too early but finding the next guy too late could be disastrous in pursuing a transition that maintains their competitiveness.

Right now seems like the sweet spot. Two or three years for one of these guys to be an apprentice. Just like Aaron Rodgers. Just like Garoppolo. The problem is that this class just ain’t it. They are not getting Haskins, and the void of elite quarterbacks is going to cause these mediocre ones to be overvalued. I don’t see the Patriots reaching for Jones or Lock, nor should they, even if I like Lock’s prospects in my layman eyes. Then you are telling me a Will Grier or a Jarrett Stidham is going to be given the keys to the castle after going in the second or third round (which has an opportunity cost by the way)? I think not.

Mel Kiper actually projected Jones to the Patriots with the final pick of the first round in his last mock draft, but I think the Patriots ought to, and will, wait until next year before they find the next Jimmy G. That may work out just fine, but with Brady’s age, every time window is significant. It is an unenviable position, but one this must overcome nonetheless. Something going wrong and being stuck with Brian Hoyer at the helm is a lousy situation but getting stuck with a lousy quarterback out of some weird sense of obligation seems worse.


Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.

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