Patriots Draft Prospect Preview: Is Jordan Love in the air at QB?

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By WEEI 93.7
Between now and the scheduled April 23rd opening of the 2020 NFL Draft, WEEI.com will take a position-by-position look at the prospects in this year’s class, both in terms of a general overview as well as from a Patriots perspective.

 

Quarterbacks

Supply-and-Demand Overview: New England took Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round out of Auburn a year ago. With Tom Brady having moved on to Tampa Bay in free agency, Stidham is left as the top dog on the Patriots depth chart. He threw just four passes as a rookie, including a pick-6 interception. Stidham impressed his teammates and coaches last fall with his work ethic, maturity and growth. But that doesn’t mean he’s a sure-fire starter or guy to build a franchise around. As such, there is certainly the possibility that Bill Belichick’s team might consider drafting another quarterback, either as high as in the first round or as a competitive piece later in the process. This year’s class offers franchise options atop the group, but there isn’t a ton of overly desirable depth after the first handful of guys go off the board.

 

Top Prospect: Joe Burrow, LSU. The Heisman Trophy-winner is probably the best quarterback prospect to enter the draft since Andrew Luck, even if he is sort of a one-year wonder who took advantage of Joe Brady’s coaching to lead the Tigers to a National Championship behind a record-setting passing game. Burrow is an impressive combination of size, elite accuracy, athleticism and good-enough arm strength for an NFL team to build around. Many at LSU laud his intangibles, including running backs coach and former Patriot Kevin Faulk, who’s compared Burrow to Brady. Burrow should go No. 1 overall to the Bengals, unless Cincy is even dumber than we all think.
Overrated Prospect: Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma. He may ooze intangibles after navigating a tough benching at Alabama with leadership and class, but it’s really hard to envision Hurts as a franchise QB in the NFL. Some now have him as top-50 prospect, rather than a project. That seems crazy to me. You won’t hate having him on your team by any measure, but if you draft him to be your starter or build around him you probably have major disappointment in your future. Buyer beware.
Underrated Prospect: Jacob Eason, Washington. After an injury led to him losing the starting job at Georgia to Jake Fromm, the strong-armed Eason had one impressive season in the Pacific Northwest. He’s big and probably a little too confident in his ability to throw. He’s a pocket passer in a league seemingly getting away from what was formerly such desired description. Still, Eason has all the raw tools to be great and probably isn’t getting the love he deserves. Maybe he sneaks into the end of the first round. But if he’s there in the second or third, he’s tremendous upshot value.
Wild Card: Cole McDonald, Hawaii. Coming from a run-and-shoot system, McDonald has impressive numbers, including 70 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in his career. He threw for 4,000 yards last fall. He has NFL size and throws a pretty deep ball. He’s also relatively athletic. If I had to take a shot at a guy later in the draft with upside, I’d probably go with McDonald and hope he can make the massive leap to the pros.
Possible Patriots: Jordan Love, Utah State; Jake Fromm, Georgia; Nate Stanley, Iowa. Projecting quarterbacks’ NFL success is a crapshoot in so many ways, often with an emphasis on crap! Back in the day I loved LSU’s Zach Mettenberger way more than I clearly should have. And didn’t like Patrick Mahomes nearly enough. (I think I referred to him as looking like a skinny soccer player. Oops!) So much of the jump from college to NFL QB is about fit, opportunity, stability and coaching. If the Patriots aren’t sold on Stidham long term and aren’t focused on tanking in order to get a franchise QB in the 2021 draft, then taking a shot at the fast-rising Love would be a swing for the fences. He’s raw and a bit of a project. But he’s also got the ability to be great, as a low-floor/high-ceiling kind of guy. If New England isn’t looking to go for it early at quarterback (maybe even having to trade up from 23 for Love) then waiting for a game-manager like Fromm in the middle rounds is viable option. Fromm is a dink-and-dunk guy who isn’t going to make a ton of plays and won’t make many critical mistakes, either. Can you win with him in the NFL? Maybe. But he’s probably more a journeyman type. If the Patriots wait until the end of the draft to add a fourth arm to the training camp depth chart then Stanley would be a consideration. He’s got NFL size and leadership ability coming from Kirk Ferentz’ program that’s obviously well-connected to Foxborough. Stanley is probably nothing more than a backup, but you could do worse with camp arms.

Estimated chances the Patriots take a QB at No. 23: 9 percent

Estimated chances the Patriots take a QB at some point in the 2020 NFL Draft: 34 percent

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