New England Patriots NFL Draft Analysis for 2014 season and 2015 and Beyond

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Jun 5, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo warms up during organized team activities at the Patriots Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Round: 2, Pick: 30 (Overall: 62) Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois:


The New England Patriots received an inordinate amount of criticism following the 2014 NFL Draft on airwaves and in the draft gradings/reviews for expending a late second round draft pick on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Many wondered why the Patriots were not loading up on playmakers to help make Tom Brady’s job on offense easier with this pick.   While the analysts pointed to the impact players picked at this spot in the past such as running backs Maurice Jones-Drew (60th overall in 2006) and Ray Rice (55th overall in 2008), defensive linemen Osi Umenyiora (56th overall in 2003) and Shaun Rogers (61st overall in 2001), and wide receivers Vincent Jackson (61st overall in 2005) and Deion Branch (65th overall in 2002) remember that these players were the outliers.

Most players picked at the end of the second round fail to make an impact in the NFL.   The Jets selected tackle Vlad Ducasse (61st overall in 2010) who was disappointment of epic proportions. How about Patriots cornerback Terrence Wheatley (62nd overall in 2008)?  Does anyone remember wide receivers Dexter Jackson of Tampa Bay (58th overall in 2008) or Terrence Murphy in Green Bay (58th overall in 2005)?  For every Osi Umenyiora there is a Mike Neal of Green Bay (56th overall in 2010). For every Ray Rice there is a Greg Jones  (55th overall in 2004) being picked by Jacksonville. The misses after the first round of the draft, even after the first fifteen picks of the first round, outnumber the hits two or three or four to one.

Garoppolo fills a specific need in New England: insurance. Quarterback Tom Brady is inching towards 40 years of age, backup Ryan Mallett is entering the last year of his contract, and the team needs a legitimate quarterback as the Tom Brady era comes closer in the windshield as the Patriots franchise drives forward.

2014 Role:

Garoppolo has one job in 2014: learn the offense. Beyond that, it is a pure development season barring any calamity involving quarterback Tom Brady. With Ryan Mallett presumably back for his final year in New England in 2014, Garoppolo will spend most of his time on the practice field during the week imitating the opposing quarterback with the scout team.  Garoppolo will be the top backup in 2015, so he needs to get his mechanics straightened out while learning from every preseason snap this training camp.

2015 and Beyond:

Like the selections of running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in 2011, Garoppolo is a pick geared for a year of learning before contributing. If he picks things up on offense sooner, it is a bonus, but unlike the running back position playing quarterback in the NFL is a big level of learning.

Garoppolo is a “best-of-both worlds” pick for the Patriots: if he wins the starting job from an aging Tom Brady before his rookie contract ends, the Patriots hit a home run on their pick of the quarterback of the future; if he sits and is not used, they had a quality backup in reserve at the most important position in football. After what could have been in 2008 if quarterback Matt Cassell did not step up as a legitimate NFL starter, the Patriots were sure to protect themselves from having an Indianapolis Colts 2011 season with Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky, and 39 year old Kerry Collins trying to fill in for quarterback Peyton Manning.

Similar pick in the past: Ryan Mallett, QB #74 overall – 2011

The pick of Garoppolo is no Kliff Kingsbury (sixth round – 2003), Kevin O’Connell (third round – 2008) or even Matt Cassell (seventh round 2005).  Mallett is/was a quarterback that New England has/had faith in stepping in if Tom Brady were injured.  For most of Mallett’s career in New England there was no number three quarterback pushing him for the backup role.   The Patriots have and will continue to use high draft picks on quarterbacks as Tom Brady continues to age. New England is not going to be in position to land the number one overall draft pick any time soon nor do any top-level quarterbacks make it to free agency.  The team needs to continue to stock-pile players at quarterback to find the right fit for the post-Brady era.  The first two rounds of the draft are likely the best spots to find a future starter.