Even though the New England Patriots will not make the playoffs this season, there is still quite a bit to be determined in Week 18. Mainly, that has to do with draft position. If the draft were held tomorrow, New England would pick third, and even with a victory in Week 18, the Patriots would pick no worse than 8.
The great thing for Patriots fans watching the college football championship on Monday is that they could be looking at New England's future quarterback. That could be the case even if New England manages to defeat the New York Jets on Sunday—both Washington's Michael Penix, Jr. and Michigan's J.J. McCarthy are likely to still be around even if New England picks at 8.
As well as both have played in big games late in the college football season, however. Could Penix or McCarthy even go as high as number 2 or 3? Possibly. Both do come with concerns, however.
Could the Patriots future QB1 be Michael Penix, Jr. or J.J. McCarthy?
With Penix, there is no doubt as to his arm talent. He has as accurate and strong an arm as any quarterback coming out in most drafts. While the Huskies have a fantastic offensive line and Penix has excellent receivers to toss the ball to, his statistics are no fluke. He drives the Washington offense, and a lesser quarterback would not have the Huskies in a position to win the college title.
Penix also has excellent mobility. Fans got to see that against Texas in the college football semifinal. Typically, Washington's offensive line is so stout that Penix doesn't have to move around in the pocket much, but he shows he can likely improve his draft stock. The question about Penix is, can he stay healthy season after season while taking an NFL-type beating?
Penix didn't truly become great until he transferred from Indiana to Washington a couple of years ago. While at Indiana, he hurt both his knees, and there was some question about whether he would even continue his college career. He is fantastic, but would he be available for nearly every game for the Patriots over the next ten years?
McCarthy might not even declare for the draft this year, but there is a good chance he does. A lot might depend on whether Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh decides to return. Heck, maybe Harbaugh will leave Michigan and become the coach in New England if Bill Belichick is let go or resigns. If that happens, maybe McCarthy will leave college and get drafted by New England.
McCarthy is a tough kid who played in a pro-style system at Michigan. The learning curve to the NFL would be less than most quarterbacks. But Michigan was so good overall as a team that McCarthy didn't need to show he could win many games on his own. He appears to have good arm talent, but good enough to be a QB1 nearly immediately in the NFL?
Bailey Zappe hasn't been consistently terrible for the Patriots, but he appears to be more like a backup than a true QB1. Keeping him in New England for a long time would be great, but not as the long-term starter. Instead, maybe he backs up Michael Penix, Jr. or J.J. McCarthy.