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From the Hall: Garoppolo's Place in Patriots Draft history

Posted May 16, 2014

Jimmy Garoppolo is the sixth-highest drafted quarterback in Patriots history. The Hall looks back at quarterbacks drafted by the Patriots.

Former Patriot Willie McGinest pulled open his jacket to reveal his bright red Patriots shirt to the dismay of New Yorkers at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. As he smiled and goaded the NFL fans in attendance into a stream of boos at the league’s annual Draft, he announced the 30th pick of the second round (62nd overall) as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from Eastern Illinois.

It remains to be seen if Garoppolo will ever garner cheers or boos in Foxborough, but his draft slot is noteworthy in Patriots history.

First, consider that he was the 43rd quarterback ever drafted by the New England/Boston Patriots, yet 26 of those never played for the team and don’t appear on the team’s all-time roster. Some never made the club and some chose the NFL over the AFL during the 1960s. Jack Concannon and Fran Tarkenton are two notable draftees that played in the NFL and never for the Patriots.

Future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady is expected to be taking snaps in Foxborough for the foreseeable future, thereby relieving any immediate pressure on the newest Patriots quarterback, but it’s interesting to examine Garoppolo’s place as the team looks to its future and how his draft slot stacks up to others in team annals.

Throughout the 1960s, the Patriots were drafting in the eight-team American Football League; so quarterbacks drafted as late as the eighth round could have been picked higher than 62nd, but only in 1964 did the Patriots select a quarterback with their first pick – Concannon (1st overall).

Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the Patriots have selected only five quarterbacks higher than Garoppolo was selected on May 9. Three of those five were first-round picks and two were picked No. 1 overall (Jim Plunkett in 1971 and Drew Bledsoe in 1993). Tony Eason (15th in 1983) was the other first round quarterback.

In 1978, the Patriots drafted Pittsburgh quarterback Matt Cavanaugh in the second round (50th overall). And while Tommy Hodson (1990) was drafted in the third round, he was the 59th overall selection, making him a higher pick than Garoppolo.

But that’s it. No other quarterback has been drafted higher since 1970. Not Brady (6th round, 199th). Not Patriots Hall of Famer Steve Grogan (5th round, 116th).

So Garoppolo comes to Foxboro as the sixth-highest drafted quarterback in team history while assuredly entering as the 37-year-old Brady’s backup. Even head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged the need to look ahead at the position given where Brady is in his career, something he never did while drafting quarterbacks in the third round or lower in 2011, 2010, 2008, 2005, 2003 and 2002.

The high picks

Bledsoe was a success story, a franchise quarterback who helped establish the Patriots credibility in the 1990s and led the team to an AFC Championship. He played in 124 games with 123 starts between 1993 and 2001.

Plunkett played behind a makeshift offensive line and scrambled his way to 61 games and 61 starts as a Patriot from 1971-1975 before being shipped out to San Francisco and eventually winning a pair of Super Bowl as the Raiders starter. He never evolved into a franchise quarterback in New England.

Eason played in 72 games with 49 starts between 1983 and 1989 and helped the Patriots to their first AFC title and a berth in Super Bowl XX. He was one of six quarterbacks drafted in the 1983 first round and one of four that appeared in a Super Bowl. The other five drafted in the ’83 first round were John Elway (1st overall to the Colts before being traded to Denver), Todd Blackledge (7th to Kansas City), Jim Kelly (14th to Buffalo), Ken O’Brien (24th to the Jets) and Dan Marino (27th to Miami). But Eason rarely held the starting job with any consistency, battling injuries and also teammates Steve Grogan, Doug Flutie and Marc Wilson for playing time.

Cavanaugh played in 52 games with only 15 starts as a Patriot between 1978 and 1982 as he mostly backed up Grogan before being supplanted by Eason.

Hodson was one of a slew of quarterbacks that kept the seat warm for Bledsoe between 1990 and 1992. Five different quarterbacks attempted at least 90 passes over those three seasons, including Hodson (224 pass attempts), Hugh Millen (612 attempts), Marc Wilson (265 attempts), Scott Zolak (100 attempts) and Grogan (92 attempts).

Patriots drafted quarterbacks that made the team

Of the 16 drafted quarterbacks that actually appeared on Patriots roster between 1960 and 2013, only Plunkett, Eason, Bledsoe and Brady started what amounts to a full 16-game season for the club.

Here are those 16 with their games played and games started (GP/GS):

Quarterback, round (overall), year Years GP/GS
Ryan Mallett, 3rd round (74th), 2011 2011-present 4/0
Kevin O’Connell, 3rd round (94th), 2008 2008 2/0
Matt Cassell, 7th round (230th), 2005 2005-2008 30/15
Kliff Kingsbury, 6th round (201st), 2003 2003 0/0
Rohan Davey, 4th round (117th), 2002 2002-2004 7/0
Tom Brady, 6th round (199th), 2000 2000-present 193/191
Michael Bishop, 7th round (227th), 1999 1999-2000 8/0
Drew Bledsoe, 1st round (1st), 1993 1993-2001 124/123
Scott Zolak, 4th round (84th), 1991 1991-1998 53/7
Tom Hodson, 3rd round (59th), 1990 1990-1992 32/12
Tony Eason, 1st round (15th), 1983 1983-1989 72/49
Tom Ramsey, 10th round (267th), 1983 1985-1988 21/4*
Matt Cavanaugh, 2nd round (50th), 1978 1978-1982 52/15
Steve Grogan, 5th round (116th), 1975 1975-1990 149/131
Jim Plunkett, 1st round (1st), 1971 1971-1975 61/61
Harvey White, 1960 1960 9/0#

*Tom Ramsey played 1983-1984 in the USFL
# 1960 Draft included what was called first selections and second selections (rather than rounds)

Here is the list of the 26 drafted quarterbacks who don’t appear on the Patriots all-time roster:

Quarterback, round (overall), year

Zac Robinson, 7th round (250th), 2010

Jay Walker, 7th round (198th), 1994

Rich Gannon, 4th round (98th), 1987

Walter Lewis, 3rd round (70th), 1984 supplemental

Steve Sandon, 11th round (296th), 1982

Brian Buckley, 11th round (295th), 1981

Jimmy Jordan, 12th round (320th), 1980

Conredge Holloway, 12th round (306th), 1975

Eddie McAshan, 17th round (420th), 1973

Onree Jackson, 5th round, (110th), 1969%

John Schneider, 7th round (170th), 1968%

Jack White, 9th round, 1966^

Billy Laird, 15th round (129th), 1966^

John Hankinson, 7th round , 1965^

Charlie Green, 13th round (103rd), 1965^

Jack Concannon, 1st round (1st), 1964^

Gary Wood, 17th round (132nd), 1964^

Pat McCarthy, 19th round (151st), 1963^

Jim Field, 26th round (206th), 1962^

Fran Tarkenton, 5th round (34th), 1961^

Paul Terhes, 7th round (50th), 1961^

James Wright, 14th round (106th), 1961^

Bryant Harvard, 28th round (218th), 1961^

Jack Cummings (first selections) 1960^

Richard Soergel, (first selections) 1960^

Billy Brewer (second selections) 1960^

%American Football League-National Football League Drafts
^American Football League Drafts

So Garoppolo comes to Foxborough with no initial expectations beyond learning and developing behind Brady. But if he is indeed tabbed to someday replace the Patriots legend, expectations will change. As the highest-drafted quarterback in New England since Bledsoe, those expectations could be greater for Garoppolo than for any other recently drafted signal-caller. If he, like many before him, barely sees the field, the use of a second round pick on him will likely be judged in a negative light.

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