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Patriots Playbook Thu Dec 03 | 02:00 PM - 04:00 PM
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Analysis: Lack of QB about options, not Stidham

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The Patriots entered the weekend with 12 picks in this very unique online draft. When it ended they made 10 selections. None of them was spent on a quarterback.

So what does that tell us?

In a word: nothing. Well, at the most, not much.

It was no secret that with just veteran journeyman backup Brian Hoyer and unproven Jarrett Stidham on the roster after the departure of Tom Brady that New England would need to add a body to the game's most important position. Even though the Patriots have generally gone with two quarterbacks on their active roster in recent years, they almost always go through the offseason and training camp with at least three. And with Brady gone and more competition certainly on the horizon, a third would seem to be a necessity.

As the pre-draft process unfolded, reports from NFL Network indicated the Patriots may be using a "premium pick" at quarterback and persistent rumors of interest in Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa circulated. That came after Bill Belichick described the class as an "interesting group and probably one that has some decent depth to it."

So most felt heading in that a quarterback would be on the radar, and player personnel director Nick Caserio admitted after Day 2 that the team would be adding a third at some point. Still, the draft came to a close with a signal-caller being taken by Belichick.

An NFL Network report indicated New England agreed to terms with Louisiana Tech's J'Mar Smith as an undrafted free agent, but Belichick wouldn't confirm that after the draft came to a close Saturday evening. Smith played four years for the Bulldogs and completed just under 60 percent of his passes with 51 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Last season he threw for 2,977 yards while completing 64.3 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and five picks.

He'll join the fray with Hoyer and Stidham in what appears to be the first semblance of competition for the starting job since Brady wrestled it away from the injured Drew Bledsoe back in 2001. But a rookie undrafted free agent wouldn't seem to be the ideal choice to succeed Brady, and some have interpreted the lack of draft capital used as a vote of confidence in the young Stidham.

Belichick was asked about his confidence level of both Stidham and Hoyer after the draft and didn't shoot it down, although he spoke mostly in generalities.

"I like both those players," Belichick said. "We've had Brian a couple times. I think he certainly gives us a very solid level of play. We have a lot of confidence in him. And Jarrett had a good year last year. He improved a lot. We'll see where that takes him. Yeah, I have confidence in both players."

Belichick said exactly what would be expected, especially in light of the fact that one of those two almost certainly will open the season under center. But connecting the two facts – no quarterback drafted equaling a great sign for Stidham – seems overly optimistic.

The Patriots entered the first round with the 23rd pick. There were three quarterbacks most experts agreed were worthy of first-round picks (LSU's Joe Burrow, Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert) and one that scouts differed on (Utah State's Jordan Love). The top three were gone after six picks, leaving Belichick absolutely no chance to grab them.

If one of that trio began to slip and the Patriots passed, the landscape would be different. But ultimately that never came close to happening and the real story here is Belichick clearly didn't feel Love was worthy of taking in the first round. Instead he traded down and allowed Green Bay to move up to grab him at No. 25.

A lot of teams that conceivably needed quarterbacks allowed Love to pass as well, so Belichick wasn't alone. And as the draft continued to unfold, there were a lot of similar prospects to Stidham such as Washington's Jacob Eason, FIU's James Morgan and Georgia's Jake Fromm that eventually went off the board. None were going to compete with Hoyer or Stidham to start in 2020.

Stidham should get every opportunity to prove himself come training camp, but in reality the Patriots really weren't in a position to take anyone that could step in and play quickly. The talent simply wasn't there, and the Patriots draft capital wasn't nearly great enough to take advantage of the three legitimate options.

Time will tell if the Patriots have a worthy successor to Brady's throne in Stidham, and the 2019 preseason was a pleasant surprise for the fourth-round pick. But it's tough to come out of the weekend believing Belichick's decision to not take a quarterback meant anything more than he didn't feel any was worth taking. We'll see if that remains true going forward.

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