Patriots Mailbag: Finding some Patriots comparisons in this year's draft class

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Phil Perry
·15 min read
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Perry's Mailbag: Finding Patriots comps in this year's draft class originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

In the aftermath of the Matthew Stafford trade, Patriots fans are more focused than ever on quarterbacks. Well, that and the 2021 NFL Draft, where the Patriots will be picking in the teens for the first time since 2011 when they selected offensive tackle Nate Solder.

So, what might the Patriots do in the draft? Which quarterbacks could they consider adding with Stafford off the board? And could they consider trading down?

Let's dive right in and answer these questions.

Love the thinking here. Good exercise. Let's get into 'em...

Lawrence Guy: Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, USC

This one has me a little shaken up, to be honest. Had a chance to watch some of Tuipulotu a little earlier this offseason, and he reminded me of Guy. He could play anywhere along the defensive line. He was a problem against the run. He wasn't an earth-mover in terms of his body type, but he was clearly strong as an ox. He was listed at 6-foot-3, 305 pounds, which isn't all that far from what Guy came in at when he left Arizona State (6-4, 305).

Then Tuipulotu measured in at the Senior Bowl at 6-1. Hence my shookness. He still has good enough length with almost 33-inch arms and 10.5-inch hands -- both similar to Guy -- so we'll stick with it. 

David Andrews: Drake Jackson, C, Kentucky

Andrews was a three-year starter at Georgia but wasn't thought to be a big-time pro prospect because of his size. He's now listed at 6-3, 300 pounds but he weighed less than that leaving school. Jackson was a multi-year starter in the SEC, like Andrews, but he started four years.

Like Andrews, he's a very good athlete for the center spot. And like Andrews, he's undersized at 6-2, 292 pounds. 

Joe Thuney: Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

In terms of his frame, the better comp might actually be Dillon Radunz from North Dakota State, who just earned practice player of the week honors at the Senior Bowl. Both players checked in at 6-5, 304 pounds before their respective drafts. Radunz's arms are an inch longer. Both have less-than-ideal hand size. But we'll go with Vera-Tucker here.

Now, Vera-Tucker could go in the first round. He's a highly-touted prospect. Thuney was not to the same degree, going in the third round out of NC State. But just as Thuney had the ability to play multiple spots along the line, Vera-Tucker has shown the same, playing left tackle, left guard and right guard in each of the last three seasons.

Vera-Tucker, like Thuney, is thought to be a technically-sound and consistent blocker in both the run and pass games. Like Thuney, he'll likely play guard because of his size (6-4, 315), but he could play tackle. And though Thuney only went in the third round, given the way he's played, he should've gone much higher.

James White: Jaret Patterson, Buffalo

Patterson reminds me of White in a few different ways. His high-and-tight approach to carrying the football means he's cognizant of the value of possessing the football. Same with White, who has only fumbled twice in 679 regular-season touches. Their sizes are similar with Patterson being listed at 5-9, 195 pounds.

Patterson's acceleration is pretty impressive but he's not necessarily a game-breaker with his speed. He can catch, though that wasn't his primary role at Buffalo. He can make people miss in the open field. He's probably going to be limited to sub back duties at the next level.

Didn't see many "dead leg" moves in the open field from Patterson -- a White staple -- but maybe he can pick that up in the pros.

Adam Butler: Ta'Quon Graham, Texas

This was a toughy. Butler was an interesting body type coming out of Vanderbilt at 6-4 and weighing less than 300 pounds. He was an interior defensive lineman with good length and a knack for getting into the backfield.

Graham fits similar qualities. At 6-3, 290 pounds he looks like a three-technique in an even front. Maybe if he has the ability to pack on more weight he could be considered a 3-4 end. But length? He's got it. The Senior Bowl attendee checked into Mobile with 35-inch arms and hands that measured in at over 10.5 inches.

Those measurements could get him drafted -- Butler was an undrafted rookie when he made his way to Foxboro -- but he only had five career sacks at Texas so he likely won't hear his name called until Day 3.

If that were to happen, they'd be in the conversation for one of the worst quarterback rooms in the league for a second straight year. Neither offers enough in the way of upside, in my opinion, that the Patriots would be much closer to their quarterback of the future.

It was a lot to ask of Newman to go to the Senior Bowl and perform as one of the best quarterbacks there, but I don't think he was consistent enough to be realistically considered a second or third-round pick. 

Not sure people are sleeping on him. There are things about his game that lead scouts I've been in contact with to give the clear nod to Mac Jones. Trask appears to be pretty securely the No. 6 guy in the class, though. Unless someone wants to take a shot on Kellen Mond's tools.

Pitts has a chance to be a top-10 pick. Not sure what "priority" means here, but if it means should they consider trading up for him . . . I wouldn't. While a great tight end can be a great benefit to an already well-constructed offense, it's not typically a position that dictates the difference between competitive teams and non-competitive ones.

There are, I'd say, three tight ends in football right now for whom defensive game plans must account: Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller. If you don't have one of those guys, you can still compete. The Patriots need building blocks at more critical positions before they trade up for a tight end, I think. If he's there at No. 15? Different story.

Depends on the quarterback. I wouldn't rule it out. Your scenario describes Trey Lance, Todd. At least to me. If they think Lance can be John Elway in a couple years, I think they would definitely risk that. They believe in their ability to develop quarterbacks. And while it'd be nice to get a safe offensive or defensive tackle up high in the draft, it won't mean much until they have a quarterback.

This year is fascinating because the Patriots are picking high enough to potentially land a blue-chipper at quarterback. We'll learn a lot about how they value the players in this class, and how they value the position, given how it's handled this year. 

I'll pass along the message, John!

Long way away from there, Biola, but Spencer Rattler from Oklahoma and Sam Howell from UNC look like two of the top guys in the class. For now.

Running back would be up there. Interior offensive line would be up there. Otherwise, I think they could go anywhere and it'd make sense. Even safety. Not sure they would since the names at the position aren't really top-15 talents, from what I understand, but it's an important spot. They don't really have an obvious center fielder-of-the-future. 

Avery, receiver and tackle are deep this year. I think they could get a legitimate starting tackle early on Day 2. I think they could get a starting receiver through any of the first three rounds.

We've hit on a bunch of names on Next Pats, but tackles Jackson Carman, Liam Eichenberg, Alex Leatherwood and Dillon Radunz could all be second or third picks for the Patriots.

At receiver, the Senior Bowl itself was LOADED with Day 2 guys like D'Wayne Eskridge from Western Michigan, Cade Johnson from South Dakota State, Shi Smith from South Carolina, Josh Palmer from Tennessee and Amari Rodgers from Clemson who'd be interesting fits in New England. 

Don't hate it, Jack. The only exception I'd make would be if either of the two corners (Patrick Surtain or Caleb Farley) or edge defender Kwity Paye were still around. I would snatch one of them up and not think twice about it.

It's a weak defensive tackle class and Christian Barmore's combination of size and athleticism is pretty rare so he might be the only other player I'd stick and pick there, though I think the Patriots are a ways off before an interior rusher like that would make a massive difference for them one way or the other in the standings.

Trading back might not be a terrible idea. The only issue is there's so little information on these prospects this year, you may want to go with one safe player over two you don't know as much about. If that makes sense.

Appreciate that, Brian! We did a little of this on Early Edition the other night and it was a good time. We'll blow through one quick plan here. 

If you want to be a competitive team tomorrow, I'd trade a third-round pick for Marcus Mariota. I don't have much company here, but I don't think he's a terrible starting quarterback. He had a rating over 90.0, a 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a yards-per-attempt number of 7.5 when he lost his gig to Ryan Tannehill.

Mariota was banged up in Tennessee. He played in three different offenses there. He played in one game with the Raiders last season and looked legitimately electric. Go back and watch if you can. Bad interception in that one, but his skills were all there. He looked spry.

Mariota's only 27. He's played well against the Patriots (four touchdowns, no picks, 108.7 rating), which I think would make Bill Belichick take a second look. He also played for Belichick's pal Chip Kelly at Oregon. He'd be cheap, too, which is important. So you hope that works out. 

Then I'd trade Stephon Gilmore for a second. I'd sign Chris Godwin and Corey Davis. I'd re-sign White, Andrews and Guy. I'd draft 'Bama corner Patrick Surtain in the first round, if he's there. I'd draft Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth in the second as well as Ole Miss slot receiver Elijah Moore. We'd be off and running.

The offense would be much improved. The defense would be good enough, in my opinion. Would they be Super Bowl contenders? No. But they'd contend for the division. There's a longer three-year plan -- sort of a Josh Allen-style plan -- maybe we can hit on next week. 

I like the idea of Felton quite a bit, Steve. Those hybrid players who can run real routes when split out as receivers have so much value. That looks like what Felton will be at the next level. Both Rex Burkhead and James White are free agents this offseason. And, just to repeat myself after writing about Mariota, there's a Chip Kelly connection there. 

One name for you, Diane: Davis Mills from Stanford. Seems like their kind of player in that he's a pocket passer with good size (6-4, 225 pounds) and a good arm. He hasn't played much the last two years -- 435 attempts in 13 games -- but there's talent there. He'd be considered a Day 3 quarterback, I'd think, unless someone falls in love during the pre-draft process.

Our buddies at Pro Football Focus compared Mills to our buddy at NBC Sports Boston Matt Cassel. One to keep in mind.

Receiver is the obvious one to me, Tom. The free-agent class is loaded. The draft class is loaded. I could even see them doing a "2 & 2" there just to round out the depth of a group that could use some. 

Michael! The reports we've seen this week make me feel as though Wentz isn't necessarily a lock to be in Philly, as disastrous as that would be for the Eagles from a cap perspective.

I like Hurts a lot. Good athlete. Good arm. Everything we've heard about him is that his character is off the charts. If he's available, especially now that he's on a rookie contract, there's no question the Patriots should inquire.

Talked about this with Trevor Sikkema from The Draft Network on Next Pats this week. He's from the Tampa area and covered the Bucs. It seems like such a mismatch of quarterback and coach.

Winston's willingness to throw the ball into bad situations is unparalleled in recent NFL history. No coach in the NFL values possession more than Belichick. But he'd be inexpensive, one would think. And he did post explosive numbers -- good and bad, of course -- in Tampa.

From an efficiency standpoint, he still ranked in the top half of the NFL in EPA per play despite all the turnovers because he hit on so many big plays. Would they try to get him here on a cheap deal and rein him? We know how much Belichick loves good value. Just seems unlikely.

You can apply that approach, Mike, to a number of free agent quarterbacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick? Mitch Trubisky? All should be cheap, short-term options that could buy you time to find your next guy.

Yes. Don't think it would be enough. But we'll see. Think it'll be a while before that thing is resolved in Houston.

Like him. And I think they will too. Going to do some digging on Collins next week. His frame is so rare at that position these days, he'd fall into the "don't grow on trees" category of athlete Belichick so often references. At No. 15? It wouldn't shock me. Maybe he's a target at the end of the first if they trade down. 

I think it would only strengthen his belief that you can find good receivers late. And, honestly, in this draft class? He wouldn't be wrong. Unless one of the top guys is there at No.15 -- Jaylen Waddle, Ja'Marr Chase, Devonta Smith -- it'd surprise me if he went with that position.