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On Draft Weekend 2008, the Patriots selected a project quarterback from San Diego State University. Known for his big arm and ability to move outside the pocket, many felt the 6-6, 225-pound rookie eventually would take over for Tom Brady.
A year later, New England released 2008 third round pick Kevin O’Connell.
Now, Bill Belichick and co. have embarked on a new, more challenging, project. A project that openly admitted to drug use, a project that ditched a meeting with the Carolina Panthers — who held the No. 1 overall pick — because of a good night out, and a project that is viewed as a thug, white southern boy.
Meet Ryan Mallett. The future of the New England Patriots franchise.
After bedazzling the league with more lopsided trades — see Oakland — the Patriots actually made some draft choices Friday night. In the second round, New England added yet another cornerback with the selection of Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling. Later in the second, and into the third, the running need was addressed…twice. California back Shane Vereen, who’s already be labeled the ‘next Kevin Faulk,’ was selected with the No. 56 overall pick. With thier first pick in the third round, the Patriots added LSU’s Stevan Ridley.
But, no other pick garnered as much interest as the Mallett selection at No. 74 overall.
In the year of the quarterback, it was Mallett’s name that resonated throughout Thursday and into Friday. Some pre-draft chatter advised that Mallett could go as high as No. 15 to Miami, but inevitably he fell. If you haven’t noticed a theme, ESPN runs with whoever is falling in that particular draft and lives and dies by when their selected. (side note: where is Todd McShay?)
Anyway, let’s cut to the chase.
Brady will turn 34 if we ever play a game next season — the NFL pushed back into a lockout, by the way — and obviously the Patriots want the quarterback to replace him to be well-schooled. The current backup situation is bleak. Brian Hoyer, although solid, can’t really be counted on to carry the team in the event of a injury to Brady. Even still, Hoyer is 25 years old and would be around 29 when Brady retires. Plus, outside of Hoyer, there is virtually no one else (sorry Jonathan Crompton).
Mallett will provide healthy training camp competition for Hoyer, with all intentions to be the future successor to Brady. But, does Mallett have it in him?
Perhaps the most NFL-ready quarterback, Mallett has the biggest arm of anyone in the draft. He stands at a tall 6-6, but offers little-to-no mobility in the pocket. Mallett has played against the cream of the crop in the SEC, passing for 3,869 yards and 32 touchdowns this season with Arkansas. On the field, Mallett looks fantastic, but it’s his attitude off the field that is his biggest concern.
We touched on some of his problems in the open, but the level of Mallett’s immaturity is alarming. It was almost brutal to watch ESPN analyst– and the self proclaimed quarterback promoter — Jon Gruden break down tape with Mallett in Gruden’s quarterback camp. It’s not that Mallett didn’t know Xs and Os, he’s quite smart in that category, but it was Mallett’s presence that personally left me, a viewer, feeling awkward.
Whether it was the countless “yes sir” mumbled responses without direct eye-contact from Mallett, or simply his tone. It’s never good to pass judgment on an individual and by now we should know that the Patriots have done their homework, but I ask one question.
Honestly, do you see Ryan Mallett as the face of the most respected organization in professional football?
Belichick seems to think so. He doesn’t appear to be too concerned with the labels that are attributed with Mallet. But, why would he be? In the past Belichick has taken on “questionable character” players like Corey Dillon, Randy Moss and Brandon Meriweather and it has worked in the Patriots’ favor.
“He’s definitely a football guy. He’s a great kid to talk to. He’s very into football. You can’t wear him out — as long as you want to talk about it, he’ll be there. However many hours it is, he’s ready to go watch the next film or go talk about a new technique or read or whatever.
Like with all these rookies, time is of the essence. Is this New England’s Aaron Rodgers? Or another Kevin O’Connell?
Follow me on Twitter: @M_Marcantonio