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With the NFL Draft a little over a month away, teams are now beginning to visit with players at team facilities. Last week, the New England Patriots used two of their thirty pre-draft visits on quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. For the Patriots, quarterback hasn’t been a position of need since Drew Bledsoe was selected first overall in 1993. However, with Tom Brady on the wrong side of 35, the future is going to have to be answered at some point. Ryan Mallett is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and these pre-draft visits aren’t a good omen for his future in New England.
So should we make of the Patriots hosting two of the top QB prospects for pre-draft visits? For one, quarterback shouldn’t be a position that a team targets a “year” to draft one. This may be a year in which, if the right one is available, the Patriots pounce on Tom Brady’s eventual successor. Realistically, Brady probably has anywhere from two to four years left as a top level quarterback, and following the Green Bay Packers model, it would be wise for the Patriots to begin at least looking to the future sooner rather than later.
Stylistically, Bridgewater and Manziel could not be more different. Manziel is the unpredictable improviser, whereas Bridgewater is a prototypical pocket passer. This indicates to me that Bill Belichick are not as concerned with a system fit as they are with overall talent. If either of these two talents are available at the end of the first round, it would not surprise me if the Patriots pulled the trigger with the 29th pick, or used future picks to trade up for another late first round selection.
This quarterback class is tremendously deep, but may not have a true superstar among it. Each prospect has his own strengths and weaknesses. On Day 2 of the draft, it would not at all be surprising if the Patriots showed interest in other proven leader such as A.J. McCaron, Zach Mettenberger, and Aaron Murray. There are a handful of Day 3 prospects that could be Patriot fits (although none should be thought of as a Brady successor). Players such as David Fales, Tajh Boyd, or the Matt Cassel-esque Kenny Guiton could be Patriot targets in Rounds 4 through 7 or as UDFA’s.
Whether this is the year that the Patriots address the quarterback position or not, these pre-draft visits with Manziel and Bridgewater at least have Patriot fans thinking about the future after TB12.