AJ McCarron Among Potential Patriots Quarterbacks In 2014 NFL Draft

AJ McCarronThe New England Patriots like to plan ahead, so their interest in selecting a quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft shouldn’t come as a major surprise.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be 37 years old when the 2014 season begins, and backup Ryan Mallett is entering a contract year. Mallett was supposed to be Brady’s successor, but he never fully developed, and Brady’s still playing at a high level.

The Patriots have shown interest in the top three quarterbacks in the 2014 draft class — Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater — as well as some second-tier options such as AJ McCarron and Zach Mettenberger. But which quarterback prospects are the best fit?

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
6-foot-2, 214 pounds
Projected round: First

Why he fits: The Patriots brought in Bridgewater for a visit on April 2, which means they must like something in the Louisville quarterback. Based on media reports, there’s a good chance Bridgewater could fall to No. 29. If he’s available, the Patriots might have some offers from teams in the second round willing to trade up.

Bridgewater was the consensus top quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft class going into the 2013 season, and he didn’t do anything on the field to change that status. Since the college season ended, however, Bridgewater struggled in his pro day, and concerns about his size have crept up. Bridgewater still has a chance to be special, and sitting behind Brady for a few years could allow him to bulk up and develop.

Watch his tape:

Zach Mettenberger, LSU
6-foot-5, 224 pounds
Projected round: Second or third

Why he fits: Mettenberger is a similar prospect to Mallett, the Patriots’ third-round pick in 2011. Mettenberger and Mallett both have prototypical size, strong arms, shaky accuracy and off-the-field issues.

Mettenberger’s arm definitely is his biggest asset, but like Mallett, he lacks touch on his deeper throws. Mallett never seemed to fully develop under Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Similar issues could arise under Mettenberger, who might be an even bigger project.

Watch his tape:

AJ McCarron, Alabama
6-foot-3, 220 pounds
Projected round: Third

Why he fits: McCarron is more Brady than Mallett, since he’s clean off the field and has great short-field accuracy. But also like Brady coming out of Michigan, McCarron lacks a big arm, and his downfield accuracy needs work.

McCarron was coached by Bill Belichick disciple Nick Saban, which makes him a natural to be selected by the Patriots. They’d have to hope some time in the weight room would help McCarron develop a stronger arm.

Watch his tape:

Tom Savage, Pittsburgh
6-foot-4, 228 pounds

Projected round: Fourth

Why he fits: Savage is another project in the mold of Mallett or Mettenberger. There’s buzz that Savage could be drafted as early as the second round because of his big arm, but for now, I’m not buying it.

Savage is a possibility for the Patriots because he spent two years playing under Greg Schiano at Rutgers, and quite frankly, any athlete who has stepped foot in New Brunswick, N.J., is a potential Patriot. Savage completed just 61.2 percent of his passes at Pittsburgh in 2013, so his accuracy still needs some work.

Watch his tape:

Connor Shaw, South Carolina
6 feet, 206 pounds

Projected round: Seventh

Why he fits: Shaw is a possibility if the Patriots wait until the end of the draft to select a quarterback. Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas and Ohio State’s Kenny Guiton are other low-risk options. In the past, the Patriots have shown interest in athletic quarterbacks. Matt Cassel, Tim Tebow, Zac Robinson and Kevin O’Connell all were drafted by Belichick or McDaniels, and they’re all significantly more athletic than Brady.

Shaw lacks a big arm, but his short-field accuracy and decision-making are strengths.

Watch his tape:

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