Patriots’ Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater Visits Puzzling But Smart

Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carrm Johnny ManzielThe New England Patriots are treating the 2014 NFL draft like they’re a quarterback-needy team with a top-10 pick.

The Patriots will have looked at the consensus top three quarterbacks in this year’s draft class after Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater come to town for visits Wednesday. They studied Central Florida’s Blake Bortles last week.

The top quarterbacks appear to be dropping in draft experts’ rankings, but it’s still unlikely that one of them will fall to the Patriots’ No. 29 overall pick in the first round. With Tom Brady signed through 2017, it would seem odd for New England to spend a first-round pick on a signal-caller. So let’s go through the reasons why the Patriots might be looking at Manziel, Bridgewater and Bortles.

Planning Ahead

Backup quarterback Ryan Mallett’s rookie contract runs out after this season. Head coach Bill Belichick knows the importance of having a star quarterback, and the Patriots don’t want to be in a situation where they’re scrounging for a passer when it’s already too late.

The Patriots typically plan one year ahead, which is why they drafted Nate Solder in the first round in 2011 (Matt Light was on the verge of retirement) and Jamie Collins with their first pick in 2013 (Brandon Spikes was in a contract year).

With Mallett on his way out and Brady showing signs of regression — though it appears to have been personnel-related — it might be wise to bite at No. 29 if Manziel, Bridgewater or Bortles are there.

Future Scouting

The Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings could be looking for a quarterback in this year’s draft, and the Patriots will play all three teams in 2014. While it’s less likely, the New York Jets also could be in the market for a signal-caller.

Regardless of where Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater land, the Patriots likely will play them in the future, and Belichick and Co. might want to see how to beat them.

Comparison Tool

The Patriots also have studied some lower-tier quarterbacks such as Ohio State’s Kenny Guiton and South Carolina’s Connor Shaw. The Patriots could want to gauge their talent against the top quarterbacks to see if it’s necessary to select one early or if a late pick will do.

The Patriots obviously are going the mobile route when looking at quarterbacks. That’s not unusual for a team that has had players like Matt Cassel, Kevin O’Connor and Zac Robinson as Brady’s backups — not to mention that Tim Tebow guy.

To Acquire Intel

Manziel, Bridgewater and Bortles all come from schools with other top prospects. The Patriots could be using Wednesday’s visits to inquire about Texas A&M prospects such as running back Ben Malena and wide receiver Mike Evans or Louisville safeties Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith, defensive end Marcus Smith and linebacker Preston Brown.

The quarterback typically is the leader of the team. They’ll know their teammates better than anyone else.

Louisville and Texas A&M also played difficult schedules in 2013. It’s possible Belichick wants to pick their brains about some of the better players they faced.

Belichick could just be trolling the NFL world, too. It’s interesting that word of the visits leaked, and Belichick likes to make a splash, especially when he doesn’t have to answer questions about it.

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