FOXBORO, Mass. — Jimmy Garoppolo does not need a scouting report on the player he will back up for the foreseeable future with the New England Patriots.
The Patriots tabbed Garoppolo, a quarterback out of Eastern Illinois, with the 62nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft Friday night. Garoppolo threw for more than 5,000 yards as a senior, but now he will be an understudy to Tom Brady, for whom the now-NFL rookie holds endless admiration.
“His poise in the pocket is so impressive,” Garoppolo said of Brady. “He really does a great job of taking control of the offense, and he never really loses control. He’s always cool, calm and collected in the pocket. That’s what I try to do.”
If that sounds like more than a simple detached scouting report, that’s because Garoppolo is more than a detached observer when it comes to the three-time Super Bowl champion. The newest Patriot admitted that Brady was his favorite player growing up.
“He was,” Garoppolo said. “He was always a guy I tried to emulate my game after.”
Garoppolo passed for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns with just nine interceptions in his final season with the Panthers. He concluded his college career sixth in Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) history with 118 touchdown passes, seventh with 13,151 passing yards and 10th in total offense with 13,089 yards.
Several draft evaluators projected Garoppolo to be gone before the second round, but there were questions about his readiness for the NFL despite his gaudy statistics. At 6-foot-2, 226 pounds, he is slightly undersized for a professional quarterback. He seldom faced pass rushers or defensive backs equal to his skill as a passer at EIU, and his three-quarters delivery could need tinkering if his passes are to clear NFL linemen.
Neither Bill Belichick nor any of the Patriots’ other coaches addressed his mechanics, Garoppolo said, and the topic did not come up often in his pre-draft interviews.
“Delivery is something that each quarterback is different with,” Garoppolo said. “If the coaches in New England think I need to fix it, I’ll do whatever I need to do to adjust to their offense and make it work.”
Few quarterbacks are as obsessive about their mechanics as Brady, who remade his own throwing motion as a pro. If Garoppolo successfully adjusts his delivery, it could be the first step in continuing to emulate his hero — the first step, the Patriots hope, of many.
Photo via Twitter/@TypicalTessie