The Patriots sent shockwaves through New England on Friday night when they picked North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett 91st overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Patriots were expected to take a quarterback in the draft, but that selection was supposed to wait until Day 3, potentially late in the sixth or seventh round. Instead, they used their third-highest pick in the draft on a quarterback who only will take the field this season if disaster strikes twice.
So why did the Patriots use such a high pick on a quarterback? This seems to have more to do with Jimmy Garoppolo than Tom Brady, though the Patriots obviously needed a third quarterback if the starter’s four-game Deflategate suspension stands.
When the Patriots signed Brady to a contract extension through 2019, it became clear that Garoppolo was not New England’s future starter. There were murmurs that the Patriots could trade Garoppolo leading up to the draft, but those were quieted when the NFL appeared to, and then did, win its appeal to have Brady’s ban reinstated.
The Patriots obviously hope Brady can have the suspension overturned, but if it’s not, there’s a silver lining. Garoppolo can play the first four games, raising his draft stock by appearing in competitive regular-season games. If he impresses, the Patriots could move Garoppolo for a first- or second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. NFL teams are willing to trade for experienced young quarterbacks. They’re less likely to give up draft stock for a guy who only has preseason reps and regular-season mop-up duty.
The Patriots never want to be stuck without a quarterback, which is probably why they were willing to use a third-round pick on a signal-caller one year too early.
The Patriots obviously liked Brissett — director of player personnel Nick Caserio praised him for his size, athleticism, strength and ball security in his post-draft news conference — so they took him over other seemingly bigger needs at running back, wide receiver, pass rusher and linebacker.
The pick understandably didn’t make Patriots fans very happy, but Caserio and Bill Belichick are just as focused on the future as they are on the present. Caserio made that clear Friday night when he said the Patriots’ area scouts already are at Gillette studying 2017 prospects on Day 2 of the 2016 NFL Draft.
So what are the Patriots getting in Brissett? He ranked below average in Pro Football Focus’ accuracy percentage metric. Of his 161 incompletions in 2015, 19 were drops, 27 were throwaways, five were batted at the line, two were spikes and five came when he was hit while throwing, leading to a 71.3 accuracy percentage. He had a 54.7 accuracy percentage while under pressure and completed just 39.7 percent of his passes while hurried. He completed just 31 percent of his deep passes, hitting on 14 of 58 for 563 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.
Brissett did impress in Senior Bowl practices, completing 88 percent of his passes in team drills. He also had a strong Senior Bowl game.
Brissett can take one season to learn under Brady and Garoppolo, and if the latter gets the chance to impress, the N.C. State product could move up to No. 2 on New England’s depth chart in 2017.
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