Tom Brady and the New England Patriots certainly aren’t thinking about the draft yet, and the former certainly isn’t considering the latter’s future plans at the quarterback position.

That being said, Brady is nearing the end of his 18th season at 41 years old. He won’t (we think) play forever, and after the Patriots traded away Jimmy Garoppolo a year ago, they still need the ultra-coveted heir to Brady.

Despite a relatively weak QB class in this year’s draft, ESPN’s longtime NFL draft expert Mel Kiper has the Patriots wasting little time in trying to find Brady’s successor. In fact, Kiper’s first mock draft of the season has the Patriots grabbing Duke signal-caller Daniel Jones late in the first round.

Writes Kiper: Tom Brady is going to be 42 when the 2019 season begins. Forty-two! It’s unbelievable what he’s continuing to do on the field, but the Patriots have to start thinking about the future … right? Jones could be the heir apparent. He has learned from quarterback guru David Cutcliffe at Duke, and you see it in his footwork. He excels in the pocket. Jones is athletic too, and he has a big, 6-foot-4 frame. There’s no guarantee that Jones will be the third quarterback off the board, and you can see more of him at the Senior Bowl next week, but this fit makes a lot of sense.

Things can change, but the Patriots are currently 29th in the draft order. If they lose the AFC Championship Game to the Kansas City Chiefs, that’s where they will pick, but a win over the Chiefs would drop New England down to No. 31 or 32.

They’ll almost certainly trade a couple of draft spots in order to play in and possibly win the Super Bowl. And it’s not like the teams drafting at the end of the draft — the Chiefs, Rams and Packers (via the Saints) — are looking for QBs.

Jones certainly is an intriguing option. As Kiper noted, getting to study under Cutcliffe should help Jones, as the veteran college coach has instructed a handful of eventual NFL quarterbacks, including both Peyton and Eli Manning. Jones had a solid senior season, that culminated with the best game of his Duke career, in which he set career highs in passing yards (423) and touchdown passes (five) in a resounding 56-27 win over Temple in the Independence Bowl.

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