FOXBORO, Mass. — In the lead up to the 2019 NFL Draft, the biggest knock on quarterback Jarrett Stidham was that he regressed in his final season at Auburn.
After completing 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,158 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2017 as a sophomore, the Patriots 2019 fourth-round pick completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,794 yards with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2018 as a junior. And he threw five touchdowns in the final game of his college career against Purdue.
Stidham offered an explanation for his regression Saturday in a conference call with the media after being selected by the Patriots.
“I think there?s different things that happen throughout the season, and I think myself, Coach (Gus) Malzahn, Coach (Chip) Lindsey, if we were all to kind of look back and go back and read through the season, I think we?d just open it up a lot more,” Stidham said. “When you lose a guy like (running back) Kerryon Johnson and (guard) Braden Smith up front, some of those guys that have a lot of experience, you just have to find out your identity.
“And I think we found our identity during our bowl game against Purdue. It?s one of those things, but I wouldn?t trade my time at Auburn for anything. I loved it there, and the great thing about Auburn is that it can really help prepare you for the next level. And sure enough, I?m lucky enough to sit here and be a Patriot and further my career a little bit.”
Stidham was asked if losing players like Johnson and Smith shook his confidence and led him to hurry through his progressions.
“I told Coach (Josh) McDaniels and Coach (Bill) Belichick, there were definitely times last year where for whatever reason, I just decided to get out of the pocket when I shouldn?t have or just didn?t trust my eyes at a certain point or my feet,” Stidham said. “That?s something I?ve obviously been working on this spring up to the draft and it?s something I?m going to have to continue to work at in order to get better at the quarterback position. I?m really looking forward to doing that, and there?s no one better to learn from than Coach McDaniels and Coach Belichick and those guys in the quarterback room.”
If Stidham had been able to build on his 2017 season, it’s possible he could have been a first-round pick. The Patriots obviously are hoping they drafted the 2017 version of Stidham. It’s worth the risk to see if he can recapture that magic.