In the two weeks leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, NESN.com will be taking a closer look at this year’s quarterback class and how each player could fit with the New England Patriots. First up, Iowa’s Nate Stanley.
Nate Stanley, Iowa
6-foot-4, 235 pounds, 10-inch hands
Projected Round: Day 3 (5-7)
2019 Stats: 59.4 percent, 2,951 yards, 16 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 7.4 yards per attempt
Strengths: Arm strength, three years as a starting captain, decision-making, deep passing, pro-style experience
Weaknesses: Accuracy, consistency, mobility
Testing numbers: 4.81-second 40-yard dash, 7.26-second 3-cone drill, 4.48-second short shuttle, 28.5-inch vertical leap, 9-feet broad jump
Analysis: Perhaps what’s most appealing about Stanley is that the Patriots shouldn’t have to overdraft him, but he still has some appealing tools with which to work.
First off, Stanley has an ideal build for a quarterback with big hands. He has a strong arm and has experience working from under center and out of the shotgun coming out of Brian Ferentz’s offense at Iowa. Ferentz started his coaching career with the Patriots as an offensive assistant before being promoted to tight ends coach. There should be some carryover in the two systems.
Stanley had a breakout sophomore campaign when he completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 2,432 yards with 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. He took a giant step back as a junior despite having two future first-round picks at tight end in T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. He did manage to bounce back in 2019 as a senior. Pro Football Focus gave Stanley a career-high 87.1 overall grade last season.
Stanley has always made good decisions as a passer, but that’s also come with limited risks. He does seemingly know his limitations, and intermediate accuracy is not one of his strong suits. The deep ball is one of his strengths, however.
He completed 26-of-56 deep passes with four touchdowns and two interceptions in 2019, per Pro Football Focus. He was just 55-of-115 with seven touchdowns and two interceptions from 10-to-19 yards, however. That discrepancy is … odd.
Despite a 40-yard dash in the 64th percentile among quarterbacks, Stanley isn’t overly mobile in the pocket, and his footwork could use some quickening coming off the snap. He’s a big body and hard to bring down in the pocket. He completed just 43.2 percent of his passes while under pressure, however.
Overall, Stanley’s decision-making skills and arm strength are his best traits. Arm strength can improve, but Stanley’s comes naturally. Accuracy can be harder to teach, and that’s where Stanley is lacking.
Still, between the experience in a pro-style offense and his big arm, there might be something that has yet to be unlocked in Stanley. His experience in Iowa’s system might be a blessing and a curse, however.
Stanley should be able to hit the ground running after taking college snaps under center, and that is valuable in this day and age. At the same time, he wasn’t overly productive in that system. If a quarterback is toolsy but comes from more of a spread offense, then a team might think they can take that ball of clay and form it into something better. Stanley doesn’t have that same level of upside since teams have already seen him in a pro offense.
The Patriots took Ryan Mallett and Jacoby Brissett in the third round, and neither quarterback showed elite accuracy in college. Stanley is another similar big, strapping quarterback prospect. The Patriots wouldn’t have to spend a mid-round pick on him, as he should be available in the fifth round. He could even go as late as the sixth or seventh round.
The Patriots need a third quarterback for training camp after Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cody Kessler was released. They could add a veteran to compete with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer to start, take a quarterback with their first-round pick, add a mid-round option or spend one of their many late-round selections on a QB.
If the Patriots are simply looking to take a safe flier, Stanley is a solid late-round option.