Friday, May 9, 2014

New England Patriots on Paper - Pats draft future in second round; trade out of third

The New England Patriots made a decisive step towards their future on Friday night, selecting Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

In a tried and true strategy, coach and defacto General Manager Bill Belichick selected  a signal caller that many believe is already prepared to run an NFL team as a rookie and will groom him behind the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady...

...eerily reminiscent of how the Packers handled Aaron Rodgers - though his precipitous slide only took him to the bottom of the first round - and after three years of backing up Bret Favre he ascended to the role of starter and team leader and, well, the rest is well documented.

The 6' 3", 225 pound Garoppolo reminds some of Tony Romo, some of Dan Marino with the quick release and footwork - but it is his favorite player and the quarterback that he has modeled his game after, Brady, that gets to mentor the 22 year old.

The Patriots other Day 2 selection was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who move up to 93 overall and in return ship their fourth rounder -105th overall - to New England and also their sixth round selection.  This scenario sets up a third day itinerary that sees Belichick with the three fourth round selections, three sixth round selections and a seventh rounder.

On Thursday, the Patriots chose defensive tackle Dominique Easley with their first round pick.

"I feel good about it," said Garoppolo of the opportunity to be mentored as the Patriots' future. "It’s crazy being able to go to Boston and learn from Tom, learn from Coach Belichick and all the coaches and all the players. It’s a great opportunity for a guy like me, a young player. I still have a lot to learn and I know that and I’m excited about it"

Noted for his work in the college all star games where he demonstrated the quick release and laser beams for out-patterns and intermediate throws, Garoppolo saw his draft grades go from the fifth round to being mentioned as a possibility for Houston at the top of the second within weeks of the Senior Bowl - but his small-ish hands and small school resume prevented a rise to the ranks of the chosen.

Particularly the competition level that he experienced at Eastern Illinois, but given the way that he dominated his opponents to the tune of over 5,000 yards and over 50 touchdowns while throwing just nine picks, there's no reason to believe he can't have success elsewhere.

"Garoppolo can find receivers and fire the ball on target faster than you can say his name. Lighting release and frozen rope medium distance sideline passes are reminiscent of Dan Marino's lasers. This despite concerns about his size, short arms and small hands." - Frank Cooney, 

As for the small hands, Garoppolo denies that it's an issue. "Never, in my opinion, I don’t think I’ve ever had trouble with ball security." he said  "I personally like throwing the NFL ball better than the college ball, but you know, everyone has their opinions. It is what it is."

 Not every expert is as enamoured with Garoppolo as Belichick apparently is, though the rumor mill has it that the Patriots' true targets were either Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel at 29th overall (Belichick will deny it, true or not), but the potential is there for a fine backup and eventually successor to Brady.

"From his pocket mobility to his accuracy to his mental makeup, he has a lot of qualities you look for as someone you can develop at the next level. A lot of young quarterbacks leave their feet behind when they check to their next progression. But not Garoppolo. By keeping his feet tied to his eyes, he's always in position, ready to pull the trigger." - ESPN analyst Todd McShay 

It might take a while for Patriots' fans to warm up to Garoppolo, let alone learn how to spell his name, but Bill Belichick's decisive and aggressive move to secure Brady's successor will one day be viewed as another shrewd move by the hooded one...

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