While there are obvious accessibility issues as it relates to interviews and meetings with teams for the 2020 NFL Draft class due to COVID-19, it may turn out to be one of the best years to be a quarterback entering the league.
Many focused on the negatives when the NFL announced that the draft and all of the elements in the process leading up to the event would be done in a virtual setting. However, there is plenty of upside to this year’s draft for certain positions, with quarterbacks standing out among the rest.
So many teams are looking for their quarterback of the future heading into the 2020 season, with numerous factors playing pivotal roles in the decision-making:
- Some teams could be looking for the next generation who could learn behind a veteran for a year or two.
- The Saints: New Orleans could use Drew Brees as a mentor if they’re looking for a younger quarterback to work with following Brees’ retirement, rather than 29-year-old utility man Taysom Hill.
- The Buccaneers: With Tom Brady moving on down to Tampa Bay and no real contingency plan/idea for the future in sight, it might make sense to try to recreate the magic that the Patriots had with the Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo combination.
- The Colts: Philip Rivers is out in Los Angeles and instead finds himself in Indianapolis ahead of the 2020 season. He’ll already have Jacoby Brissett to take under his wing, but the Colts can potentially go younger if they’re looking to shed Brissett’s contract and build into a new era.
- The Lions: Detroit is reportedly still sticking with Matthew Stafford, but it’s now or never to find a younger option for the Lions stalwart to help out in the film room and on the practice field for a few years.
- Other teams may be dealing with younger prospects who are already on their roster, but they may now potentially looking to head in a different direction:
- The Bears: Mitchell Trubisky hasn’t produced at the level that head coach Matt Nagy would like to see, resulting in Chicago making a trade to take Nick Foles away from the Jaguars. If they’re done with Trubisky, they could use a draft pick on a different project to bring in some youth.
- The Redskins: Washington may want to dive in on a highly-touted quarterback with their second overall pick to supplant second-year quarterback and last year’s 15th overall pick, Dwayne Haskins.
- The Dolphins: Miami took a slight chance on 23-year-old Josh Rosen as a backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick, which hasn’t panned out (yet).
- The Colts: Indianapolis finds themselves in this category, as well, considering they’re seemingly not satisfied with Brissett as their long-term answer, instead signing Rivers as a starting solution for 2020.
- Finally, there are teams with a void at the position after their quarterback left in free agency, either by the player’s choice or team’s directive.
- The Chargers: Los Angeles will roll without Rivers for the first time in a decade and a half, but do have second-year quarterback Easton Stick as an option behind Tyrod Taylor.
- The Patriots: New England is reeling from Tom Brady’s departure this offseason, but some seem to think the team will be comfortable with second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham under center.
Which team stands out among the bunch? The team that hasn’t had to look for a starting quarterback in more than two decades: the Patriots.
Everyone knows about New England’s success with the Brady-Belichick combination for the last 20 years, but the craziest part of the whole situation is the fact that the team wasn’t even looking for a starter when they drafted the Michigan alum in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft.
The team had committed to the first overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, Drew Bledsoe, and lucked into their true long-term solution when the Washington State product went down with an injury towards the beginning of the 2001 season. All in all, that makes for 27 years without New England needing to draft a starter-level quarterback.
As a result, the 2020 NFL Draft serves as a unique opportunity for any quarterbacks looking to find a home with one of the league’s 32 teams. They have the usual suspects who will always be on the lookout for young prospects under center, but a true rarity otherwise when it comes to the Patriots.
And, as if Brady’s departure wasn’t enough, no one truly knows what the Patriots are thinking as it relates to Stidham as a long-term solution in offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ offense. If they feel strongly in Stidham as a starter, they may decide to wait until a later round to dive into the pool of quarterbacks. If not, they could be looking for trade partners to move up a few spots to strike in the first round.
With all of that in mind, it makes for the perfect situation for any quarterback entering the 2020 NFL Draft.
Teams may be more inclined to jump on a quarterback with an earlier pick if they have a good feeling in their gut about a specific player, with that team working off the suspicion that the Patriots may swoop in and steal a future star right out from under them.
On the other hand, things get interesting as any rumors or reports come out about a quarterback who the Patriots may be interested in, especially if they’re projected as a pick in a later round. One example comes to mind after a report on April 13 about New England’s communications with a small FCS school’s quarterback.
According to Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline, the Patriots have had “numerous video conferences” with James Madison quarterback Ben DiNucci, and Pauline reported that the Panthers and Bears were also interested in the Pittsburgh transfer who “was not graded by scouts entering the season despite his terrific junior campaign.”
After Pauline’s report, it would be interesting to see if a player like DiNucci pops up on other teams’ radars, and that type of player’s stock instantly goes up as teams wonder what’s so special about them that caught the eye of Belichick or McDaniels. DiNucci is just one example, with numerous other late-round projections potentially benefitting from the Patriots’ quarterback situation.
Every year features a variety of teams searching for the next best thing under center, especially after young, now-perennial MVP candidates like Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Lamar Jackson have arrived on the scene over the last three years. But, the added presence of the Patriots in the race for the next star gunslinger makes this one of the more intriguing NFL Drafts in recent memory.
All of this doesn’t necessarily mean this is going to be the best quarterback class ever, and a lot of the players who are entering the draft this year look like they could be high-risk, high-reward for a multitude of reasons.
But, those same quarterbacks will at least benefit from a seemingly perfect storm, with plenty of opportunities to pursue and lots of hype to work off of.