The Patriots haven’t been shy about using draft picks on potential future quarterbacks over the last decade or so. The carousel of QBs behind Tom Brady has included the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Danny Eitling, Zac Robinson, and Ryan Mallet. It might seem like Brady could play forever, and Patriots fans believe he can with every fiber of their being, but eventually he’ll retire.
The team took another swing at a QB of the future in the 2019 NFL draft, picking up Jarrett Stidham from Auburn in the fourth round. Stidham has his positives, and the Patriots had a good enough draft this year that it was a reasonable use of a fourth-round pick. Despite what many will hope, though, Stidham is far more likely to end up like Mallet or Robinson than he is Jimmy G.
Stidham’s 2017 season exhibited his potential, which is undoubtedly high. He possesses good mobility and showed off a high-level grasp of pre-snap reads, often knowing where the ball will go before the play began- a key trait for anyone attempting to play quarterback for the Patriots. 2018 showed the flip side; when he isn’t playing confidently, he’s a second late on key throws and doesn’t have the physical talents to make up for missing that window. A consistent negative that showed up in both seasons was his struggles to find the open man when his primary receiver was taken away, and while his mobility is good, it isn’t good enough to help him recover from a broken play.
Stidham, like most QBs taken in the third day of the draft, is a project. There’s a chance he pans out, and either takes over when Brady retires or gets shipped off for a draft pick like Garoppolo. But the things Stidham struggled with at Auburn- pre-snap reads, moving down the line when his primary option was taken away, throws gone awry because of average arm strength- are tough to fix at the professional level. Stidham may pan out, but he isn’t the heir apparent.