As every New England Patriots fan knows, the team will go into the 2016 NFL Draft that opens April 28 with no selection in the first round, thanks to penalties imposed by the National Football League in connection with the so-called Deflategate affair — penalties that Patriots owner Robert Kraft chose to simply accept rather than contest.
As a result, New England has no pick at all until 59 players have already come off the draft board — a fact which has set off rumors even more intense and puzzling than usual as to how Patriots Coach and General Manager Bill Belichick will use that draft slot Number 60.
The latest speculation from experts on the Patriots within the New England media has Belichick using that selection to choose a quarterback.
While it may seem strange for the Patriots to use any draft pick on a quarterback, given that for the past 15 years and, under his contract at least two more, New England has had Tom Brady to fill the position — a four time Super Bowl winner, three-time Super Bowl MVP, two-time NFL MVP and certain first-ballot Hall of Famer.
The Patriots also have Jimmy Garoppolo at the position, picked out of Eastern Illinois University in the second round of the 2014 draft, the highest Belichick has ever drafted a quarterback, including Brady who was selected by Belichick in the sixth round of the 2000 draft.
But according to Patriots correspondent Christopher Price of WEEI.com, using draft picks on quarterbacks has actually been a regular occurrence under the Belichick regime in New England.
“Just about every year, the Patriots go after a quarterback, either in the late rounds or as an undrafted free agent,” Price wrote on his WEEI blog Sunday.
“Whether it’s an attempt to try and develop a new arm, adding an extra signal-caller in hopes of taking some reps off the likes of Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo or hoping to find someone they can spin out of New England in an eventual trade, New England always seems to be on the lookout for a quarterback in the late rounds of the draft,” Price continued.
Who might that quarterback pick turn out to be in 2016? The name mentioned by Price is Rayne Dakota Prescott (pictured at top of page), known by his nickname Dak. He’s a 22-year-old senior out of Mississippi State and a Louisiana native who led the Bulldogs to the Orange Bowl in his junior year, which was Prescott’s first full season as a starter.
Prescott, in an interview last week, said that the offense his team ran at Mississippi State was based directly on the Patriots’ style. “We were a team with a lot of NFL reads,” Prescott said.
“We got a lot of plays from the Patriots, from the Texans,” he continued. “So specifically, those two. Coach (Dan) Mullen really loves what Coach Belichick does and what coach O’Brien does. Those two offenses are very similar.”
The following video shows Prescott in action against rival Louisiana State University.
Prescott worked out at the NFL combine this week, but his performance in the combine drills was considered somewhat disappointing. He is expected to fall to a lower round in the draft, where he could be available to the Patriots at Number 60.
Asked an NFL QB coach about Miss. State’s Dak Prescott. Said he was terrific in interview, but just OK in workout.
— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) February 28, 2016
— NFL (@NFL) February 27, 2016
New England also has single picks in the third, fourth and seventh rounds, plus two picks in the sixth round. In addition to losing their first-round pick as part of the controversial Deflategate discipline, the Patriots previously traded their fifth-roumd pick to the Houston Texans in exchange for wide receiver Keyshawn Martin.
If Belichick did select Dak Prescott, whose powerful fullback-like build has led him to be described by scouts as “Tim Tebow-like,” the Patriots would likely then package current Brady backup Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade, possibly targeting the second round pick, 52nd overall, held by the Texans.
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Houston is desperately in the market for a quarterback, and was known to have interest in Garoppolo leading into the 2014 draft.
The New England Patriots briefly signed Tim Tebow prior to the 2013 season, which would indicate that Belichick has interest in a backup quarterback fitting the Tebow mold and could look for one in the draft. Scouts say that Dak Prescott, however, has a better arm and is a more accomplished passer than Tim Tebow.
[Photo By Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]