After months of studying the NFL draft, we'll start our list of "10 perfect Patriots", narrowing down the list of prospects to a select group that we feel would be ideal (and realistic) for the New England Patriots, while adding a few draft-related thoughts:
Player: Tom Savage
Listed height/weight: 6-foot-3 7/8, 228 pounds
Scouts Inc. rank: 4th (scouting profile)
Draft projection: Second/third round
Why he's on our list: Savage has one of the strongest arms among this year's prospects and also an ideal physical makeup. His profile reminds me a bit of current Patriots backup Ryan Mallett coming out of the 2011 draft. He is a double transfer, starting at Rutgers under Bill Belichick confidant Greg Schiano, and showed toughness under adverse conditions last season at Pittsburgh when pass protection often broke down. The combination of physical tools and mental aptitude make him our top pick as the Patriots' developmental quarterback (Mallett's contract expires after 2014 and the team has been exploring the position closely); it's just a question of whether he'll be on the board as his "public" stock has soared in recent months.
A feel for the quarterback class: While there is no Andrew Luck in this class, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper previously noted that as many as 15-20 signal-callers have draftable grades, which is higher than the norm. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said as many as 10 quarterbacks have grades within the first three rounds, which is also higher than the norm. It's a good year to be looking for a developmental quarterback, and the Patriots seem to be doing just that.
Recommended link: Matt Fortuna, writing on ESPN.com's ACC blog, highlights Savage's rise in the draft process. The piece includes a Patriots twist, with Savage seeminly getting a chuckle out of the thought that the Patriots might view him the same way they once did Tom Brady (while we like Savage as a prospect, we think that's highly unlikely).
Key stat: Has only played two full seasons of college football after transferring from Rutgers to Arizona to Pittsburgh.
Workout stat: Hand size of 9.5-inches, which is average for the position and something the Patriots have traditionally placed a significant value on in recent years.
Draft strategy: Quarterback is one of the more challenging positions to project. In this case, it seems safe to say that if the Patriots don't draft Savage with their late second-round pick (62nd), it's probably unlikely he makes it to their next pick at the end of the third round. Texans coach Bill O'Brien once said he wants to build his team in a way that it could compete in all conditions, and that makes me think the strong-armed Savage could a target for them if they don't pounce on Blake Bortles or another top quarterback early. They pick at the top of each round.