FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quarterback Tom Brady hopes to play at a high level into his 40s, and, while the New England Patriots would like him to, they have invested significant draft capital at the position in two of the past three years -- first with Jimmy Garoppolo in the 2014 second round (62nd overall), then with Jacoby Brissett in the 2016 third round (91st overall).
The approach has contributed to what some view as one of the NFL's better quarterback situations.
For example, Patrick Daugherty of Rotoworld ranked the league's quarterback depth charts with the future in mind (over the next 3-5 years) and put the Patriots at No. 6. That was an improvement from ninth last year at this time.
"In the NFL, age does not let you down gently -- it stalks like a predator on the open savanna," Daugherty writes. "Peyton Manning was challenging for the MVP midway through the 2014 season [and] 16 months later, he was retiring because it was his only option. The cliff is waiting for Tom Brady, too, but damn if he isn’t doing an amazing job eluding it. ... Going on 39, Brady could have as few as two years left, but two years of Brady is better than five from an average quarterback."
In addition to Daugherty, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com's NFL Nation recently penned a piece on the Patriots' approach in drafting quarterbacks of late, asking the question: Why don't more teams follow their lead?
There is a balance to strike in this area.
One line of thinking is that the Patriots might be better served drafting players in those spots to surround Brady and maximize his final years, then investing in quarterbacks later in the draft.
But the flip side, as Bill Belichick pointed out in 2014, is putting the entire team at risk if the backup spot is overlooked. An added wrinkle is planning for whenever the post-Brady era begins.
This is the position that tops my list of things to watch during Thursday's organized team activity, which will be the first open to reporters this year.
With Brady, is it business as usual?
With Garoppolo, how much does another year in the system make a difference?
With Brissett, is he close to being as accurate as the others?
On Thursday, we get our first glimpse at how it's all coming together at the game's most important position.