Patriots, in search of QB depth, could find one beyond NFL draft's first round

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When University of Florida quarterback Kyle Trask went through his pro day last week, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was present to watch his every move.

McDaniels' on-site visit served up an important reminder that the team's scouting at the game's most important position is going much deeper than top 2021 NFL draft prospects Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones. Scheduled to pick at No. 15 overall, it's more likely the Patriots will wind up with a second-tier prospect at the position -- unless they trade up.

So who, similar to when the Patriots selected Jimmy Garoppolo in the late second round in 2014, would be the best fit?

Reese's Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy, a former Patriots scout, believes the conversation should start with Stanford's Davis Mills and Texas A&M's Kellen Mond.

Senior ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. sees it similarly, even though the 6-foot-4, 211-pound Mills has 11 career starts, which includes a three-interception game against UCLA. Mills was a top recruit coming out of the Greater Atlanta Christian School, but his college body of work is thin.

"Was he elite? No. But he has talent. He had a great pro day [throwing in the rain]. All the guys beyond the big five, he may be the next quarterback taken and it will probably be in the second round. He could possibly drop to the third," Kiper said.

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Mills has had a couple of ACL injuries, and "he's not as athletic as maybe he would have been without the injuries, but he's got poise, he's incredibly intelligent, and I thought you saw him get better throughout the year. He can really drive the ball. He's a really smart kid who's got quick eyes and makes good decisions."

Kiper and Jeremiah slotted Mond (6-foot-3, 211 pounds) as the next possibility, with Kiper comparing him to Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was a fourth-round pick in 2012. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay is high on Mond, predicting he'll go to the Washington Football Team in the second round of his latest mock draft.

Jeremiah noted Mond is "not the thickest guy," but highlighted his progression over his career.

"I thought he really got better and played well this year, culminating with a great Senior Bowl week where he was MVP of the game," he said, adding that his size and early-career inconsistency might be of concern to some teams.

"I like him, and I think he's got a live arm. He can create and extend a little bit. Talking to the guys down there at A&M, they said when they would get on the plane after games he would be standing up in the aisle with [coach] Jimbo Fisher already watching the tape with him, so he was always dialed in, always around the facility."

Then there's Trask, who at 23 years old is the same age as Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold.

"Second round is high. I think third or fourth round is where I'd look at [Trask]," Kiper said. "He has the size [6-foot-5, 236 pounds]. He throws the deep ball very well, very good touch. But he doesn't have an elite arm. He has very limited mobility."

Trask's 68 touchdown passes are the most of any draft-eligible quarterback over the past two seasons, but he's also thrown 15 interceptions. His hand size, 10 1/8 inches, is one of the biggest in the draft and fits well if the Patriots place a higher value on that with Northeast conditions in mind.

"There's some things to like about him, and some things to make you wonder if he can be an effective starter," Kiper said. "But I would invest a fourth-round pick in him. He's basically [Washington QB] Ryan Fitzpatrick -- a pocket passer."

Wake Forest's Jamie Newman (6-2, 235), who transferred to Georgia in 2020 but opted out of last season, is another consideration.

"[Newman] looked good in 2019, needs to become a little more accurate with some throws, cutting down on some mistakes/interceptions. But he has talent," Kiper said. "You're talking about a fifth-, sixth-rounder, but had he played at Georgia this past year, he could have been a second- or third-round pick."

Texas' Sam Ehlinger (6-1, 222) is also part of the conversation, likely on Day 3 (fourth through seventh round). McShay raved about Ehlinger's competitiveness and toughness, while noting his consistency as a passer needs improvement, particularly on deep throws (ranking last on throws of 21-plus yards among the top 15 draft-eligible QBs, according to ESPN Stats & Information).

"He can run, has great pocket presence, is physical, tough, and takes care of the football. He has great experience," McShay said. "But throwing the deep ball, that's where I struggled the most with him."