Bill Belichick thinks differently, and as a result, the Patriots draft differently. He doesn’t just look at what’s on the field and the stat sheet now, he thinks about what COULD be on HIS field a year later. That’s where the diamonds in the rough have been coming from in the past. Let’s take a look at a few players who aren’t getting the nationwide hype they deserve, but will certainly be getting a look from the hoodie and the entire Patriots scouting department.
KJ Jefferson, Arkansas QB
Now, I certainly don’t bring this guy up as an indictment of Mac Jones. I think there are things out of Mac’s growth hindering his progress with the Patriots offense, and I still think he’s the Patriots’ franchise QB. KJ deserves a look if he is still there in the late rounds, which I expect him to be.
He’s not quite as a flashy as an Anthony Richardson or Caleb Williams-type player, but he’s sneakily explosive and accurate, and knows how to win football games. He’s a good runner, and exceptionally fast for his size (6’3″ 242 lbs!), and has had 16 rushing touchdowns and over 1000 rushing yards in college. He runs with not just athleticism but also sensibility, and has a RB-like ability to sense a hole in an opposing defense.
However, unlike a lot of prominent dual-threat QBs at the collegiate level, he boasts a pro-level arm to go with his legs. He can make many different types of throws, from screens and checkdowns to deeper sideline passes and back-shoulder throws.
He’s extremely accurate, with almost 67% completions this year, and is also able to hit receivers in stride. He’s been very efficient, and in his two seasons as a starter, he has had 38 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. He doesn’t have the best arm or best legs of the QBs in this stacked draft class, but he has enough of both and the intelligence to go with it to achieve some serious success at the NFL level.
Jaxson Kirkland, T, Washington
I’ve been watching tackles, particularly right tackles, all season because of the struggles of the Patriots’ offensive line on the edges. Kirkland has stood out to me as a surprising tackle, one who has been at the forefront of a very successful Washington offensive line.
He has great hand-eye coordination, and as a result positions himself very well for blocks. He’s got a good motor and keeps his feet moving, and his footwork certainly gives him an advantage in most of his matchups. He also doesn’t give up on matchups that he’s losing, and those extra milliseconds that such resilience gives have often opened up plays for Washington.
Mac Jones and the Patriots will certainly salivate at what Kirkland and that entire line brought to the Washington offense. They run for over 100 yards per game, and quarterback Michael Penix has had 350+ yards per game and has only been sacked five times.
Theo Wease, WR, Oklahoma
Any draft stock for Oklahoma WRs is currently occupied by Marvin Mims, and for good reason. He’s a talented, dynamic and reliable wide receiver, one that I’ve actually pointed the Patriots’ way in another article. Theo’s stats honestly leave a lot to be desired, but I’m fascinated with him – and the Patriots should be as well – for one simple reason. He’s more agile than any receiver I’ve seen at any level.
He’s fast, yes, and has good game speed. He runs good routes, has reliable hands, and is fairly explosive with and without the ball. But his ability to change direction is truly stunning. He can make cuts both before and after the catch and make life difficult for opposing cornerbacks. While his offenses haven’t used him enough, he’ll be terrifying if he can be used right. Below is an example of how much separation he was able to create with his cuts.
The commentator may have mentioned that OU quarterback Dillon Gabriel was throwing to a wide-open Wease, but a careful examination of this play shows that he created the opening with his incredible double move at the line of scrimmage. Even if the route can be kept up with, the moves he can make with the ball in his hand makes the equation even tougher. There’s nobody in the country I’d trust more than Wease if a game came down to a wide receiver being able to evade multiple defenders.
Wease will likely not be drafted, as his throughput brings into question how successful he’ll be, but the talent is unquestionable and the Patriots should consider him as a seventh-round or undrafted free agent option, as his potential far outshines his current production.
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