Unless the New England Patriots trade up or pull off a blockbuster deal for a veteran quarterback, their next starter under center will come from free agency or a less-splashy move.
If you’ve followed Bill Belichick over the past two decades, you know it seems far more likely the Patriots will sign a free-agent quarterback to a short-term deal, or execute a small trade to bring in a veteran, while drafting a young prospect who they hope can develop and become a starter down the road.
It appears that’s the thought process of NFL.com’s Chad Reuter. In his latest mock draft, which spans four rounds and includes compensatory picks, Reuter has the Patriots drafting Stanford’s Davis Mills in the third round.
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Patriots Take Mills in the Mock Draft
Mills’ selection, according to Reuter, would be the 98th pick in the draft and a compensatory pick the Patriots received as a result of losing Tom Brady or Kyle Van Noy in free agency. One interesting note on Mills is that NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein lists current Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham as his NFL comparison.
That won’t light a fire under the tails of most Patriots fans, considering Stidham has failed to distinguish himself enough for the team’s coaching staff to give him a single start in the past two seasons. Stidham’s rookie year was 2019, and he was supposed to sit and learn behind Tom Brady. However, in 2020, the Patriots might have liked for him to step up and win the competition over Cam Newton and Brian Hoyer, but he didn’t.
The Patriots have Stidham and practice squad QB Jake Dolegala as the only players at the position under contract with Newton headed for free agency. The fact that the Patriots are still on the lookout for a new QB tells you all you need to know about the way they view Stidham.
That might lead you to wonder why they would be interested in drafting a kid who compares to the one who has essentially failed to stand out in two years.
That’s a good question, but here are some of Zierlein’s notes on Mills:
There isn’t going to be an excessive amount of tape on Mills, but teams will see a player with below-average mobility, good size and plenty of arm talent for passing attacks looking to open up the entire field. Mills is still in the developmental stage as it pertains to his ability to command the offense and play chess against coverages and blitz looks. He’s made for a play-action attack that can promote his timing as a passer and help keep him protected. The injury background and lack of experience are potential stumbling blocks, but the talent is better than the production and worthy of a middle-round pick for development as a good backup to low-end starter.
Mills the Prospect
According to NFL.com and ESPN, Mills is listed at 6’4″ 225 pounds. He has the near-ideal size for the position, and there appears to be zero concern with his arm strength and foot mechanics. He was a big-time prospect coming out of high school, but injuries seemingly kept him from ever having the breakout season at Stanford.
In 2019, Mills completed 65.6% of his passes for 1,960 yards, 11 TDs, and 5 INTs. In 2020, he was strong in Stanford’s COVID-19-abbreviated schedule. The Cardinal played just six games, and Mills appeared in five of them.
In those games, he completed 66.2% of his throws for 1,508 yards, 7 TDs, and 3 INTs (all of which came in a double-OT win over UCLA in December 2020.
Injuries plagued Mills’ first two seasons at Stanford, and when he was finally healthy in 2020, COVID-19 threw a monkey wrench in what could have been an even bigger year for him. With more uncertainty and the potential for another injury on the horizon in 2021, Mills chose to declare for the draft.
As a developmental quarterback, there is some upside but is it the smartest idea to cinch the team’s wagons to a prospect who has already had his share of issues staying healthy?
Needless to say, if the Patriots do draft Mills, they will have already signed or traded for the guy they see as their starter in 2021.