Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo arrives in New England as the team’s highest draft pick at the position since Drew Bledsoe was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft. As a second-round selection, but from a smaller school like Eastern Illinois he’ll clearly be given time to develop in the shadows of Tom Brady.
But, for the first time head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged that the depth chart at quarterback is being formulated with the idea in mind that Brady won’t be manning the starting role forever.
“With the situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future, so we’ll see how all that works out but I think you’re better off being early than late at that position,” Belichick said after the Garoppolo selection Friday night.
Ryan Mallett has been Brady’s backup for the past two seasons, but is heading into the final year of the rookie deal he signed as a third-round pick in 2011. Garoppolo clearly has a chance to vie for the primary backup job within a year and maybe much more than that down the road in Foxborough.
“We know what Ryan’s contract situation is. We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is,” Belichick said. “I don’t think you want to have one quarterback on your team. I don’t think that’s responsible to the entire team or the organization.”
Garoppolo will now be backing up a guy he’s followed pretty closely from afar. The second-round pick was clearly excited to be joining a depth chart behind Brady.
“He was always the guy I emulated my game after,” Garoppolo said of his favorite player. “It’s crazy being able to go to Boston and learn from Tom, learn from coach Belichick and all the coaches and all the players. It’s a great opportunity for a guy like me, a young player. I still have a lot to learn and I know that and I’m excited about it.”
Garoppolo’s situation in New England has drawn some comparisons to Aaron Rodgers’ time backing up Brett Favre in Green Bay. The young passer is aware of how that worked out for the eager understudy.
“I remember when that happened, (Rodgers) sitting in the draft room and everything — he waited a little while. It’s a very similar scenario and it worked out very well for Aaron, so hopefully it will work out the same way for me,” Garoppolo said.
A closer look at the other Patriots’ picks:
Round 1/29th pick — Dominique Easley, DT, 6-2, 288, Florida — The Patriots stayed put in the first round for the first time in three years and went after a talented, athletic Gator with a perceived upside and a very real injury history. Easley is a disruptive force when healthy but is coming off a torn ACL that cost him all but three games in his final season at Florida after coming back from a torn ACL in his other knee two years ago.
Round 4/105 — Bryan Stork, C, 6-4, 300, Florida State — The All-America will be expected to come in right away and possible compete for playing time at either center or right guard, where he could easily prove an upgrade over returning veterans Ryan Wendell or Dan Connolly.
Round 4/130 — James White, RB, 5-10, 195, Wisconsin — White, who opened and closed his four-year college career with 1,000-yard campaigns, is a guy familiar with sharing the load for the Badgers, and unlike Steven Ridley, his two fumbles in 754 career touches show the kind of ball security that Belichick is fond of.
Round 4/140 — Cameron Fleming, T, 6-6, 318, Stanford — Fleming started all 39 games he played for the school and given that he’s about to receive a degree in aeronautics and astronautics is seen as a heady player who might have the potential to bump to guard at the next level.
Round 6/179 — Jon Halapio, G, 6-3, 323, Florida — A right guard for Florida, he’ll join the Patriots’ offensive line development program that’s now under the direction of first-year line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.
Round 6/198 — Zach Moore, DE, 6-5, 269, Concordia —Moore certainly has an NFL frame and his 33 career sacks are impressive; he’ll be looking to make a major leap in competition.
Round 6/206 — Jemea Thomas, CB, 5-9, 192, Georgia Tech —Thomas is an undersized tweener with experience at both safety and corner. He’ll probably compete in the nickel in the NFL and on special teams, but as a four-year college starter brings solid experience to the next level.
Round 7/244 — Jeremy Gallon, WR, 5-7, 187, Michigan —Gallon had a highly productive final season for the Wolverines with 89 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns, but his undersized build and average hands make him a question mark at the next level.