Ryan L. Fox
Well it’s about to happen Patriots fans. The Brady Era is starting to come to an end. With the clock running down on the 20-year veteran quarterback, the New England Patriots need to find his replacement soon. Over the years, they tried to draft and develop quarterbacks to take over when Brady finally decides to hang up the cleats. But everyone one of those quarterbacks didn’t pan out or left the team (either by trade or free agency).
Now with the legendary QB turning 42 prior to the start of the 2019 NFL Regular Season and his contract status up in the air, it’s clear that the Patriots needed to get his replacement or become a meddling franchise. However they might have found him in the 2019 NFL Draft in the form of University of Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham.
Full Name: Jarret Ryan Stidham
Date of Birth: August 8, 1996
Birthplace: Corbin, Kentucky
Age Going into 2019 NFL Regular Season: 23
Acquired: Drafted in 4th Round by the New England Patriots (133rd overall) during 2019 NFL Draft
School: University of Auburn
Background Prior to College
Stidham attended Stephenville High School in Stephenville, Texas. He was recruited as a 4-Star recruit according to Rivals.com and ESPN and a 5-star recruit by Scout Media and 247Sports coming out of high school and was ranked as the 6th best dual-threat QB in his class after a strong senior year (183-of-260 for 2,934 yards and 35 TDs and 969 yards rushing for 15 TDs) in 2014. Stidham originally committed to Texas Tech University but then changed it and went to Baylor University
Stidham began his collegiate career in 2015 as a backup QB to Seth Russell at Baylor. After Russell suffered a season-ending neck injury, Stidham took over as a true freshman QB. Over the course of the season, Stidham ended up battling through a variety of different injuries (back, hand, ankle) before being sidelined after a game against Oklahoma State with an ankle injury (later found out as a chipped bone in his ankle) and missing the remainder of the season, including the 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl. However he finished the 2015 season going 75-of-109 (68.8 completion %) for 1265 yards, 12 TDs, 2 INTs, as well as chipping in 36 carries for 70 yards and 2 TDs.
Stidham’s Baylor career, however was cut short due to the sex abuse scandal at Baylor involving the football team. Stidham ended up transferring out of Baylor and into McLennan Community College for 2016. After one semester at McLennan, Stidham then transferred to Auburn University for 2017.
After being named the starting QB, Stidham lead the Auburn Tigers to a 10-3 regular season record, including going 7-1 in the SEC Western division and being ranked as high as No. 4 overall in the country in the AP polls (they finished 2017 at No. 10 overall). This also included wins over (at the time) No. 2 ranked University of Georgia (40-17 on 11/11) and No. 1 University of Alabama (26-14 during the ‘Iron Bowl’ on 11/25). However Auburn ended up losing to Georgia in the SEC Championship game 28-7 as the Tigers ended up facing the University of Central Florida in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day in 2018. During the Peach Bowl, Stidham went 28-for-43 with 331 yards passing, 1 TD, and 2 INTs as the Auburn fell to UCF on final score of 34-27 to end the 2017 season with a final record of 10-4. His 2017 season totals were as followed: completing 246-of-370 (66.5 completion %) for 3,158 yards, 18 TDs, and 6 INTs to go along with 103 carries for 153 yards and 4 TDs.
Stidham looked to build off his strong 2017 season with a strong campaign in 2018. However it was not meant to be. Plagued by offensive woes and mediocre coaching, Auburn ended up finishing the season unranked in the AP polls (after being ranked No. 9 overall prior to the start of the season) with a mediocre regular season record of 7-5. Stidham finished the year, going 224-for-369 (60.7 completion %) for 2,794 yards, 18 TDS, and 5 INTs to go along with 72 carries for 1 yard and 3 TDs as his Auburn Tigers ended up being invited to play Purdue University in the Music City Bowl on 12/28.
Prior to that game, Stidham announced on December 4 that he would forgo his final year of eligibility at Auburn and declared for the 2019 NFL Draft. In his last game in his collegiate career, Stidham had one of his best performances. He stat line for the game was 15-for-21 for 373 yards and 5 TDs as Auburn rolled over Purdue on the final score of 63-17 to win the Music City Bowl and finish the 2018 season at 8-5.
NFL Combine & NFL Scouting
Stidham was invited to participate in the 2019 NFL Combine. He posted the following measurable numbers:
40 Yard Dash: 4.81 seconds
Vertical Jump: 31.0 in
Broad Jump: 110.0 in
3 Cone Drill: 7.28 seconds
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.33 seconds
NFL scouting reports said that he had the physical attributes of an NFL QB (i.e. adequate size and arm strength), could decipher opposing defenses, had good footwork and mechanics from the pocket, had a ‘clean, tight spiral’, and much more.
Unfortunately scouting reports also mentioned that Stidham had a hard time recognizing pre-snap blitz packages from the defense, can ‘become antsy and unsure due to excessive pressure’, had a ‘below-average deep ball accuracy’, and won’t be able to beat NFL defenses with arm strength alone.
Because of his down year in 2018 compared to 2017, Stidham’s draft stock was affected by it. However many scouts attributed Stidham’s decline in 2018 to an assortment of many factors (i.e. bad offensive line, bad offensive weapons, poor coaching, etc).
Coming into the 2019 NFL draft, Stidham was ranked as the 6th best QB prospect coming out of college. Many draft analysts thought that he would be a Day 3 pick and slotted him being taken in the 4th round.
When Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft came on April 27, Stidham waited until it was time for the Los Angeles Rams to pick at 31st in the round. However prior to the pick, the New England Patriots swung a trade with the Rams to move up to the 31st pick and ended up drafting Stidham.
He then signed a 4 yr/ $3,153,692 rookie deal with the Patriots on May 10. This deal included a $633,692 signing bonus and $633,692 guaranteed at signing.
2019 NFL Pre-Season
So far it’s been a good preseason for Stidham during his time with the New England Patriots. There were some concerns about accuracy and timing with receivers at the beginning of camp but that was expected.
Many Patriots beatwriters and media people were enamoured with Stidham’s release of the ball as well as his spiral. One Patriots beatwriter even came out and said that Stidham was ‘better than Jimmy Garoppolo at this point in camp.’
Of course it’s easy to make those observations in training camp when they are in pads and shorts. It’s another when it’s in an actual game setting.
On Thursday, the Patriots took on the Detroit Lions in preaseason action at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.
Stidham didn’t get into the game until 8:18 left in the 2nd quarter and with the team up 20-0. On his first drive starting at the Detroit 20, Stidham went 2-for-2 for 17 yards, including the drive ending touchdown. He also had a 10 yard scramble on that same drive as well.
The rookie out of Auburn ended up playing for the remainder of the entire game, going 14-for-24 for 179 yards, 1 TD, and also had 4 carries for 16 yards as well.
It was easy to see why the Patriots wanted the rookie QB out of Auburn. He showed off his arm strength for a couple medium and deep throws and the ball spiral from his release looked very clean and tight.
And even though scouting reports said that Stidham was ‘skiddish’ under pressure, the few instances that he did face pressure in the game were the complete opposite. He looked very poise, waiting in the pocket until his receiver got clear in his route before throwing the ball. Stidham took a couple of hits from an oncoming defender but was able to hold his own. When a receiver was not open and he faced pressure, Stidham wisely rolled out to throw the ball away rather than take a sack or force a bad throw into tight coverage.
Not to mention that a majority of his incompletions were actually due to receivers not able to hold onto the ball. One instance of this was on a 2nd and 11 from the Detroit 26 in the 3rd quarter. Stidham was able to deliver a pass to WR Maurice Harris that would have been a touchdown but Maurice ended up bobbling the ball before ultimately dropping it.
Even though it was the first preseason game, Stidham was able to justify the Patriots selection of him.
In the past, most people would just write someone like Stidham off as a “JAB” (Just Another Backup) to Brady. But for perhaps the first time in many years, there is some uncertainty with TB12. There are more and more reports of him squabbling with the team over his contract (his current “contract extension” of 2 yr/$70-million can become null and void at the beginning of the 2020 NFL season and Patriots won’t take a cap hit) and he will be an unprecedented 43 years old.
With the way Stidham has looked so far in training camp and in his first preseason game, the signs can point to him being the ‘heir-apparent’. He has the physical fundamentals of being an NFL QB with his size, arm talent, and work ethic. Being in the Patriots organization with their high quality coaching (i.e. Josh McDaniels on offense, Bill Belichick as head coach, and Dante Scarnecchia as offensive line coach) and the ability to sit behind an all-time great QB can be what Stidham needs to help curb his negative tendencies that plagued him at Auburn.
Regardless of what happens between the Patriots and Brady, the team knows they have a competent QB waiting in the wings who could blossom into a potential franchise QB.
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