INDIANAPOLIS — The 2018 quarterback class, considered one of the strongest and richest in talent in some time, assembled for the NFL scouting combine. This weekend, many of the prospects were on display showing off their passing skills.

It’s no secret the New England Patriots again need to draft the successor to Tom Brady, even he continues to defy Father Time. The belief is Brady’s heir apparent will be found in this draft, given the available bounty of arms.

“They won’t draft a guy they don’t believe in. They believed in (Jimmy) Garoppolo, that’s why it worked,” said Charley Casserly, an NFL Network analyst. “If there’s a guy that’s sitting there they believe in, that’s real important. The percentage of getting a successful quarterback after the first round isn’t very high. They’ve beaten the odds with Garoppolo and Brady, which is a credit. Perhaps they’ll beat the odds again.”

So who might it be?

Let’s look at six potential candidates:

1. Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State): He’s 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, and in the view of noted quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr., who has worked with Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, would be the most suitable heir and understudy to Brady.


He’s a downfield, play-action passer who excels at reading the field.

“He’s an accomplished passer, accurate, sees the field well, a big kid and a winner,” Whitfield said. “He played in inclement weather there in Oklahoma. He plays level, consistent, and he’s talented.”

Rudolph’s father Brett played at North Carolina in the 1980s. His brother Logan was recruited to play outside linebacker for Clemson last season.

The four-year starter led the FBS with 377 passing yards per game (4,904 total), completing 65 percent of his passes. He finished among the best in the country with 37 touchdowns with just nine interceptions.

“I just think Mason Rudolph, to me, if we’re talking the New England spectrum, he’d be a good fit,” Whitfield said.

“He was a high volume passer. And they had to win based on what he was able to do. Not all the quarterbacks take the field thinking, ‘I have to be great today for us to have a chance to win.’ He had to lead the charge week in and week out. It’s a different type of mentality.”


2. Luke Falk (Washington State): The 6-4, 225-pounder completed 68 percent of his passes with 14,000-plus yards and 119 touchdowns over four years.

He dealt with a left wrist injury last season and continues to wear a cast on that hand. He met with the Patriots at the Senior Bowl.

“I like Luke Falk. He’s at the tip of the spear when he plays in the Pac-12. A lot of games played and won,” Whitfield said. “A lot of throws and a lot of decisions. I just think he’s accrued a lot of experience, a lot like Mason. He has a good foundation.”

A three-year starter with a high football IQ, Falk has modeled his game after Brady.

“I definitely try to emulate Brady,” Falk said. “I think he’s just the best at what he does. He’s definitely a good guy to try to model your game after.”

3. Mike White (Western Kentucky): In high school he had aspirations of becoming a major league pitcher after being named a Louisville Slugger All-American as a junior (9-2, 0.43 ERA). But as a quarterback he led his team to a state title, and now he’s hoping his five-year college career convinces enough people he can make it as an NFL starter.


He certainly has passing talent.

“He has a big arm and he’s another high volume guy,” Whitfield said

“If there was a model, or a model in the mold of Brady, these guys, White, Falk, Rudolph, all kind of have that model. They’re bigger in stature, high volume passers, accomplished passers, and all of them make sense for the Patriots in their offense.”

White had a completion rate of 66.4 percent and a 63:15 touchdown-to-interception ratio over the past two seasons.

4. Kyle Lauletta (Richmond): He checks off a lot of boxes on Bill Belichick’s card when it comes to intangibles. He played high school lacrosse, a sport Belichick also loves. Even better, Lauletta’s father and uncle played football at Navy.

Belichick has a fondness for that institution; his father Steve was a longtime scout and and coach for Navy. Belichick also wasn’t shy bringing another small-school quarterback aboard from the FCS. Garoppolo, of course, arrived from Eastern Illinois.


As for his skill, Lauletta was a 63.5 percent passer with 10,465 yards in his college career. The 6-3, 215-pounder threw 73 TDs with 35 interceptions.

Lauletta, the Senior Bowl MVP, has a quick release and what amounts to an evolving game. A two-time team captain, he’s been compared favorably to Garoppolo.

“I’ve watched him quite a bit,” Lauletta said of Garoppolo. “I definitely see some similarities. He’s obviously an FCS guy. He has quick feet. He’s accurate. He’s an outstanding leader from the sound bites I’ve seen. As a quarterback, you have to be a great communicator and Jimmy is.

“It just seems like he has a mojo to him, a little bit of a swagger to him, that is infectious. He’s a player I’d love to model my game around.”

5. Logan Woodside (Toledo): An NFL Network analyst, Mike Mayock, throws Woodside’s hat in the ring, listing him as a potential option with the Patriots. He has him a notch below Rudolph, Falk and White.

Woodside had a very productive career at Toledo, passing for more than 8,000 yards and 36 touchdowns the past two seasons. He’s only 6-2, 201 pounds, which might work against him. He’s a late-round proposition or perhaps a priority free agent.


What he has going for him is a grittiness and determination to succeed. He’s been an underdog since high school and keeps proving people wrong thanks to his competitiveness and ability to deliver the ball in the right place. He also has a quick release, something that’s set Brady and Garoppolo apart.

Whitfield, who runs a quarterback training academy, said he’s watched Woodside a lot.

“He’s tough and competitive. Those are the first two things that jump out,” Whitfield said. “He’s smaller but he’s more of a playmaker. I don’t know if he stands in with a Mike White or a Falk or a Mason Rudolph throw-for-throw. But he’s someone if they went the route of using however many draft picks they have on other positions, that would be a guy you could see them getting as a priority free agent.”

Woodside’s arm is said to be average but he has good football acumen. He’s thrown 73 touchdown passes over the past two seasons.

6. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma): On the slim chance Mayfield somehow slips down the board and is available when the Patriots pick at No. 31 in the first round, or even by more of a miracle in the second round, we’ll list him in the group.

He may not have Brady-like size at 6-0, 218, but has everything else.


“What makes me the best option? Accuracy, I can make any throw,” Mayfield said. “Winning, that’s the most important, but the way I’ve been able to get my guys around me to play, not just the offensive players around me, the other 10 guys, but defensive guys, special teams, the energy I bring, the passion I bring, it’s infectious. So you can ask anybody on that Oklahoma staff, that’s what I bring to the table and it helps us out.”

But Mayfield has had some off-field issues that might cause some teams to shy away.

“His tape is really good. He’s close to a 70 percent completion guy. I’m not too worried about him being 6-foot or 6-1, even though there is a very small percentage of those quarterbacks,” Mayock said. “I think it really comes down to off the field, face-to-face, in the meeting rooms, with the decision-makers whether or not you’re going to buy into his character and him being the face of your franchise. I think there are going to be some teams that say ‘no, I’ve seen some talent but it’s not my guy.’ I think some other teams are going to say it’s no biggie, maybe some emotional competitive immaturity, but outside of that I’m good.”

Said Whitfield: “He’s the most accurate passer here.”

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