It was difficult to project exactly where quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would go in the 2014 NFL draft since he was coming from Eastern Illinois, which is an FCS program.
The Patriots evidently feel confident that Garoppolo can be the future face of the franchise, as they selected him in the second round with the No. 62 overall pick.
Despite the long shadow cast by those former Panthers signal-callers, however, the recent NFL draftee carved out his own legacy. As a senior in 2013, Garoppolo threw for a whopping 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns against just nine interceptions, and he also completed 66 percent of his passes.
At 6'2" and 226 pounds, he has enough bulk to absorb punishment at the NFL level, and he also has adequate arm strength and a very quick release. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport spoke with a scout who compared Garoppolo to Matt Hasselbeck:
Pats took Garoppolo at 62.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) May 10, 2014
Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com also offered a glowing review of Garoppolo, praising his intelligence and ability to grasp concepts:
E. Ill. QB Jimmy Garoppolo is an intriguing prospect to talk about. Best pro comparison from scout: Matt @Hasselbeck. “You can win with him”— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 14, 2014
But Garoppolo—small-school competition aside—wasn't without his doubters in the predraft process, which included NBC Sports Network's Josh Norris and Bleacher Report NFL draft expert Matt Miller:
I think what most don't know about Jimmy Garoppolo is how intelligent he is. Quick thinker, digests and retains information very well— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) April 10, 2014
This might not be something you hear often, but the more I watch Jimmy Garoppolo, the less I like.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) April 14, 2014
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco capped off an excellent 2012 postseason by leading his team to a Super Bowl XLVII triumph and winning the game's MVP award. Flacco came from the FCS, as he was chosen in the first round of the 2008 draft out of Delaware, which provides recent proof that a top-notch quarterback can be found at that level.
Unfortunately for Garoppolo, he'll likely garner comparisons to the likes of Romo and Flacco, which may be difficult to live up to. But New England evidently feels as though he's ready to handle the pressure, and basedup on his collegiate production and the tools he possesses, there's plenty of promise to suggest that he can be a viable NFL starter.
I anticipate this going over like a fart in church...but I like AJ McCarron more than Jimmy Garoppolo.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 11, 2014
Leading up to the draft, if there was an opportunity available for Garoppolo to strut his stuff, he took advantage of it. He performed well at the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl before throwing at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The exposure really helps a small school guy like me. It’s tough for us to get our names out there. We’re not always on ESPN and on TV and everything like that, so every little bit of exposure like that helps me and helps get my name out there. Playing well in both the games really helped me too throughout the week and everything and mentally helped me too. Just getting ready for that pro-style offense, that NFL style practice every week and all of that just adds up.
So it seems that despite his modest collegiate roots, the spotlight isn't something Garoppolo is shying away from. That will be critical as he makes the transition to the pros, because there isn't a much bigger stage in North American sports than the NFL. Since quarterback is also the most important position, it takes a strong, secure personality to lead a team.
All indications are that Garoppolo has that. Intangibles are the most difficult elements to diagnose when scouting an NFL draft prospect, but Garoppolo did enough to sway the Patriots to tab him as their potential quarterback of the future.
As long as Garoppolo can hone his mechanics, proves he can fit the ball into smaller windows in the pros and embraces his role as a leader, the Patriots will be thankful that they took a moderate risk in selecting him.