By Tom E. Curran
In 2000, the Patriots plucked a plummeting quarterback who came to the NFL with something to prove. It worked out pretty well for the Patriots and Tom Brady. Friday night, the Patriots made a similar bid - albeit with a player who has different concerns. New England took Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett with the 74th pick in the draft. One pick before, New England took LSU running back Stevan Ridley, a 5-10, 225 pounder. But Mallett has become the most interesting story of this Patriots draft. Why Mallett, Bill Belichick was asked. "Felt like he was a good player," said Belichick. "Good production. He's won everywhere he's been. He's been a successful quarterback everywhere he's been."Mallett's had a litany of off-field concerns including drug use. During the runup to the draft Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki wrote that a source explained that Mallett "came clean" about drug usage. One G.M. said Mallett was the first quarterback ever to admit his drug usage to him in interviews, and his willingness to be honest about his past and acknowledge issues is viewed as a positive, Nawrocki wrote. Concerns about his history of use could impact his draft position, though.Nawrocki added, "Although Mallett did not produce an official positive test at Arkansas, he has been arrested for public intoxication and carries a reputation as a big party guy, per sources who have interviewed him. How much teams believe he has matured will weigh into his draft status.Asked about the off-field concerns, Belichick said, "Obviously we're comfortable with that."He added that, during the process, "We evaluate the total player. Height, work ethic, speed, whatever it is. Put it all together, try to put a grade or value on that player. Includes everything."Belichick praised Mallett as a student of the game, noting that - like Belichick, Mallett's father coaches the game."You either get sick of it or you marry into it and love it," Belichick explained. "Hehas a great thirst for knowledge for the position and for football."Mallett's arm strength, delivery and pocket presence are unquestioned. He's 6-foot-7 andthrows the ball with a remarkable amount of velocity.It will be fascinating to watch the progress of Mallett. The degree to which he's coddled or protected. The way teammates respond to him. The impact Brady has. And how his remarkable on-field abilities translate. A semi-boring draft just got a lot more interesting with Mallett.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran