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Ryan Mallett To Patriots In 2011 NFL Draft Shocks, Impresses

Every year there's a player who seems to just keep falling and falling and falling. This year, that player was quarterback Ryan Mallett out of Arkansas, who fell from being a possible first rounder all the way to the Patriots at pick no. 74. 

Initially, this must be a kick in the teeth to Mallett. He's not getting nearly as big a payday, and barring an injury, has little shot at starting for years--at least on the Patriots. But as Mocking the Draft's Jon Dove points out, this could be the best thing to happen to the quarterback:

This is the best landing spot for Ryan Mallettbecause he lands in a stable franchise. Mallett will have the time to mature and learn how to be a true pro. The Patriots have taken on character concerns with Randy Moss and that worked out well.

Richard Hill of Pats Pulpit concurs, adding that there's just not much downside to the pick:

Mallett is the greatest quarterback, with respect to football skills and measurables, in the entire draft- bar none. I like Ponder for his NFL readiness, but Mallett has all the tools. In my evaluation of quarterbacks, Mallett ranked low as a result of little experience and, with that experience, a need to better read defenses. With Mallett sitting on the bench behind Brady for a couple years, there is no way this is a bad deal.

1) If Brady deteriorates in a couple years, Mallett will be ready in the wings.

2) If Brady does not deteriorate, Mallett can be traded for a draft pick (he cost a third rounder, which the Patriots have no problem releasing for free).

3) If Brady ends gracefully, Mallett will have experience and be ready to step right on the field.

As for Bill Belichick, who has been rumored to have had Mallett leading the position on his draft board, it was an easy choice, as he explained to Mike Mayock on NFL Network Friday night:

We thought there was real good value on the board there with Ryan. He's had an excellent college career, both at Michigan and then at Arkansas ... Won a lot of games in high school, his father was a coach. He's a football guy, he comes from a football family, which I think I can relate to. He's a good football player -- he was great value for us based on what else was on the board a that point in time, so we felt comfortable taking him .

We'll let him compete with our other quarterbacks on the team and see where it all goes. We've all seen when you don't have depth at that position, it can be a very big problem for your team. Hopefully we have it now.

Right now, Mallett fills no holes for the team, and likely isn't even all that great of an NFL player. But those two "qualities" are what makes him a perfect choice for the Pats. As loathe as we may be to admit it, Tom Brady cannot last forever. One day he will be too old to really cut it anymore. When that day comes, the Patriots will need the kind of replacement that can only be found early in the first round, or with years of preparation. 

There's no better place for Mallett and his character issues to come than New England, with a locker room and coach that will hold him accountable. There aren't many quarterbacks better to learn from than Tom Brady. There's no better situation for him, in the long run, than on a team where he will be afforded a few years to sit, learn, and grow. 

It's kind of a perfect fit. First-round talent, and in a few years, first-class preparation.