Bill Belichick instructs all of his scouts to not overlook senior back-ups at major universities. It is for this reason that New England took a close look at USC’s back-up quarterback, Matt Cassel, at the school’s pro-day in preparation for the 2005 NFL Draft.
Cassel displayed a live arm and looked like a good athlete at the pro-day and New England decided to spend a 7th round draft choice on the backup to Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.
New England’s attention to detail and following their hunch have paid off. Cassel has stepped in for an injured Tom Brady and been solid (156 completions in 233 attempts (67%), 2,200 passing yards, 10 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and 1 rushing score). The Pats are 6-4 and very much in the playoff hunt despite some devastating injuries.
Is there another Matt Cassel available in the 2009 NFL Draft? ESPN magazine did a story recently on Chase Daniel’s back-up, Chase Patton, at Missouri. Patton was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school with offers to play at UCLA, Kansas State, Tennessee, Iowa and Virginia among others. He decided to stay in state and attend Missouri. He was expected to be the starter for the Tigers, but struggled to learn the spread attack installed early in his career. Chase Daniel ran the spread in high school and outplayed Patton for the starting job. Patton has been a backup at Missouri for the past four years. Interestingly, Patton has better measurables than Daniel does as far as being a potential NFL quarterback. He has good size (6’ 4”, 228 pounds) and a stronger arm than Daniel. However, there are numerous questions that surround Patton (none bigger than can he play the position?). Why did he decide not to transfer and play elsewhere? Baltimore’s, Joe Flacco, decided to transfer from Pitt to Delaware because he wanted to start. Patton is a very good student and has been accepted to dental school. How important is football to him? Does he have a burning desire to play in the NFL?
An early knock on Patton was he had difficulty forgetting about negative plays in practice. Does he have the mental make-up to lead a team at the most critical position?
Chase Patton is the most interesting back-up quarterback that will be available in the upcoming draft. His private workout for NFL teams will be critical and determine whether he is worth a late round draft choice. Cassel’s success improves Patton’s chances to be drafted by a team that is willing to take a shot on developing a player with raw ability that has not played much.