The Patriots are preparing to face the Ravens in Week 3 of the 2022 NFL season, and Bill Belichick is taking this opportunity to praise Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Belichick was asked about Jackson’s performance both this season and to date during his NFL career at a news conference on Wednesday. Specifically, he was asked whether Jackson had answered the concerns about his ability to succeed within the pocket.
Belichick believes that he has “without a doubt” and was effusive in his praise of Jackson.
“It’s the type of the player, the MVP type of candidate,” Belichick said of Jackson. “I think he’s more than answered them. But, we’ll see what his contract is, that will answer them.”
Belichick’s comments, along with reminders of Jackson’s pre-draft visit with the Patriots, has sparked questions about why New England didn’t select him during the 2018 NFL Draft.
New England had two first-round picks, including the No. 31 selection, which was just one pick ahead of where Jackson was drafted by the Ravens. The team also showed an interest in Jackson throughout the draft process.
So, why didn’t the Patriots draft Lamar Jackson? Here’s a look back at the 2018 NFL Draft and the Patriots’ plans at quarterback during that time.
Lamar Jackson’s pre-draft visit with the Patriots
By all accounts, Jackson had a good pre-draft visit with the Patriots. Belichick was asked about it ahead of Week 3 and explained that he enjoyed the time he spent with Baltimore’s quarterback.
“It was a great visit,” he said. “Spent a lot of time with him. He’s a really interesting guy.”
How good was Jackson’s visit to New England? Jackson explained that the notoriously stoic Belichick smiled when the two met; the veteran passer admitted that caught him off-guard.
“I saw Coach Belichick smile,” Jackson told reporters on Wednesday. “Usually I see him and he [has a] straight face. When I saw him smile, I was like ‘Dang, you’ve got humor.’ I told him that. He was like, ‘Yeah.’ I’m like, ‘I wasn’t expecting you to be smiling.'”
So, the visit went well and the Patriots had a need for a long-term successor behind Brady, as Jimmy Garoppolo had been traded during the regular season. Still, they didn’t take Jackson in spite of their interest in his skill set. They continued to roll with Brian Hoyer as their backup quarterback during the 2018 season.
Why didn’t the Patriots draft Lamar Jackson?
The Patriots were asked point-blank why they didn’t select Jackson on Day 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft. Per usual, the organization didn’t offer much insight into its inner workings.
Nick Caserio was the team’s de facto GM at the time of the 2018 NFL Draft. He acknowledged the team had discussed Jackson but ultimately decided to go with some other players on the board that they liked.
“There’s a lot of things that we talked about,” Caserio said, per the Boston Globe. “Our process is pretty thorough. We spend a lot of time on a lot of different players. There’s a lot [of] players we talked about so we picked a couple of players tonight. We have an opportunity in the second round to pick another two players if we stay and pick or if we have some opportunities to potentially move some things around.
There’s a lot of discussion about a lot of players. We can only pick so many. In this case, we can only pick two. Sometimes, you can only pick one. We talk about a lot of guys on a pretty regular basis. It’s pretty fluid. In the end, we just try to pick the players we feel are best for us.
Caserio also explained that the team was evaluating its board as the draft went along. When they were on the clock in the first round, they thought there were still good quarterbacks on the board they could select outside of the first round, even with Jackson on the board.
“Are there some quarterbacks left in the draft? Oh, there is. Look, there’s a lot of good players at a lot of different positions,” Caserio said. “We’ll go back through and recalibrate here [Friday] morning. We’ll kind of take an assessment of where we are and we’ll get ready to go here for tomorrow afternoon or tomorrow evening, I guess, and then we’ll talk about it tomorrow night and you can ask me the same question if we’re in the same position.”
The Patriots were in the same position following Day 2 of the draft. And despite only having Brian Hoyer to back up Brady, New England didn’t spend a selection on a quarterback until the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft. They took Danny Etling to serve as their third-stringer.
Etling had good mobility in college, but he has been a far cry from Jackson as a pro. Etling has played quarterback and receiver but has never stuck on an NFL roster. He has been on seven total teams since being drafted.
Meanwhile, Jackson has been MVP once and has used his combination of passing and rushing ability to turn himself into one of the NFL’s most dynamic quarterbacks.
Who did the Patriots select instead of Lamar Jackson?
The two selections that the Patriots had before Jackson was selected in the 2018 NFL Draft were the Nos. 23 and 31 picks. The team took two offensive players out of Georgia with those selections.
The first pick was Georgia offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn. He was a great college left tackle, but concerns about his size (6-2, 310 pounds) and length dropped him outside of the top 20. To date, he has struggled with injuries and has played just 36 games (35 starts) over five seasons. He has been good at times, but his lacking consistency has also caused problems for the Patriots’ offense.
The other Georgia player selected was running back Sony Michel, who went with the 31st pick. Michel served as a solid power back and backfield leader for the Patriots as a rookie but has regressed in seasons since.
Michel never topped the 931 rushing yards he logged as a rookie in 2018, but his 336-yard, six-touchdown marks in the 2019 postseason helped carry the Patriots to a Super Bowl championship. He played just three years with the Patriots and won another Super Bowl with the Rams last season. He is hoping to do the same with the Dolphins.
Below is a look at the Patriots’ full haul from the 2022 NFL Draft.
2018 NFL Draft
Five quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft overall. Jackson was arguably the best value pick as the final selection of Round 1.
Below is a look at the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with the five quarterbacks selected listed in bold.
Leighton Vander Esch
San Diego State