By: Ethan Fuller
Featured image courtesy of FIU Athletics.
A preface: I didn’t plan to write about this year’s crop of quarterback prospects until around a month ago. As a New England resident and Patriots lifer, I felt too spoiled to think about any other starting quarterbacks until — well, you know.
The Patriots have stumbled upon their most critical draft in franchise history.
Without Tom Brady, the direction of New England’s offensive is unclear. Yes, the offensive line, linebacker rotation and tight end group need some depth. But for the first time since before even Drew Bledsoe, the Patriots have a blaring question mark under center.
Since Brady flew south, I have combed the 2020 class to find a realistic option for the Patriots. I like Jarrett Stidham, and I believe in Brian Hoyer, but I still would hope Bill Belichick uses one of his 85,943 draft picks on a quarterback.
We’re one round in and New England has not selected a player yet. But the guy I want is still buried in draft boards. James Morgan — a small-school, low-profile, slow-moving gunslinger — is the perfect fit for Belichick.
Morgan lit up the gridiron for Florida International University, a massive public college in Florida with the third-largest undergraduate population in the country. After two unproductive years at Bowling Green State, the 6-foot-4 quarterback exploded at FIU, throwing for over 2700 yards and 26 touchdowns against just seven picks as a redshirt junior.
His senior season was less spectacular, as Morgan only tallied 14 touchdowns against five interceptions. But scouts have generally attributed the decline in his scoring and completion rate to an unusually strong case of butterfingers from Morgan’s receivers.
The lowdown on Morgan: he is a tough, poised developmental quarterback with a powerful arm. Morgan can face down pressure and still throw a tight, accurate football to receivers. He’s not mobile, but he has shown fluidity in the pocket and a strong frame.
Morgan’s combination of accuracy and power makes him an exciting big-play quarterback. As The Draft Network‘s Joe Marino explains, he “can generate the velocity on the football needed to hit deep outs and fit the ball in tight windows.” In a few scouting reports, experts have actually criticized Morgan because he throws too hard on some underneath routes. It’s not the worst problem to have; Morgan’s ability to zip the football quickly is a serious plus in the Pats’ traditional quick-fire offense.
Decision-making has been the most common trouble area for the FIU senior. Analysts have noted that he can stumble through progressions at times and force the issue when plays extend. But if any coach can stamp home discipline, it’s Bill Belichick.
Morgan is not a major threat out of the pocket — he ran a 4.89 40-yard dash at the Combine — but he can slide around the pocket with ease. At 230 pounds, he’s also a physically imposing presence, and can move the pile on quarterback sneaks.
The collective profile does not make out Morgan as a futuristic NFL quarterback. That’s perfectly alright — as long as he works for Belichick, he should work for the Patriots.
Morgan’s Fit in New England
My WTBU counterparts, Brady Gardner and Patrick Donnelly, have already highlighted their preferred QB prospects. Brady has latched onto Georgia’s Jake Fromm as the pragmatic, smart choice. Patrick loves Jalen Hurts, the Oklahoma transfer whose leadership and versatility make him a modern pro.
My case for Morgan — and maybe I am romanticizing — is that this small-school, poised field general brings almost every parallel imaginable to Bill Belichick’s quarterback history.
To start, Belichick is unafraid to take players from unorthodox football programs, as evidenced by the 2014 selection of Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s also attracted to flamethrowers like Ryan Mallett and Jarrett Stidham.
Interestingly, Morgan also brings two key Brady-esque attributes: physical toughness and a rocket arm in the short-to-intermediate areas.
Morgan floats his deeper throws on occasion, as does Brady, but the FIU quarterback might have better vertical potential. With some development in reading NFL defenses, Morgan can fit a lot of what Brady’s role was with New England: move down the field surgically, limit mistakes, and sneak in very-short-yardage situations.
Most importantly, Morgan does not carry the baggage of expectations. Jalen Hurts and Jake Fromm are both well-known names in NFL circles and would carry some of their collegiate spotlights to New England. How many NFL fans know James Morgan well?
With the spotlight away from his rookie quarterback, Bill Belichick can groom Morgan to make a seamless transition into his offense without some of the pressure. Of course, he’d still be replacing Tom Brady. But unlike first round picks or college names who should be a starter, Morgan can enter a little more quietly — like another late-round pick did 20 years ago.
The projected range for Morgan is wide, ranging from the fourth to sixth rounds. But with Belichick loading up on picks, he has plenty of room to draft the FIU star. I’ll leave you with this quick-hit analysis from CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani. Reflect on this — it’s not glowing, but rather sounds eerily similar to the reports on a recently departed Patriot:
“He’s a player who has had a lot of playing time, he’s won a lot of games, was actually recruited more than most players that would go to FIU — but went in there, took over the job, battled some injuries, but I do think I like his accuracy and what he brings to the table from a leadership perspective. Again, a later-round pick who I think will be a guy that will make an NFL roster probably as a backup, but given the right circumstances, could find himself playing and maybe even playing himself into a longer career than most people think in the NFL.”
All James Morgan needs are the right circumstances.