Ryan Mallett hasn't been heard from much since he entered the NFL. Taken in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, he slid because of character concerns and alleged drug use. Based on ability, most analysts projected that Mallett would be a first round impact QB who could be the best in his draft class if not for his off field issues. This is what the Patriots obviously saw when they selected him. Mallett is young and smart, but Brady will seemingly not be going anywhere for a while after his recent contract extension. With this in mind, I think it is fair to ask whether Mallett will be the next starting quarterback of the Patriots.
As much as Patriots fans hate to admit it, Tom Brady is getting older and he has said that he would like to play until he is 40 years old. If you trust him at his word, that would mean that Brady would call it quits in 2017, four years from now. The Patriots would have to decide at that time who Brady's successor would ultimately be. If you are wondering, by the time Brady turns 40, Mallett will have just turned 29 years of age. That is around the age where most successful quarterbacks are really starting to come into their own. Who better to take over the position than a guy who is still young and has been learning from Brady and Belichick for two years?
As for Ryan Mallett on the field, he has been blessed with alot of talent. Although he is slow, he has a cannon for an arm, arguably the strongest in the NFL. Despite his slow speed, he has shown he can escape from the pocket both at Arkansas and in the Preseason with the Patriots. He makes all of the right reads, has a great football IQ, is tall, has big hands and possesses a large wingspan. His height and wingspan are especially useful because he can see over the defense easier, making use of the whole field with his eyes. In addition, he can lift the football high in the air given his long arms. If he can learn ball security, this should help him avoid fumbling in the NFL when opposing defenses try to strip sack him or he takes off to scramble out of the pocket. In some ways, both athletically and when it comes to smarts, he is very similar to Brady. At 6'6'' 245 lbs he is a mountain of a man and he towers over the legendary Tom Brady who is 6'4'' 225 lbs. They both have similar 40 times too as Brady runs a 5.28 and Mallett runs a 5.37. As for his smarts, if you saw any of the 2011 pre draft coverage showed on ESPN you know ho much he knows about football. Mallett broke down game film with Jon Gruden and he knew everything Gruden was going to throw at him. As someone who can retain alot of information, and having Belichick and Brady as mentors, Mallett should be able to pick opposing defenses apart in a few years as Brady does now.
Regarding his weaknesses, he needs to learn better accuracy in the NFL, which should come with time. Especially, on touch passes the ball tends to sail over receivers' heads more often than he would like. Another problem with Mallett so far is that he throws the ball too hard on short throws sometimes. Two specific examples come to mind, both in the preseason for the Patriots. In the first example, Mallett threw a rocket to former Patriots receiver Taylor Price when he was only a few yards away coming over the middle. The throw sailed a little bit and Price got slammed by an oncoming defender while trying to make the catch. This not only could have severly injured Price, but it also caused him to drop the pass. The other example was when he threw a pass to former Pats WR Buddy Farnham over the middle. The ball went off of his hands because he anticipated a softer pass instead of a rocket out of Mallet's hand. He must learn to take some velocity off of his short throws if he wants to be a successful NFL QB.
With all that said, I believe that Ryan Mallett is a future star in the league but he has alot of work to do to get there. It would be a big mistake if the Patriots trade him as he can be the heir apparent to Tom Brady. If you are the Patriots, why would you trade a player with Mallett's potential for a 2nd round pick or possibly less, when you have an aging QB in Brady and Mallett is only 25 years old. If the worst were to happen and Brady were to have a season ending injury, Mallett would be a nice security blanket to have step in. Tim Tebow makes things interesting as well but he has not yet learned the system and would create a huge circus as starting QB for the Patriots. Keeping Mallett as the backup through the Brady era only makes sense for the Patriots to be able to contend in the future.