A tough, young quarterback originally from Texas, Stidham is a big-armed passer with impressive physical and technical components to his game. Certain decision-makers will hope that he’s moldable clay that can be fired into a franchise quarterback.
Stidham flashes starter potential book-ended by a lot of technical, conceptual, and non-intuitive issues that will take time to address. Some of these flaws might be things that teams will have to live with, hoping it can mold a scheme around him to maximize return on investment.
He excels at the play-action game. Stidham demonstrated facility with all forms of drops. He can adjust his drop length and timing under pressure and throw off his back foot.
Evaluators will like how fast Stidham can get rid of the ball. In addition to his traditional, over-the-shoulder release, Stidham is comfortable using a three-quarter motion and can work with it in crowded pockets. He has the willingness and control to bring the ball down when he suspects a route isn’t breaking open.
Stidham cycles through his reads effectively. He attacks all ranges of the field but also has an appropriate sense of when to check to the outlet receiver.
While the tools are there, the craftsmanship is not. Stidham doesn’t account for ancillary coverage dropping to his intended target points. He gets reckless and too invested into plays that he prolongs when pressure drives him from the pocket.
When Stidham has a clean pocket, he can contemplate optimal leverage too long and delay his execution. This often results in Stidham holding the ball too long and taking too many steps before throwing it.
Another outcome is the tendency to turn away from routes that will break open. He doesn’t trust what he sees. His initial hesitation combined with pressure means he’ll miss opportunities to hitch and throw to an open area for a big play.
A good athlete, Stidham is slippery in the pocket. He will spin, duck, sidestep, or flush from pressure off the edge, and can slide from interior pressure while maintaining a position to throw the ball. When he’s pressured into a corner, he will throw the ball away to avoid a sack
Now that the Patriots are entering the post-Brady era, the first task is to take a look at the quarterback they drafted last year, when they surely must have been aware of the possibility of having a new starter in 2020. Our Matt Waldman gives his thoughts:
An overarching awareness that helps him process intelligently is missing from Stidham’s game. When pressured, he’s repeatedly incurred grounding penalties, because he wasn’t thinking about his location and the location of his teammates on the field.
Stidham will need on-field experience to develop his game. If he can prove that his issues aren't ingrained into his quarterbacking, he has the physical and technical skills of a starter. If these flaws are ingrained, Stidham's stint as a starter will be temporary.
My Thoughts on Stidham possibly starting in NE: The Patriots will do what it can to mold the offense to Stidham's strengths but if the Patriots offensive line struggles again, Stidham may author bigger plays than Brady as a scrambler and arm talent but he'll make more drive-altering mistakes.
If the Patriots can run the ball, Stidham's play-action prowess will be a helpful tool for New England to leverage. So will quick decisions where Stidham can get the ball out fast. Quick decisions have always been a big part of the Brady-led offense, but Brady deserves a significant part of that credit because he's a coach on the field.
Brady could keep an offense competitive without a core of offensive playmakers who could dominate one-on-one. Unless Stidham has developed his recognition and timing well beyond what he showed at Auburn, he'll need playmakers who can physically dominate matchups to help carry this offense.
If you're thinking about Matt Cassel as a template for Stidham remember that Cassel had Randy Moss and Wes Welker--the most dominant players of their generation at split end and the slot. Stidham doesn't have receivers anywhere near this level of talent.
Stidham deserves your attention and his progress should be monitored heavily this summer, but he is not fantasy-QB1 material. Until we see how free agency and the draft plays out, Stidham is a better bet as a late-round pick or waiver-wire selection.
Stidham was thought of as a much more coveted draft prospect coming into 2018, but a poor junior year torpedoed his draft stock. He was in an offense that also took a step back and clearly the Patriots and Josh McDaniels saw something they thought they could work with. Tom Brady couldn't elevate the Patriots offense last year. The team may look to Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, or perhaps let Stidham learn on the job. If they draft a quarterback, you'll surely want to read Matt's breakdown. For all of his 2020 scouting reports, check out the Rookie Scouting Portfolio