Teams whiff on early-first-round QBs all the time. For every Peyton Manning there is a Ryan Leaf. Its a bit of a crap shoot. You never really know how a guy is going to respond to the NFL environment. Is he going to struggle with the higher level of competition? The higher level of commitment it takes? Does he have any serious character flaws that will only reveal themselves when he suddenly has a 7-figure bank account? You just never know these things with draft prospects… you really don’t know if you’re drafting the next Peyton Manning or the next Ryan Leaf.
With Garoppolo, you have a guy who looks like he has as much potential as anyone you would take in the 1st round, but with far fewer unknowns. He’s done well on maybe the most demanding roster in the league. Those unknowns you have with a draft pick are mostly known for him. He’s been learning from the best QB in the history of the game.
And when the best QB in the history of the game got a 4 game suspension well in advance of the season, what happened? Were there any rumblings of the Patriots trying to find someone in free agency to play those 4 games? No. That Jimmy would start those games was the immediate and foregone conclusion. That tells you what the New England coaches think of him.
And when it came time to play those games, what happened? Well, the injury robbed him of a chance to fully prove himself… and the fact that he couldn’t get back on the field even for week 4 is maybe the only mark against him. But he still got 6 quarters against two of the better defenses in the league. And in those 6 quarters, where the Patriots offense was running with him instead of the greatest QB in the history of the game, how did the Patriots offense look? It looked pretty much the same to be honest. If you’d slapped a 12 on Garoppolo’s jersey, many observers would be none the wiser. In fact, in those two quarters against the Dolphins, he looked like Brady on a good day.
Does all this mean he’s just as good as Brady? No, that’s an incredibly high bar to clear. But does all of this mean he’s a more promising prospect than any QB in the Draft? Absolutely. He shows tons of potential, without as many unknowns as a draft prospect has. A GM has to ask themselves, what is the more promising use of my first round pick? A guy who has, if only briefly, looked just as good as Tom Brady at the NFL level? Or a guy who has only looked good in college so far? I’m taking the guy whose already looked good in NFL games over someone who might look good in NFL games.