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Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Looking at Mallett and backup QBs

By Field Yates

Earlier today, colleague Mike Reiss shared comments from ESPN's NFL Insider Adam Schefter explaining the Patriots sentiments towards reserve quarterback Ryan Mallett, their 2011 third-round pick. The Patriots are high on the 24-year old, and their confidence in him was confirmed when he was the lone backup to Tom Brady on the roster last season.

Carrying just two quarterbacks is something the Patriots have done with regularity under Bill Belichick, and have often done so with a young signal caller backing up Brady (e.g. Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer, and now Mallett).

A roster with just two quarterbacks is not entirely uncommon around the NFL, as teams such as the Texans, Saints, Ravens, Broncos (until Caleb Hanie was acquired late in the season) and Packers also used a similar model with an established veteran backed-up by a young quarterback with limited experience in 2012.

The two-quarterback system goes against what some associated with conventional roster construction of having three quarterbacks, including a reserve with starting experience.

It appears that teams have grown more comfortable with developing young quarterbacks to serve as backups and plugging them in when needed in the event of an injury or poor play from a starter (the 49ers reaped the benefits of developing Colin Kaepernick when he was called upon to replace Alex Smith this season).

With the Combine upon us and the draft around the corner, quarterback prospects will come under focus. This year's class is considered far inferior to last year's that produced Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill, but there are still players with promise who may need time to develop.

Given the success of teams using just two quarterbacks on their roster, one of which is a developmental prospect, teams may invest in these draft prospects with an eye towards the future (like the Broncos did last year in drafting Brock Osweiler in the second round).

It all ties back to Mallett and the question posed to Schefter about potentially trading him. He described the Patriots as being "in a good spot" with a player they are high on and one they view as a potential starter with other teams. With just reserve/future signing Mike Kafka as the only other quarterback on the roster, the Patriots would need to address the quarterback spot in the event of a Mallett trade.

Given that the quarterback class in this draft is not particularly highly-regarded, Mallett's name could continue to pop up in trade speculation, as at 24, acquiring him would be close to adding a rookie.

For now, because of his development and skill set, Mallett is an important player to keep an eye on, be it as a potential trade chip or long-term back-up to Tom Brady.