- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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With quarterback Johnny Manziel set to visit the Patriots on Wednesday, theories abound as to why the team would use one of its allotted 30 out-of-town visits on a player it almost certainly won't select.
A few thoughts:
Quarterback position in sharper focus this year. The Patriots currently have only two quarterbacks on their roster in Tom Brady (signed through 2017) and Ryan Mallett (signed through 2014). Because of this, it sets up a scenario in which the team is seeking the next young backup signal-caller for 2015 and beyond, similar to when Mallett was selected in the third round of the 2011 draft and spent that year as the No. 3 before graduating to the top backup spot the following year. Having the most complete information on Manziel and other top quarterbacks such as Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater will give the team the best overall view of the position when rating others, such as Georgia's Aaron Murray, LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Pittsburgh's Tom Savage, who are more likely options later in the draft.
Fascinating prospect. Manziel is one of the most unique prospects to come out of the draft in recent years. When a prospect is that far out of the traditional box, spending extra time with him can help a club gain a better understanding of why that is the case. Such a visit could also help the Patriots get a better feel for Manziel's value in the event he is unexpectedly on the board at No. 29 and there is trade interest. There is also the line of thinking that you might end up facing him down the line and such a visit could provide some form of insight in best preparing for that possibility, or that Manziel might have interesting things to say about other prospects of interest to the club.
Part of the draft process, but still a bit unusual. The Patriots don't do this every year with top quarterbacks. In fact, when Bill Belichick was talking about Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in 2012 prior to a game against Indianapolis, he specifically said, "Our scouting staff scouted him but I personally didn't do a lot of work on Luck. We weren't going to draft a quarterback in the first round and there was no chance he was going to be anywhere close to where our draft position was going to be. That wasn't a guy that I spent a lot of time studying other than looking at some of their other players and of course from the [conference], watching him against some of the defensive players that Stanford played."
So what makes Manziel's situation different than Luck's?
In the end, we'd put our chips closest to the idea that the Patriots would like to come away with a developmental quarterback in the draft to account for the likely departure of Mallett after the 2014 season. It almost certainly won't be Manziel, Bortles or Bridgewater, but when stacking the draft board and quarterback position specifically, having the best feel for it from top to bottom perhaps takes on added importance given the hope to address the position at some point in the draft.