Behind Patriots' Ryan Mallett strategy

Former Arkansas QB could become valuable trade bait down the road

Originally Published: April 30, 2011
By Seth Wickersham | ESPN Insider
Ryan MallettMatthew Stockman/Getty ImagesRyan Mallett dropped to the third round but he is considered the draft's best passer.

If you're wondering why the New England Patriots picked former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, it's not that complicated. He makes New England better, in the short term and long term.

No? Well, first consider what the Patriots got: At the league's most important position -- the most valuable position -- they picked the top-ranked pure passer on not only their own board, according to Adam Schefter, but on other teams' boards, too. They got a bargain in terms of third-round value and salary. Nobody knows what the presumed rookie scale will be, but let's say Mallett signs a deal for $1.25 million a year. When was the last time a team drafted its top-ranked QB that cheap?

Mallett could come into Foxborough well-capable of beating out Brian Hoyer as Tom Brady's backup. And that position has currency. Can Mallett win games? Nobody knows. But if he does, every team in the NFL will be watching and wondering what type of trade it will take to pry Mallett away, just as it worked with Matt Cassel.

Seth Wickersham | email

ESPN The Magazine senior writer
Seth Wickersham joined ESPN The Magazine after graduating from the University of Missouri. Although he primarily covers the NFL, his assignments also have taken him to the Athens Olympics, the World Series, the NCAA tournament and the NHL and NBA playoffs.