The comparisons to a certain ex-Patriots quarterback were inevitable.
Kyle Lauletta is this year’s Jimmy Garoppolo, the draftniks say, pointing to the signal-callers’ commonalities.
They’re similar in stature (Lauletta is 6 feet 3 inches, 215 pounds while Garoppolo is 6-2, 220). Both are known for their textbook footwork and lightning-quick releases. Both dominated at the FCS level (Lauletta at Richmond, Garoppolo at Eastern Illinois). And both started soaring up draft boards following eye-opening all-star games (Lauletta at the Senior Bowl, Garoppolo at the East-West Shrine Game).
“I’ve watched [Garoppolo] quite a bit — I definitely see some similarities,’’ Lauletta said at the NFL Combine. “He has quick feet. He’s accurate. He’s an outstanding leader, from the sound bites I’ve seen.
“As a quarterback, you have to be a great communicator, and Jimmy is a great communicator. It just seems like he has a mojo to him, a little bit of a swagger to him that is infectious. He’s a player I’d love to model my game around.’’
But it’s another of Lauletta’s qualities — and another quarterback — that may make for a better point of comparison.
Lauletta’s ability to stay calm despite storms brewing all around his pocket is not only impressive, it’s downright Tom Brady-like.
He gave a glimpse of this in 2016 when, in a stunning upset, he torched Virginia for 337 yards and three touchdowns in the season opener.
Lauletta opened more eyes at the Senior Bowl, when, after a solid week of practice (and overcoming a nasty stomach virus), he collected the game’s MVP award. Running the South’s offense throughout the second half, he completed 8 of 12 passes for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 45-16 rout.
Lauletta’s game is predicated on precision passing, and there may not be a quarterback in this draft more adept at putting his receivers in a position to succeed. His timing and accuracy are such that he leads receivers beautifully, delivering balls in stride and setting them up to make tons of yards after the catch.
His ability to stay patient as he reads through his progressions is as good as any quarterback in this class. And his solid decision-making (73 TDs vs. 35 INTs in 40 games) is something every NFL team values.
The big knocks against Lauletta are arm strength, lack of snaps under center, and level of competition. He addressed all three in Mobile.
He looked right at home alongside FBS guys, fired a 75-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Chark in the third quarter, and pulled off a couple of nice play-action fakes as well.
“Being an FCS guy, anytime you can get on a platform where you’re playing with the best players in the entire country, that’s what you play for. That’s what you live for,’’ Lauletta said. “I went into the Senior Bowl just trying to make the most of my opportunity, and I think I did that.’’
Lauletta has had to make substantial adjustments during his five years at Richmond. He played under four different offensive coordinators, and after playing in a pro-style offense his first three seasons, the Spiders switched to a spread attack last year.
The change didn’t faze Lauletta in the least. He embraced and thrived in offensive coordinator Jeff Durden’s system, throwing for a career-high and Colonial Athletic Conference-high 3,737 yards and 28 TDs.
“It was a blessing in disguise for me, no doubt, as a quarterback, being forced to adapt and learn a playbook quickly,’’ said Lauletta, who didn’t have the benefit of spring practice as he rehabbed a torn ACL. “As far as learning new terminology, I had seen the same formations for four straight years be named four different things. The same goes with the passing concepts.
“That’s very similar to what’s going to happen in my transition to the NFL. So, having already been through that the past four years is great for me and already puts me at an advantage.’’
Will his next transition begin at One Patriot Place?
It has been suggested by many prognosticators that Lauletta’s combination of physical skills and football acumen make him a perfect fit in Foxborough. Like Garoppolo, he could slowly and steadily sponge knowledge from Josh McDaniels and Brady.
“That would be a dream come true,’’ said Lauletta. “I think any quarterback would love to be in that position. Learning from a guy like Tom Brady, you can learn so much just by the way he works and observing the way he goes about his business day to day.
“Wherever I am, I think I’ll be in a good spot. But that would definitely be a good one.’’
There are other reasons that Lauletta might fit in quite nicely in Foxborough.
First off, he has Naval Academy bloodlines.
Lauletta’s father, Joe, played quarterback for the Midshipmen in the mid 1980s — when Steve Belichick was still on he staff — and it helped shape how he raised Kyle.
“A lot of discipline,’’ Kyle said. “My parents were tough on me growing up. I learned a lot about the Naval Academy and what it means to be in the Navy. That’s a great influence right there.
“I’ve visited Annapolis a few times and really admire the people who have served our country. Having my dad be one of those guys . . . he was my role model growing up.’’
Lauletta not only comes from a Navy family, he comes from a lacrosse family, as well. A big lacrosse family, as he described it. In fact, Lauletta contemplated playing the sport in college but couldn’t give up on his football dream despite not being heavily recruited.
“I was very serious about lacrosse,” said Lauletta, who would have no shortage of guys to pass and cradle with at Gillette Stadium, including Chris Hogan and the entire Belichick clan. “It’s a sport I had played since I was a little kid.
“A lot of lacrosse skills translate to the football field. Change of direction and toughness. I think I’ve got a few of those skills from that sport, too.”
He chose football, he said, because “it was just the team aspect, the camaraderie. It’s the greatest game in the world in my opinion. I just gravitated to the culture.’’
Now he’s hoping to gravitate to the culture of the NFL, and New England seems as likely a landing spot as any.