Exploring Patriots' options to fill void at No. 3 QB spot

Regardless of Monday's U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that reinstated New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension, the team planned to bring in a No. 3 quarterback at some point this offseason. The team has just Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster.

The Patriots' options to add a No. 3 option, outside of a trade, are in this week's draft (11 New England selections) or veteran free agency.

The 2016 draft class has created some buzz around the league.

"I think this is a very good quarterback draft, one of the best I’ve seen in years," Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said last month at the NFL's owners meetings. "Not for just the top, but there’s another tier of five quarterbacks that could become tops, not just backups."

The crop of veteran free agents isn't plentiful, with Brian Hoyer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, T.J. Yates, Matt Flynn, Jimmy Clausen, Ricky Stanzi and Ryan Lindley among those available. Hoyer has background in the team's system from his three years in New England (2009-2011), but at this point, the Patriots haven't reached out to him about a possible return.

Last year, the Patriots signed veteran Matt Flynn to serve as the No. 3 in training camp. When a hamstring injury kept him off the field, the team moved on to Lindley.

As for what they do this season, the first domino to fall will be the draft, and here are a few prospects that seem to fit their profile:

Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech): The 6-foot-4, 234-pound Driskel ran the fastest 40-yard dash time among quarterbacks at the combine (4.49), which highlighted his athleticism. He began his college career at Florida before transferring in 2015 as a graduate student. He was a team captain and is considered a mid-to-late-round pick.

Kevin Hogan (Stanford): The 6-foot-3 1/4, 218-pound Hogan is a mid-round projection who was a three-year captain playing in a pro-style offense. His accuracy in the short to intermediate areas of the field is considered a strength.

Cody Kessler (Southern Cal): A three-year starter, the 6-foot-1 1/4, 220-pound Kessler was Southern Cal's all-time leader in completion percentage (67.5), and was known for his good decision-making (1.5 interception rate). He is viewed as a mid-round projection.

Jake Rudock (Michigan): The 6-foot-2 3/4, 199-pound Rudock was the Citrus Bowl MVP and his accuracy and decision-making are two of his best assets. Playing under coach Jim Harbaugh, his competitiveness reflected his coach's hard-nosed approach. He is a mid-to-late round projection.