Mallett not passed up
Arkansas QB is a surprise choice
FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots are known for making trades on draft day, not controversial picks.
That changed last night. In the third round, with the 74th overall pick, the Patriots selected Arkansas junior quarterback Ryan Mallett, who comes with a wealth of talent and a history of off-field issues.
Mallett was arrested in 2009 for public intoxication while at Arkansas. During predraft interviews, Mallett addressed rumors of drug use by saying he only smoked marijuana, but one league executive said he “didn’t believe’’ the quarterback.
The controversy surrounding Mallett hurt his draft status as he dropped from a potential first-round pick into the third round. Six other quarterbacks were drafted before Mallett.
Bill Belichick said the Patriots were comfortable with the pick — or else they wouldn’t have made it.
“We felt like he was a good player,’’ Belichick said. “He’s had a lot of production. He’s won everywhere he’s been, high school, college . . . He’s an impressive guy to talk to.’’
Mallett began his college career at Michigan in 2007 but transferred after his freshman year to play in his home state. He sat out the 2008 season per NCAA transfer rules, and started all 13 games in 2009. Last season he completed 266 of 411 passes for 3,689 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
When it comes to the drug rumors and his off-field issues at Arkansas, Mallett said it is all behind him and he is excited to start fresh with the Patriots.
“When I got that call it was just a great feeling just to know somebody wanted me,’’ Mallett said. “It’s been a long road to get here. I’ve been working my tail off and to get here now is unbelievable.’’
Mallett, who is 6 feet 7 inches and 253 pounds, has a strong arm and impressive accuracy. Belichick said he was impressed with how Mallett handled himself in the pro-style offense used by Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.
Mallett will join Brian Hoyer and Jonathan Crompton in the competition to back up Tom Brady. Many teams keep just two quarterbacks on the roster, as the Patriots did last season, but Belichick said there is room for more.
“I don’t think you can have too much depth at that position,’’ Belichick said. “We’ve all seen what can happen there. We got by last year, and really the last two years, basically with just two guys. You put your whole team at risk if you don’t have a quarterback that can run [the offense]. So it’s good to have depth at that position. We’ll see how it goes.’’
Belichick said he enjoyed the predraft conversations he had with Mallett.
“He’s definitely a football guy,’’ Belichick said. “He’s a great kid to talk to. He’s very into football. His father is a football coach and he’s grown up in a football family and I can definitely relate to that. Either you get sick of it or you marry into it and you love it. It’s one of the two.
“He’s a kid that’s eager to learn and has a thirst for knowledge and for football and his position.’’
One pick before taking Mallett, the Patriots selected LSU running back Stevan Ridley. As a junior last season, Ridley (6 feet, 225 pounds) led the Tigers with 1,147 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns.
The Patriots ended their night by trading their last pick in the third round (92d overall) and their fourth-round pick (125th overall) to the Raiders. In return, the Patriots received Oakland’s second-round pick next year and its seventh-round pick today (No. 219).
The Patriots now have two first-round picks and two second-round picks in the 2012 draft.
Greg A. Bedard of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Monique Walker can be reached at email@example.com.