2024 NFL Draft will prove if it's actually a new era for the Patriots

Eliot Wolf has to use the draft to bolster a poor free agency
2018 NFL Draft
2018 NFL Draft / Tim Warner/GettyImages

For decades under Bill Belichick, the Patriot Nation suffered his poor drafting and sometimes truly dumbfounding selections of players no one had heard of, and they subsequently played accordingly. True, he did uncover a few real gems in later rounds, a certain quarterback from Michigan comes readily to mind, as well as two great receivers named Brown and Edelman.

Yet, too many more second and third-rounders went the way of draft flops. All that misery notwithstanding, the draft for many Patriots fans continues to fascinate both draftniks and casual observers. NFL teams are primarily built in the off-season through free agency and the draft.

Now the reins of command are in Eliot Wolf's hands in an interim capacity, a rather dubious situation as owner Robert Kraft decided to allow a GM-in-training to run the most important offseason in 25 years. That notwithstanding, it's now time to see if Wolf can redeem himself after a poor effort at free agency with a great draft.

Patriots GM Eliot Wolf mismanaged free agency

Storm clouds have already gathered over Wolf after his less-than-stellar free agency period, Therein, he made a bunch of questionable re-signing of mediocre Patriots' players who should have been shown the door and didn't sign anyone of real consequence either.

Wolf resigned players like wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, coming off a severe injury, and inconsistent players like edge Josh Uche and linebacker Anfernee Jennings. All could have been set free in order to find better performers.

He also re-signed 29-year-old Hunter Henry, a good tight end, but if you're not going to improve, what's the point? Adding to the drama was the Transition Tag and $13.8M, an overpay for Kyle Duger, $8M for a backup journeyman quarterback, Jakoby Brissett, and adding another 29-year-old tight end, Austin Hopper. He also overpaid offensive guard/tackle, Mike Onwenu. None of these moves made the Patriots materially if any better.

Wolf followed Belichick's free agency method of stockpiling decent or marginally good players in numbers, rather than going wholeheartedly for the great ones. He now only has the draft to improve the team if he's not to be next to be shown the exit door a la Belichick.

The draft is Eliot Wolf's opportunity to erase his free agency flop and right the ship

Wolf now has only the draft to get the Patriots moving forward in 2024 and not standing still. His predecessor, Bill Belichick, constantly reached for players, i.e. not drafting players at the point in the draft where the consensus thought they should be drafted.

Wolf needs to differentiate himself from Belichick's draft methodology in which he participated for several years. Owner Robert Kraft thinks he can. All he needs to do to create that separation is to draft consensus players where they should be and use all of his higher picks to remake a lackluster offense. Those moves alone would be a solid beginning.

Wolf's free agency actions don't inspire confidence, but "hope springs eternal" that he may get it right. Conversely, if he stays with the Bill-Belichick model, don't expect very much. Hopefully, Wolf will figure things out and deliver a draft that will send the team back toward winning and contending status. We'll see in less than a month.