3 bold predictions for Patriots rookies in 2024

Nov 25, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10)
Nov 25, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

As Whitney Houston sang in her 1986 hit "The Greatest Love of All," “The children are our future.” The Patriots’ future rests on the shoulders of two players who might not be children but have a combined age of 42—four years younger than a certain Tom Brady.

Drake Maye and Christian Gonzalez can’t do it all on their own, though. They will need help from the rest of the team and their coaches to put them in the best position to succeed. Maye isn’t the only rookie who will significantly influence New England this year.

So, just what can we expect from some of the 2023 rookies? 

3 bold predictions for Patriots rookies in 2024

Drake Maye will play more than 12 games 

NFL experts, including Bill Belichick, have expressed concerns regarding the 21-year-old's footwork. Among other issues, the former Tar Heel doesn’t step up to avoid pass rushes, preferring to rely on his athleticism to outrun them instead. Maye also needs to work on anticipating which receiver is going to get open.

He takes time to process where defenders are and which of his teammates is winning their matchup. All of those issues will need to be fixed on the field, not in practice sessions. 

Former NFL quarterback Chase Daniel firmly believes Drake Maye has to follow the Jordan Love blueprint and sit for at least the next year if he is going to develop into an NFL quarterback. But the Packers had the luxury of a Super Bowl MVP at quarterback while Love was developing.

Jacoby Brissett won a Super Bowl as a member of the 2016 Patriots team, but he was the backup, not the MVP. He hasn't even started a playoff game during his eight years in the league. 

The former NC State quarterback is more than adequate. He has started 48 games in the NFL, but his record is 18-30. He’s no Aaron Rodgers. Brissett has never had a winning season as a starting quarterback.

Technically, Bailey Zappe has had a winning season. He went 2-0 in 2022 when he stepped in to replace Mac Jones. But Zappe has also thrown 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his career. The other quarterback the Patriots have (who seems destined for the practice squad) is another rookie, Joe Milton III. 

With such a shortage of quarterback talent in Foxborough, it seems unlikely Maye will be riding the pine all season, let alone for two seasons like Love did.  It's more likely that Maye will display his talent and show the maturity that some have questioned when he plays in the preseason.

Or the guys (or guy) ahead of him on the depth chart will have taken so much punishment that Maye will have to be promoted prematurely.  

Javon Baker will lead the team in touchdown receptions 

Essentially, Baker looks undefendable. He has an uncanny ability to lose cornerbacks with his first two steps off the line. The former Alabama and UCF wideout looks like former Bills, 49ers, and Chargers receiver Stevie Johnson when he wrongfoots defenders.

If he progresses as the Patriots hope, he could even draw comparisons with Davante Adams. 

In 2023, Hunter Henry led the Patriots with just six touchdown receptions. The leading receiver, Kendrick Bourne, had only four, but he only started five games. 

Jaheim Bell will catch more touchdowns than Hunter Henry 

On the subject of Hunter Henry, he signed a new three-year contract in March, and he will still be the number one tight end. But with Austin Hooper and Mitchell Wilcox now on the roster, there will be plenty of competition for snaps.

How is Bell going to score the most touchdowns then you ask. Well, it's his versatility that stands out from the rest. Anyone who can genuinely lineup in three different positions on the offense will be a nightmare matchup for defenses.

In their scouting report, Bleacher Report said, “Bell is not a traditional on-the-ball tight end.”. They propose Bell is a “wing or H-back," but the single-wing formation hasn’t been used in the NFL since 1947! Luckily, Bell can line up as a running back or a tight end, and he occasionally lined up in the slot at FSU.

The Patriots have a plethora of receivers, so he probably won’t be used there, but wherever he lines up, his speed and power will make him a potent red-zone threat. It’s easy to see him scoring more touchdowns than Henry, who only took 14% of his receptions to the house in 2023. 

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