Assuming the rumors are true, and the Patriots hierarchy really has had enough of the Mac Jones experiment, there will be many areas that the Patriots need to strengthen in 2024. Although the most important is inevitably the quarterback position, there are a few reasons why shouldn’t draft a rookie one this year.
Why shouldn't the Patriots draft a quarterback high? Because Marvin Harrison Jr. should be available
For starters, there are 31 QBs headed to free agency, and if the Patriots pick in the top 2 (which is still possible, as it would be hilarious if the Commanders could beat the Cowboys), they shouldn't pass up on selecting wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.
Technically, the Bears should take Harrison Jr. with the first pick because he’s the only generational talent in this class, but the Bears may be in love with the idea that Caleb Williams is their franchise QB for the next five years.
Reason #2: Improving the offensive line needs to be a priority
The Patriots' most pressing need headed into 2024 is to fix the offensive line. If they can’t find a way to both run block and pass block, they won’t have any sustained success. And if they allow more than 40 sacks again next season, it doesn’t really matter who is playing quarterback.
If Marvin Harrison Jr. Isn't available (and he should be the first player taken because QBs are always a gamble, remember Bryce Young), the Patriots should turn their attention in Olu Fashanu’s direction. In fairness to Young, there are an awful lot of uncontrollable variables that affect quarterback play. Receivers just have to run the right routes and catch the ball. Those skills are very transferable from college to the pro level.
Fashanu only allowed 10 QB pressures in 2023 at Penn State. And he’s powerful enough to easily move defenders out of the way in the run game. He’s incredibly mobile and dynamic, he can pull from the left side of the line to block defenders on the right edge.
Mel Kiper Jr. believes that Fashanu would have been a first-round pick if he hadn’t decided to stay in school. And he compares him to Paris Johnson Jr. Who has only allowed 8 sacks in 2023.
Reason #3: The plethora of free agent quarterbacks that will be available
If the Patriots don’t take a quarterback in the draft, there are numerous options available in free agency. If they’re willing to break the bank for a veteran quarterback who can put them straight in the 2024 playoff hunt, then Kirk Cousins will hit the market in April. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but he has won 42 of his last 72 games. The Patriots haven’t won 42 games in the last 5 seasons!
If Cousins is too old for the Patriots to invest in, there are a couple of interesting younger options, like soon-to-be 30-year-old Jameis Winston.
Winston is the polar opposite of Bailey Zappe; he’s tall, athletic, and can unleash deep passes. The big knock on him is that he’s not an accurate quarterback. But his career completion rate isn’t far from Zappe’s. Winston completes 61.2% compared to Zappe’s 65.7%. And the percentage of Winston’s passes that have been dropped is higher than Zappe’s. Winston has a 4.4% drop rate across his career compared to Zappe’s 3.8%.
While most people refuse to believe Winston is an NFL quarterback, he has won 22 NFL games as a starter for two very rickety teams, the Buccaneers and the Saints. With a competent offensive line, Pop Douglas, Kendrick Bourne, Rhamondre Stevenson, and a strong defense, Winston could be the new Josh Allen.
A slightly younger free-agent option at quarterback would be Baker Mayfield. Like Winston, Mayfield has been part of some very flaky offenses during his NFL career. But under two very good coaches in the shape of Sean McVay and Dave Canales, Mayfield has looked every bit like the first overall pick the Browns used on him. Mayfield has won 10 of his last 21 regular season games. And if you think that doesn’t sound like many, Aaron Rodgers has only won 11 of his last 21 regular season games.
In 2023, Mayfield has thrown 28 touchdowns and just ten interceptions. And the Buccaneers have let him get sacked 38 times! Behind a fixed offensive line, he could definitely do a job for the next couple of years.