Eliot Wolf has chance to redeem lackluster Patriots' free agency in 2024 Draft

The draft is now the key to 2024 and beyond for the Patriots.
2018 NFL Draft
2018 NFL Draft / Tom Pennington/GettyImages

The NFL 2024 Draft extravaganza takes place in late April, with all the pomp and pageantry Commissioner Roger Goodell and his group can muster. It's a big event for draftniks and NFL sports fans generally, and a huge part of their favorite club's offseason construction.

The top four components of offseason team construction are free agency, the Draft, undrafted free agency (an underrated aspect), and trades, which are not necessarily in that order of importance. At times, free agency can be the driver; at others, the draft. Those are the top two components, yet the other two also enter into the equation with more or less impact every year.

In 2024, the New England Patriots, under their new de facto general manager Eliot Wolf, have now conducted free agency but have little improved the club's personnel. They did a few things at the margins but nothing of any real substance.

You win with very good or great players. Wolf and company have added neither thus far. Wolf's grade in free agency was hardly inspiring. So, for Wolf and the Patriots' 2024 outlook (and beyond), it's all on the draft. His and the team's future depends on acing it.

The Patriots 2024 draft will be a determinant of their future

Wolf has learned from two major influencers, his Hall-of-Fame Executive dad, Ron, and Bill Belichick, a Hall-of-Fame coach but a less-than-stellar general manager. Now, it's Eliot's turn to show what he can do. Unfortunately, he's put himself in a bind with his lackluster free agency effort.

Expectations in Patriot Nation were high for big spending and bringing in top players. The money in cap space was available, and more could have been made available if certain players had been let go. Wolf has spent reasonably significantly but hasn't improved the team much, if at all. He spent lots on Kyle Dugger, a good player, and Mike Onwenu, a good to very good one. Both were well overpaid.

He also retained veteran Hunter Henry at a reduced salary. Henry is a legit NFL tight end but nothing special. In fairness, the tight-end market was weak, so Wolf did about as well as he could have. But again, as with retaining Dugger and Onwenu, he didn't improve things one iota with all that cash spent.

Also retained were inconsistent, mostly underperformers Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings. Both have had flashes when not on the injury list, but keeping them did nothing to improve things. Also, signing journeyman quarterback Jacoby Brissett to an $8M contract to ostensibly back up (hopefully) a rookie from the draft made no sense. Add all this extraneous spending, and you'd be able to fund a very good or even a great player. They punted.

Now Wolf's only hope to energize Patriots' fandom and add some pizzazz to an otherwise down-in-the-doldrums offseason is the draft. If auditioning for a permanent position, he's put himself behind the eight ball with free agency. Owner Robert Kraft can't be happy with his boring free agency. He now has only the draft to impress him.

Eliot Wolf's only hope is to impress with a bang-up draft

Wolf should have pulled out all the stops to bring in at least one top player in free agency. He whiffed. Now he's faced with a draft that will make or break his Patriot's future. He needs a quarterback first and foremost. But there are other offensive needs like an offensive left tackle, good young receivers, and a tight end.

A quarterback is essential in the first or second rounds and the others in every round from one through five. Selecting a QB, two tackles, two wide receivers, and one tight end makes sense. Wolf should forget defense anywhere in the top five rounds.

He also needs to draft nothing but consensus players. Reaching speculatively like Belichick did, even with his highest picks, is a flawed strategy. Belichick is out on the street to a great extent because of his bizarre drafting. Not all draft picks work out. Some do some don't whenever they're selected. Just take them where they should be taken and hope to get more right than wrong. That's the secret that ain't too secretive.

The Pats have a good defense. Wolf acted as though keeping inconsistent players there keeps it intact. It doesn't. He should have tried to better those guys. In the draft, he needs to devote the more meaningful (much of the time) rounds exclusively to offense.

This draft has to focus on the best offensive player available. If defensive players are drafted high up, expect Wolf to be in the unemployment line after the season, if not before. This team needs an offensive makeover, not just at the margins but all over.

That's the reality of the 2024 draft for the Patriots, Patriot Nation, and general manager in training, Eliot Wolf. He has a chance if he does the right thing in the draft. If he goes off-kilter, the team will flounder, and he'll see a pink slip. It ain't rocket science, just common sense. I hope we see it this season in the draft, for once.

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