How the Patriots can avoid ESPN's projected fate for 2024 season

Patriots have to wake up and smell the coffee
New England Patriots OTA Offseason Workout
New England Patriots OTA Offseason Workout / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit cites ESPN's "model" de facto predicting the Patriots will be the NFL's worst team in 2025 and "earn" the first pick in the 2025 draft. Here's how they quote ESPN,

"'New England's league-topping strength of schedule combined with the FPI's skepticism regarding its roster has the model believing the Patriots are the most likely team to pick first in the 2025 NFL draft, with a 22 percent chance,'" ESPN's Seth Walder wrote. "'The Panthers rate lower than the Patriots in the FPI, but their chance at picking No. 1 is slightly worse (21 percent).'"

However you slice it, it's a dubious distinction, at best. It means simply that you stunk worse than any other NFL team. OUCH! With a solid defense, a given, why should that be the prognosis? If you look at the current situation, it's not hard to decipher.

Patriots having the first pick in the draft is great, unless it isn't

It would have been a bonanza if the Patriots had the first pick in the NFL draft in 2024. They could have selected Caleb Williams of USC, Jayden Daniels of LSU, or Drake Maye of UNC. All of those choices were great. Or, they could have traded down a spot or two and still drafted one of the top three Quarterbacks in the draft. At pick No. 3, they did, and they landed a great option in Maye.

It wouldn't be such a great situation in 2025. They have their quarterback of the future in Maye. The prime directive in 2024 is only one thing: make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. Anything else is just a feint.

Certain factors justify ESPN's suggestion. One is the team's offensive line, tabbed here as the second most important unit on any NFL team. It stinks. If you don't have a left tackle (they don't) and your guard situation is questionable (it is), then you are in a world of hurt. Absent a shocking development, e.g., a major trade, you're headed to the bottom of your division. Again.

The Pats are also questionable at wide receiver with rookies abounding, have aging tight ends, and have little depth at running back. But all is not necessarily lost if the Patriots' decision-makers take the right steps. This space will present a plan for them to do just that.

The 2024 Patriots have an opportunity to win, if ...

ESPN is correct, as things stand. The 2024 Patriots are now a last-place team. However, they can change that prognosis. Here is exactly how it may be achievable. While nothing is certain, mainly predicting NFL seasons, a few adjustments may help the hapless Pats be more than they might be.

First, the team has to decide that Drake Maye is their best chance to win. This necessitates giving the rookie all the first-team snaps in OTAs, all the snaps necessary in pre-season games, and all the first-team practice snaps, period. $8M free agency-signing, Jacoby Brissett, is an expensive journeyman backup. Move forward, and give Maye as much NFL experience as you can.

Then, you have to address the left tackle position. Eliot Wolf bone-headedly ignored this position in free agency and the draft. It's a mind-boggling omission that can quickly lead to the unemployment line. He should have known better. He didn't.

Regardless, there are two options to remedy that gaffe. First, Wolf can trade (and likely overpay) right now for any decent left tackle available. Good luck with that. The other option is for Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt to devise an offense for Maye to essentially negate the lack of a left tackle and still win. It's a tall order, but it may be the only option.

If all that works, the new wide receiver and tight end corps still have to perform. It's clear why ESPN and other observers could see the Patriots at the bottom of the NFL. A lot must fall into place to right the wrongs of a lackluster offseason. But if you have a quarterback, the linchpin of this business, you have a chance.

The Patriots may have that asset on hand in Drake Maye if they are astute enough to play him. Otherwise, expect ESPN and any other analysts who predict the Patriots to finish last will be right. It is what it is. But does it have to be? Maybe not. Look at the Patriots, version 2001, and then say anything isn't possible. You just never know, do you?

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