The lost 2023 New England Patriots season has led to an inordinate amount of early draft speculation and mocking as 2023 can't end soon enough for many fans. Speculation about current and future quarterbacks abounds as it has become perfectly clear that Mac Jones will not likely be the starter in 2024, if in Foxborough at all.
Jones' regression has been dramatic since a very solid 2021 season including a playoff berth, albeit one in which the Pats were blown out of frosty Buffalo by the Divisional Champion Bills. The need at quarterback is painfully obvious and most observers feel that it's an absolute lock that the team will go QB with one of their top 2024 NFL draft picks.
A cogent question can be asked, however, about just where and when that pick for a QB should be made. Should the team finish where it is slotted at present with the third or fourth pick in the draft, then many feel that the Pats' first pick depending on the fall of the prior picks, must be a quarterback. But, is that really the best alternative for a team that needs help everywhere pretty much on offense? The answer is, maybe not. Let's explore this.
The New England Patriots will have great 2024 draft options
Should things remain about where the Patriots stand and record-wise at the end of the season, the Patriots will have solid options to consider and three key needs on offense to fill. The first and most obvious need is quarterback, and a top option is to select the best quarterback available whenever they pick. The top two candidates are Caleb Williams from USC and Drake Maye from North Carolina. Both will almost certainly be top 3 picks.
At pick three, the Pats will have a difficult strategic choice to make. Assuming Wiliams is off the board, the obvious pick is Maye. But would that be the best choice? Maye is a top prospect with decent passing statistics and importantly, he can also run.
Dakota Randall of NESN cited Dane Brugler of the Athletic's comments on Maye mocked to the Pats, if they had the third pick overall,
“The good news? This is a great draft for a quarterback-needy team to own an early pick. Maye is a young player and not without his faults, but he has promising talent and more big-time throws on his tape than any other passer in this class.”
He'd be an obvious choice, but would he be the best choice? That's where things get a bit dicey. Pass up a possible franchise quarterback in the first round and you do so at your peril. They shine and you'll likely be out of work if you're an NFL general manager sooner rather than later. It's more than just a bit risky NOT to take that player. But what if there's an alternative strategy(ies) that might just make some sense?
The New England Patriots have good options
Not taking a top QB at pick No. three might make some sense if your evaluations of the QB crop lead you to believe there's a solid alternative to be had later in the first round or second round. Players like Bo Nix of Oregon, Jayden Daniels of LSU, and Michael Penix Jr. of Washington all tote first-round grades from Pro Football Focus. You have options.
Should they all be rated similarly, then whoever drafts for the Patriots in 2024 can get really creative. One option includes trading down ever so slightly, maybe a pick or two, and picking up additional choices along the way along with keeping a top 5-7 pick. That pick can be used on a position long-neglected by the team in the draft, offensive tackle. The paucity of good players at the position wrecked the Pats' 2023 season from the start. It ain't glitzy but it needs to be addressed.
PFF has five tackles with first-round grades. A trade down once or twice might deliver one, and if it's early Olu Fashanu of Penn State and Joe Alt of Notre Dame are the top-rated OTs. You deal for top picks (maybe a first early and another later on) and you can maybe fill two positions including QB and OT in the first round. Deals for top quarterbacks at pick number three should deliver big returns. Maximizing the value there is a serious option.
Unfortunately, no team other than Chicago currently has two first-round picks. That may preclude the option of possibly securing both a top tackle and then a quarterback in the first round though trades of players might help fashion a package for a second first-rounder. That strategy is unlikely, however. But if a very astute new general manager can possibly fill the two top needs in the first round with top consensus players, it would be a great start to the draft.
There are a couple of thoughts on a not-so-obvious Patriots 2024 NFL draft strategy. Many more permutations are likely on the way and the draft takes full focus. Pass on a possible franchise quarterback? Indeed, it's risky business. But getting a 10-year offensive left tackle, and securing a really good QB later in the first or even second round may just be a strategy worth considering. It ain't easy, but that's why these GMs get paid the big bucks.