The New England Patriots currently sit in the cat-bird seat in the draft with the assurance of drafting one of the two best quarterbacks, according to expert observers, with the 2nd pick in the 2024 draft. The top two QBs have been identified - Caleb Williams of USC and Drake Maye of UNC. So, if both are available to the Pats at pick No. 2, who should they take?
It's not an easy answer at any time.
Quarterbacks drafted at the top often flop, and the results are job-defining selections by whoever makes the calls for any and every NFL team. Hit it right, and job security is yours. Miss - and it's a ticket to the unemployment line.
Whoever selects for the New England Patriots in 2024 (the call here is that it should NOT be Bill Belichick) has a real challenge on his hands. But, it becomes easier if one of the players noted has already been selected. The obvious choice would likely be the remaining one.
So, who should it be - and why if both are still on the board?
The New England Patriots are at a crossroads, should they select Caleb Williams?
The Patriots' future for the next four or so years will depend on whether they get this choice right or if they have a choice. If one of the top two quarterbacks is off the board, the remaining one will likely be and maybe should be the choice for the Pats.
Let's start with Caleb Williams of USC. Last season's Heisman Trophy winner has thrown for 30 TDs with only five interceptions in 2023, with a stellar 68.8 percent completion rate. He's a master of what some call "escapability.". He can escape out of problems in the pocket and has the arm strength to still find a receiver to complete a play. That's an excellent attribute if you have an offensive line like the New England Patriots.
Williams can wriggle out of tight situations and still find a receiver after lots of permutations in the pocket. If the team selects a quarterback in the first round, the chances are that the team will not have the presence of a Joe Alt of Notre Dame or another young top left tackle around to help. That being the case, Williams's selection makes a world of sense if he's available when the Pats select with their first pick.
If both he and Drake Maye are off the board when the Pats select, then a whole new draft strategy should be in play. Then, the best course may very well be to get the top offensive lineman available and begin the process of securing the front line for whoever the Patriots' quarterback is next season. That is never a bad thing.
The New England Patriots' case for Drake Maye - or not.
Drake Maye is much more of a traditional pocket-passer than Williams. He's a lot taller, statuesque actually, and he can stand in the pocket and deliver the goods. Maye performed exceptionally well at UNC - with a top offensive line keeping a clean pocket for him. He won't necessarily have that next season in Foxborough. So, what does that suggest?
First, he'll have to improvise much more than he did at UNC. But, in his favor, Maye cannot only "scramble" but also run. He's a true threat to run on a scripted play and make things happen. Think of Drew Bledsoe with real running ability.
Maye has run for 449 yards and has accounted for 9 TDs on the ground in 2023 in 12 games. So far, in 2023, he's completed 63.3% of his passes with 24 TDs to go with 9 INTs. Yet, with his feet, he's not just a scrambler but a running QB for whom scripted plays can be plotted to great effect. Again, with a suspect offensive line that's not expected to be much better in 2024, that attribute would serve him well in Foxborough next season.
One can argue that without a top O-line, no QB will be effective. But, both Williams, who is a master of escapability, and Maye, who can probably participate more than Williams in a programmed run game with ease and has a strong arm to boot, seem to fit well with that potentiality. So, who's the better choice if both are available when the Patriots pick?
The quick answer here is that today, it would be Williams. Caleb has the extreme escapability that a team with a poor offensive line will need from day one for a rookie quarterback. If the Pats had an established O-line, the pick may have been different.
But if they throw in their lot with a quarterback in the first, the better choice seems to be Williams. If not, Maye is a great choice, not a consolation prize. Put an offensive line in front of him in the next year or two, and he'll be a formidable and maybe even a better pick. Either one would be a great choice.