Lots of 2024 New England Patriots draft talk abounds early this year in light of the Pats' miserable 2023 season. It's never too early to speculate about who might be the right and the best choices for the squad next season. Here, the objective will be to outline the "whats," the three top positions the team needs to seriously address in the 2024 NFL draft. The "whos" will be unveiled here later.
The NFL draft process is great for fans who realize it's a critical element of the off-season team-building process. Some eschew the whole business altogether. That's fine, too. But if you think that the draft is a central facet of team construction, fasten your seat belts and stay tuned; there'll be lots of conjecture coming your way from this space.
The first imperative of any NFL team lacking in this position is clear: you need a very good, if not great, quarterback to be a winner in the NFL. Right now, the Patriots don't have one and as such, quarterback has to be addressed early in the 2024 draft.
The New England Patriots need to draft a QB high in the 2024 draft
The Mac Jones era seems to be nearing its conclusion in Foxborough. The young QB has regressed over the past two seasons. A change will likely benefit both the player and the team.
If he's benched, the likely backup who'll be used is Bailey Zappe since Will Grier has been released. Zappe is a smaller clone of Jones. He doesn't excite.
It's been suggested here the Patriots should be rolling out a dual-threat quarterback, Malik Cunningham, for the remaining games of the 2023 lost season. Cunningham should be evaluated thoroughly now to determine if he can be an NFL quarterback. Not too surprisingly, he probably won't see much, if any, of the field at quarterback. It's a mistake.
If Cunningham showed real promise, the team may be able to defer selecting a QB to the second round or maybe even the third. If he flops, a QB in the first is absolutely necessary. Frankly, even if Cunningham excites, selecting a QB in the first round may still make sense if the right guy is available when the Pats choose.
The next two top New England Patriots draft needs are still on offense
The thought here is that most, if not all, of the 2024 NFL draft, at least in the higher rounds, one through five, should be devoted to the offensive side of the ball. The Patriots' offense is pitiful and needs a major infusion of talent everywhere. The stats bear this out.
Per game, the Patriots, at the time of this writing, rank 31st in points at 14.1, 29th in touchdowns, 26th in third down conversions, and 29th in TDs per game. This team needs a complete refitting of the offense with few exceptions. One position after the quarterback needs overarching draft attention: offensive tackle.
It's not a stretch to say, no tackles, no offense. They are the linchpins of everything good that happens on offense. Neglect it at your peril. The Patriots did in the 2023 offseason, and the season was lost before it began. While the Pats sit at about 19th in the league in sacks allowed (seems like a lot more); at present, the tackle play has been poor.
The Patriots wide receiver situation is in shambles. Their best receiver is sixth-round pick Demario Douglas, who has only 30 receptions in nine games. If the quarterback situation can wait a while, the top selection has to be either the top offensive tackle or the top wide receiver.
The Pats' top offensive tackle, Trent Brown, is out of contract and is 30 years old. There is no one else except right tackle/guard Michael Onwenu. Draft a top tackle very early and one or two more later. They could have done well last season by signing a top free agent and drafting two tackles. They did neither.
Perennial deficiencies at wide receiver also remain. Bill Belichick seldom drafts a receiver high up, and for good reason. His track record is poor, his last disaster being first-round pick N'Keal Harry. The better play is to go tackle in the first or second round. A receiver also has to be drafted higher up.
Quarterback, offensive tackle, and wide receiver are the top draft priorities for the New England Patriots in the April 2024 NFL draft. They need to draft consensus players as in 2023, with Christian Gonzalez and Keion White, and things may work. Reach, as they did for Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton in the first two rounds in 2022, and expect similar poor results.