When discussing the best players for the Patriots to take with the third overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft, most have concluded it's quarterback or bust. Because it's clear Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe aren't the future of the franchise, New England is in prime position to select the right guy for the job at the coveted spot in the first round.
Draft experts and analysts have also jumped on this idea, as nearly every hypothetical draft has the Patriots taking Jayden Daniels or Drake Maye on night one. But what if they chose to go a different route with their pick instead?
That's a scenario that Chad Graff of The Athletic believes would be best for them this season, mainly due to their lack of sufficient weapons offensively.
The reporter suggests they take Marvin Harrison Jr. instead, the top-ranked wide receiver of the class and perhaps of the last several years, and maybe explore a bridge quarterback in the meantime.
"Unless New England devotes almost the entirety of its cap space to offensive players in free agency, that unit is still likely to have holes. The Patriots’ wide receivers might be the worst in the NFL. Their two offensive tackles are pending free agents. They don’t have a tight end under contract in 2024. Those are the most important positions for a quarterback.
So there’s a legitimate argument for taking Harrison at No. 3 instead of a quarterback and taking a year to build out the rest of the roster before dropping a quarterback into place."
Maybe taking a quarterback isn't the way to go for the Patriots this year
It's an entirely fair argument, especially considering Harrison is being touted as a generational talent at the position, making it even crazier to suggest the Patriots pass on him if he falls to them with the third pick. But Graff also understands why not taking a quarterback would be risky since landing that high in the draft is not an ideal scenario, nor is it where most teams want to be.
"The counterpoint is you never know when you’ll have the No. 3 pick again. And if you don’t roll the dice and take a shot at a quarterback when you have it, you might not get that chance again without leveraging a boatload of future picks."
But even with that in mind, he goes on to make an argument that may be so convincing that it could even change the opinions of those who honestly believe the draft will be an utter failure if they don't take a quarterback.
Graff mentions the horrific rookie season of Bryce Young, who the Panthers chose to draft after trading away D.J. Moore to acquire the first overall pick. They also traded Christian McCaffrey less than six months before that, completely gutting the offense and giving Young a dismal roster to walk into.
"On the other hand, the guy taken just before Stroud might make the case for waiting. The Carolina Panthers might’ve been the only team in the NFL with less offensive talent than the Patriots this season. They put top pick Bryce Young into that offense, and it was a disaster from beginning to end."
Many are not considering this part of the draft process when deciding whether the Patriots must take a quarterback. Yes, they have a lot of cap space, an estimated $70 million, but how much are they willing to spend?
And who will they spend it on?
And will those players be enough to elevate an offense and help a rookie quarterback enough to ensure they don't have a rookie season like Young did?
Most of the answers to that are unknown now that Jerod Mayo is the head coach, and the general manager position remains in the air. Maybe they will throw money at guys like Tee Higgins or Michael Pittman Jr. But until we know, taking Harrison may be the best way to get the Patriots back to where they want to be.
It will be a crucial decision for Mayo to make, as Graff also emphasizes.
"For now, it’s just one theory to kick off a long stretch of pre-draft coverage, but it leads to the most important decision of Mayo’s first year. Do you draft a quarterback no matter what to take a shot at the game’s most important position? Or do you build up the rest of the roster to give the next quarterback a better chance at success?"