Patriots rookie named one to watch for in 2024 is surprisingly not Drake Maye

New England Patriots OTA Offseason Workout
New England Patriots OTA Offseason Workout / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

When reflecting upon the Patriots 2024 draft class, most of the excitement revolves around the obvious choices of the quarterback and the wide receivers, which is not unexpected. The selection of Drake Maye is certainly noteworthy for many reasons, and the same can be said about Javon Baker and Ja'Lynn Polk.

So far, based on their performances at OTAs and minicamp, they have all lived up to the hype throughout the spring. This is a positive sign for the Patriots, who need a drastic turnaround from their offense this season, but there's more to what needs improvement than just the top positions of the unit.

Not every pick has received nearly as much positive feedback as Baker, Maye, and Polk, particularly when discussing the offensive line. Jerod Mayo and Eliot Wolf prioritized the offense in the draft, which was the right thing to do, and they double-dipped at key positions that needed a lot of help.

Besides the receiving corps, they also took two linemen, one of whom was Penn State's Caedan Wallace. The pick wasn't received well since he played right tackle throughout his college career, and the team needs a replacement for Trent Brown on the left side.

However, he's received more glowing reviews throughout the spring, and now Pro Football Focus has chosen him as the rookie to watch for, not Maye, on the Patriots this fall.

PFF chooses Caedan Wallace as the rookie to watch on the Patriots in 2024

As one of the more criticized selections by Mayo and Wolf from this year's draft, it's surprising to see PFF choose Wallace as the rookie to watch for the season ahead. The assumption would be they'd choose Maye, as he is the hopeful next franchise quarterback.

However, given the importance of Wallace's presence and how vital his role will be for the success of the offense, it makes sense that Jim Wyman and Dalton Wasserman believe he might be more worthy of paying attention to, especially if he is moved out of his natural position to the left side.

"With Trent Brown now in Cincinnati, the Patriots have a massive hole at left tackle that went largely untouched this offseason. Mike Onwenu is expected to man the right side of the line, but Chukwuma Okorafor, Vederian Lowe, Calvin Anderson and rookie third-rounder Caedan Wallace are all right tackles.

As such, someone will need to switch sides.

Given the track record of the other three tackles, Wallace should have every opportunity to be that guy. He had some success lining up opposite his first-round teammate, Olumuyiwa Fashanu, putting up a 72.8 pass-blocking grade while allowing just 13 pressures and one sack last season. There may be some early growing pains, but Wallace has the potential to develop into a quality starting left tackle in New England."

So far, the offensive line has been a more problematic unit through spring practices with a lot of work to do. It's not the most startling development, as it was a weaker part of the Patriots team throughout the 2023 season, but it is a bit concerning, given how critical their performance will be for whichever quarterback is under center.

The good thing is that Wallace has not been the subject of any worry so far. Mayo has made it clear he's shuffling players on the offensive line to hopefully make them more versatile and better evaluate where players fit the best.

That includes Michael Onwenu lining up at right guard instead of right tackle, allowing Wallace the opportunity to show what he can do. But it doesn't eliminate the possibility he becomes the team's next left tackle.

We'll have to continue watching the line's progress closely when the team returns for training camp next month and keep a good eye on how Wallace is looking since he will have such an essential role moving forward. Hopefully, PFF is right in their assessment of him for the season ahead.

More Patriots coverage: