Despite most Patriots fans putting all their energy into the 2024 NFL Draft, the team is not doing the same. It's clear they're still playing for each other and playing hard, hence their recent wins against the Steelers and Broncos.
They may not be heading to the playoffs, and some would say they're playing for nothing, but ending the year strong is important to them, especially those heading into free agency or on the roster cusp this upcoming offseason.
Adding wins this late in the season is certainly not what many fans wanted because their pitiful season record had given them the opportunity to potentially snag the first overall pick in the draft next year, a spot they could benefit from having as they need a quarterback. They had been holding steady with the second pick for a few weeks, but that luck changed due to the results of Week 16.
Before they even took the field against the Broncos on Sunday Night, the Patriots had moved to the third selection because of another Cardinals loss. The Commanders also lost, which made New England's win in Denver move one more spot down, now holding pick number four.
It seemed their fate was essentially sealed when looking at the strengths of schedule between the three teams ahead of them, particularly Washington, who faces the 49ers and Cowboys in the final two weeks. Since it's assumed they have no shot at beating either playoff-contending team, the chances of the Patriots getting any higher than fourth overall seem slim.
The analytics appear to support that, too. ESPN's analytics department released the odds of the top seven teams taking hold of a top-three pick, which is disappointing news for the Patriots.
Bears (via CAR)
Earlier in the season, they had a good chance of taking the coveted top pick away from the Bears, but that's a long-lost dream now, and landing in the top three picks seems to be in the rearview mirror now, too.
They still have a chance to get there, of course, mainly by losing to both the Bills and Jets to end the year. But based on how the team is playing right now, that's far from a guarantee at this point. Yet, at the same time, selecting fourth overall isn't a bad position, and it allows them to still get a quarterback they like outside of (likely) Drake Maye and Caleb Williams.
Remaining where they are would be ideal since more wins would move them further down. According to analytics, if they win their final two games, they could slide as low as the 9th pick, which isn't a good spot to pick from this year for a quarterback since there aren't many in this year's class.
It's unfamiliar for the team or its fans to care this much about draft positioning, as the focus is mostly on the playoffs at this point in the season. But it's a new era in New England, right? And hopefully, with this upcoming draft and critical free agency, they will be back in that position as soon as next year.