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Patriots Draft Analysis


Photo C/O to wmur.com

The draft has came and gone, and now it is time to look at all eight of the bright and shiny new toys the Patriots have acquired. With a new coaching regime now in place in Foxborough for the first time in over 20 years, there were a lot of questions surrounding how the Patriots were going to attack the 2024 draft.



With seven of their eight picks being on the offensive side of the ball, it was clear what New England’s intentions were; to address the historically lacking offense. When watching the Patriots last year, two things were clear; there needed to be an overhaul on offense, and that the defense was pretty damn good! It was frustrating to watch the defense create turnovers and cause stops just for the offense to do nothing with it, and it is that same defense that allowed de facto General Manager Elliot Wolf to go so offense-heavy in this draft.

 


Although we obviously won't know if this was a good draft until about two or three years from now, let’s look at the Patriots draft selections and what their strengths and weaknesses are as well as how they might fit into this new era Patriots system.

 

 

1.      Round One: Third Overall: Drake Maye – QB, UNC - 6’4’ 225 lbs.


Photo C/O to wcvb.com

We all saw this one coming; the Patriots took what they hope to be their franchise quarterback for the next generation in Drake Maye. Going into the draft, quarterback was one of many glaring needs New England had, and they were quick to address it with the cannon-armed UNC quarterback. As well as his strong arm, Maye is known for his ability to extend plays and make off-platform throws, which is becoming more and more of a must for NFL quarterbacks.



Although Maye has a lot of strengths and an upside of Josh Allen-level play, he is very boom or bust. As Patriots legend Head Coach Bill Belichick pointed out on the Pat McAfee Draft Show, Maye has messy footwork that he must clean up if he hopes to have a future in the NFL, as well as some poor decision making and a tendency to be loose with the ball. It is no secret that Maye will be a project quarterback that will be need to coached up and nurtured. Josh Allen didn’t start playing to his ceiling until his third year in the league, so some patience will be involved with this pick. Expect to see Jacoby Brissett taking the first snaps on opening day.



2.      Round Two: 37th Overall: Ja’Lynn Polk – WR, Washington – 6’1’ 203 lbs.


Photo C/O to receptionperception.com

The Patriots did not waste any time in pairing Maye with a capable weapon in Ja’Lynn Polk, who is a gritty Z receiver that can move around the formation. Polk was the second punch in Washington’s one-two punch at receiver with Rome Odunze, and that was due to his great hands and ability to catch balls in traffic. Although Polk is not a separation master due to his below-par speed, he is able to win downfield with detail-oriented routes and being strong at the catch point. Another weakness in Polk’s game is his below average yards after catch, averaging just 5.2 YAC last season, but he makes up for that in his ability to be a ball-winner, making him a chunk-play machine. Polk has a great burst off the line and a quarterback-friendly catch radius that should pair well with Maye, who isn't always pinpoint accurate. The Patriots get a potential high-end volume receiver to develop alongside their young first-round quarterback.



3.      Round Three: 68th Overall: Caedan Wallace – OT, Penn. State – 6’4’ 322 lbs.


Photo C/O to bleacherreport.com

New England goes after another prominent need at tackle in Caedan Wallace. Although this pick was said to be a reach, if one considers the Patriots’ board, this doesn’t seem to be the case. With tackles coming off the board in rapid succession, and the Patriots not picking again for another 35 picks, they had to cut their losses and take Wallace about a round over his consensus projection.



Wallace is an above-average pass protector who needs to polish up his run game. Wallace had good exposure at Penn. State, tallying 40 starts at right tackle while boasting good technique and fundamentals. The Penn. State man will not be an instant starter, and some have said he might be more suited at guard in the NFL, but time will tell. The Patriots get a good developmental lineman.



4.      Round Four: 103rd Overall: Layden Robinson – G, Texas A&M – 6’4’ 315 lbs.


Photo C/O to 12thman.com

This one is probably the biggest head scratcher of the draft, because New England needs the most help at tackle in terms of the offensive line, but they go with Layden Robinson to add to their five other rostered guards. Robinson was a three-year starter at Texas A&M whose strengths and weaknesses seem to be flipped with the previous pick in Wallace, with Robinson showing above average play in the running game, but lacking fluidity in pass protection. Robinson has the ideal build for a guard along with great acceleration, but he seems to have a long way to go before becoming a prominent NFL starter.



5.      Round Four: 110th Overall: Javon Baker – WR, UCF – 6’1’ 208 lbs.


Photo C/O to rotoballer.com

The Patriots do the Green Bay thing, double dipping at receiver in the second and fourth rounds. Like Polk, Baker is a long strong ball winner with a freakish catch radius. Baker started his career with the Crimson Tide before transferring to UCF where he became “the guy” proving himself as a true X receiver by winning contested catches and putting up over 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns in the 2023 season. Baker explodes off the line and runs routes with alternating speeds that rattle defenders. As Steve Smith Sr. said when breaking down Baker's film,


"He (Baker) uses every part of the release" and called him "twitchy".


The UCF product is also a problem with the ball in his hands, he runs with anger. Baker’s weaknesses, much like his now pro counterpart Polk, lie in his lack of top-end speed and separation.  What makes Baker stand out is his non-stop motor, tenacity, circus catches and maniacal confidence, making the following statement to Patriots fans after he was drafted;


“Bring your popcorn. I make people in wheelchairs stand up.”


With New England currently having eleven rostered receivers, this is the type of competitive spirit that needs to be injected into the locker room. Baker certainly backed up his big talk in college, but will he be able to do it at the next level with New England?



6.      Round Six: 180th Overall: Marcellas Dial – DB, USC – 6’0’ 190 lbs.


Photo C/O to 985thesportshub.com

After five straight offensive picks for New England, they go defense with Marcellas Dial. Dial played tight man coverage at South Carolina, staying on receiver’s hips, and breaking up passes, which became a specialty of his in his last two collegiate seasons, recording 19 pass breakups, ranking fourth among SEC corners. Dial is aggressive and handsy in coverage, which is a good trait to have, but it might also get him in trouble in the pros. Dial is not afraid to come up and make the tackle and does not give up many yards after catch. When adjusting to the NFL, Dial will need to work on his pre-snap recognition and run support. Although Dial played a lot of corner in college, it is unclear whether he will be better suited for safety or corner in the NFL. Nonetheless, the Patriots add depth to their secondary with their first defensive pick of the draft.


 

7.      Round Six: 193rd Overall: Joe Milton III – QB, Tennessee – 6’5’ 235 lbs.


Photo C/O to reuters.com

The Patriots take another big, strong-armed quarterback in Joe Milton III. At first glance, this pick was surprising because New England had just invested their third overall pick in a quarterback, but upon further review, it makes sense that they would invest in a potential backup akin to Drake Maye in terms of base-level traits. Let’s face it, Bailey Zappe is nothing at all like Maye, and if the Patriots are going to base their offense around Maye, it makes perfect sense to have someone who is similar to him to be his backup, and that is Milton.



Milton is known for his insane arm strength and off-platform throws, he can throw it as far and as hard as anybody, but the only problem is he does not have much control over his bazooka. Milton will need to work on his accuracy, touch, and decision making to fair well in the NFL, and his footwork could use some improvement, another trait resembling Maye. Some positives about Milton besides his arm are his straight-line speed when running, his experience of having six college seasons under his belt and having gone through a great deal of adversity during those six seasons.



Milton had to fight for his right to start through his whole college career. Milton started his college career at Michigan in 2018, where he then redshirted. In 2019, Milton played some snaps as a reserve until he finally saw his starting opportunity in 2020. Milton would ultimately lose his job to Cade McNamara in the season finale and would transfer to Tennessee for the 2021 season. Milton was the de facto starter at Tennessee until he got injured only a couple of games in and lost his job yet again due to great play by Hendon Hooker. The tables would turn in 2022 when Hooker got injured and Milton came in to reclaim his job and would put a punctuation mark on it by becoming the Orange Bowl MVP, throwing for 231 yards and two touchdowns. Milton would play at his best in his last season in 2023, throwing for 2,813 yards, 20 touchdowns, and five interceptions, he would also rush for nearly 300 yards and seven touchdowns. The Patriots pick another project quarterback with intriguing traits.



8.      Round Seven: 231st Overall: Jaheim Bell – TE, Florida State – 6’2’ 241 lbs.


Photo C/O to on3.com

With their last pick, New England took the gadget tight end Jaheim Bell. This is a great value pick. Bell played three seasons at South Carolina before transferring to Florida State in 2023, where he would catch 39 balls for 503 yards and two touchdowns as well as scoring a touchdown on the ground.



Although Bell is rather undersized for an NFL tight end, his strengths are his versatility, yards after catch, and ball-winning capability. If the Patriots want Bell to be a part of their offense, they are likely going to have to scheme plays for him, since he is best on screens and out of the flat. Bell’s superpowers are his vision and strength after the catch, just let him catch it short and watch him work. Bell can line up all over the formation as well as in the fullback or halfback role, the possibilities are endless. The Patriots go back to their roots with a Belichickian pick.





Make sure to check out fansonlysportz.com for your local sports updates! - WD

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