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What Will The Patriots do with the Third Overall Pick?

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It has been quite the interesting offseason for the Patriots so far, with the team parting ways with six-time Super Bowl Champion Head Coach Bill Belichick back in January and bringing in an almost entirely new coaching staff. Jerod Mayo, Belichick's supposed understudy - is now at the helm and the future holds a lot of questions. It is safe to say that the beginning of this offseason has generated some polarization among fans and public perception. One of the biggest questions with this new regime is how they are going to “weaponize the offense”.


Despite a rather ambitious claim by Mayo during his introductory presser, stating that New England was "ready to burn some cash" in reference to the then $66 million in cap space the team had, it has been a rather underwhelming free agency period. The team retained some in- house talent by re-signing tight end Hunter Henry, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, and safety Kyle Dugger, among a few others. The Pats then swung and missed on Calvin Ridley, ultimately being outbid by the Titans, which is becoming a familiar refrain. The two most notable free agent acquisitions were quarterback and former Patriot Jacoby Brissett, third down back Antonio Gibson and receiver K.J. Osborn, quite the fire sale!


With the NFL Draft now around the corner, it has become obvious that most of this off-season’s rebuild will come through the draft. After a tumultuous 2023 season, the Patriots now sit third overall on the draft board. This will be the first time New England has picked inside the top five since 1994, when they selected Willie McGinest fourth overall.


New England’s main needs going into the draft are at quarterback, tackle, and wide receiver. With this year’s class having particularly talented options at quarterback at the top of the first round, it seems like there are three options for New England at third overall: Drake Maye out of UNC, Jayden Daniels out of LSU, or a trade down. You can write in sharpie that the Bears will take Caleb Williams at number one overall, but Washington at number two is a bit of a mystery, with them having the choice between Daniels and Maye. The Commanders have been linked to both quarterbacks, and many mock drafts have either two interchangeably going to Washington.


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There is no argument that Daniels and Maye aren’t impressive prospects, but do the Patriots prefer one quarterback over the other? It is a fair question, because both Daniels and Maye appear to have NFL potential, but the choice between these two mostly has to do with which style of quarterback the team desires.

With Maye, the Patriots would likely be getting a Josh Allen/ Justin Herbert style of quarterback if he ends up working out. Maye is big, tall, and has a strong arm paired with a gunslinger mentality. Maye’s arm talent can be considered his superpower, with him making 40-plus yard throws look easy, and throwing off platform with accuracy.  The UNC product has impressive mobility and does not shy away from contact with his 6’4’ 239-pound frame. At just 21 years old, Maye’s ceiling is sky high, but at the same time, he would likely be a developmental project, much like Allen was when he came into the league.


While being able to make every throw, Maye has a habit of trying to make some throws he shouldn’t, and his footwork can be shaky at times, which can be consequential in terms of accuracy, but with good coaching, these issues could be resolved. One must keep in mind that there will likely be growing pains with Maye before he reaches the height of his powers. Since the Patriots already have a bridge quarterback in place with Jacoby Brissett, Maye would have time to sit on the bench and play when he is ready. Other strengths Maye has exhibited are his pre-snap reads, protection shifts, and the ability to work out of the pistol, which is essentially the college version of being under center.


With Daniels, New England would be getting more of a Lamar Jackson type: great scrambling and running ability paired with explosive speed. Some may consider Daniels a bit more of a refined passer than Jackson was coming out of college, having solid mechanics and footwork, along with the ability to go through progressions in the pocket. Through the first two levels, Daniels has decent velocity and accuracy, but deep throws outside the numbers are where he struggles, which might be a little scary for Pats fans in the shadow of the Mac Jones era. Another criticism of Daniels is his size, while he stands at 6’4’, he has more of a slender build, weighing 210 pounds. Considering Daniels’ mobile playstyle, durability is a legitimate concern for him. Teams must also factor in that Daniels was throwing to two potential top-15 picks in Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr.

A major positive about the LSU product is that he has five seasons of starting experience already under his belt at 23 years old. With the amount of playing time Daniels has had, his skills are likely a bit more concrete than Maye’s, but this could also mean that his ceiling is lower. Also, almost all of Daniels’ snaps were taken out of the shotgun, which is certainly a detractor when transitioning into the NFL. All in all, like any player that enters the league, both Daniels and Maye have their unique positives and negatives. The decision between these two quarterbacks really depends on what style of offense the Patriots are trying to implement.

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Both Daniels and Maye had undeniable success at their respective college programs, with Maye hitting the ground running in his first starting season in 2022, where he started in all 14 games, putting up 4,321 yards and 38 touchdowns passing, with just seven interceptions, along with leading his team in rushing with 698 yards and seven touchdowns.

After Maye’s 2022 season, he became the only player besides Jameis Winston to win ACC Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Offensive Rookie of the Year all in the same season. Maye also won the Shaun Alexander Award for top freshman in the nation, made First Team All-ACC, and was a finalist for the Manning Award, which is awarded to the nation’s top quarterback. In his final season at North Carolina, Maye earned Second Team All-ACC, throwing for 3,608 yards, 24 touchdowns, and nine interceptions, as well as rushing for 449 yards and nine touchdowns.


As for Daniels, he started his career at Arizona State in 2019 and would transfer to LSU before the 2022 season. In three seasons with the Sun Devils, Daniels put up 6,025 yards and 32 touchdowns through the air while throwing just 13 interceptions, he also rushed for 1,288 yards and 13 touchdowns. In Daniels’ first season with LSU, he would start in all 14 games and throw for 2,913 yards, 17 touchdowns and three interceptions, while picking up 885 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Daniels would step up his game in 2023, putting up 3,812 yards and an impressive 40 touchdowns passing while tallying a measly four interceptions. Daniels would prove that he was the ultimate dual threat quarterback in college football by rushing for 1,134 yards and ten touchdowns during his electric passing campaign.


Daniels’ miraculous 2023 season with the Tigers would earn him the ultimate collegiate honor of the Heisman Trophy, while he also picked up honors such as the Davey O’Brien Award for the nation’s top quarterback, and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Daniels was named First Team A.P. All-American, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, and First Team All-SEC.


If the Patriots happen to really like both Daniels and Maye going into the draft, there should be no problem, they can take whoever comes to them. On the other hand, say New England really likes Maye and Daniels not so much, but the Commanders go with Maye at number two, they can always trade out of the pick in return for more picks. In this case, the Patriots would have some very viable options at wide receiver and offensive tackle if they accumulate multiple first-round picks.  Mayo has already stated at the league meetings in March that they are open to trading down if the offer is right.


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Two potential trade partners that would make the most sense for the Patriots would be the Giants at six or the Vikings at 11 since both teams are likely searching for a quarterback. If the Patriots were to trade down to either six or 11, some names to look out for at wide receiver would be Malik Nabers out of LSU, Rome Odunze out of Washington, Brian Thomas Jr. out of LSU, or Adonai Mitchell, and Xavier Worthy, who are both Longhorns.


It is no secret that it has been a while since the Patriots have had a true number one or “X” receiver, and Rome Odunze would bring them just that. Odunze is a classic "X" receiver, standing at 6’3’ and weighing 212 pounds. The Washington product lived on the barrier in 2023, lining up on the outside on 82% of his snaps. With Malik Nabers, it goes without saying that he is just a straight up playmaker, even though he would be considered more of a “Z” receiver rather than an “X”. At LSU, Nabers showed that he can burn guys at all three levels with his natural speed and route running. Many analysts have reported that Nabers sits just behind, or in some cases over Marvin Harrison Jr. in ranking, who is predicted to be an instant impact starter in the NFL and a top five pick.

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If Nabers manages to fall to the Patriots at six or 11, it would be tough not to take him. Another name to look out for is Nabers’ partner in crime at LSU, Brian Thomas Jr. who, like Odunze, seems to be a natural outside receiver. Thomas Jr. stands at 6’3’ and weighs 210 pounds, making him a deep ball machine. Thomas Jr. was 15 of 22 on deep targets for 12 scores in 2023. Thomas Jr.’s strengths are his size, 4.34 speed, and separation, but he needs to expand his route tree if he’s going to be a consistent number one at the NFL level.


Nabers and Thomas Jr. aren’t the only lethal college wide receiver duo to be hitting the 2023 draft, with both Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy out of Texas being on the board. Worthy is obviously known for his speed after he broke the NFL Combine record for fastest forty-yard dash, with a time of 4.21 seconds, but at Texas he also showed the ability to make guys miss and bounce off of tackles. While Worthy is obviously fast, his frame is a little concerning, standing at 5’11' and weighing just 165 pounds. Worthy also appears to be limited to mostly deep shots and receiver screens.


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 Worthy’s college teammate, Mitchell appears to be the more “complete” receiver, having a more conventional body type for the NFL, standing at 6’2’ and weighing 205 pounds. At Texas, Mitchell exhibited quick twitch ability, as well as good route running and speed. Mitchell’s film reveals his versatility, showing him lining up all over the field. Two other names the Patriots should keep an eye on are Keon Coleman out of Florida State and Xavier Legette out of South Carolina.


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As for the offensive tackles, Joe Alt out of Notre Dame is the clear number one tackle, he is projected to go in the top ten, and would be much like Nabers in the sense that if he falls to New England in the event of a trade down, he would be hard to pass on. Other notable first round worthy tackles are Taliese Fuaga out of Oregon State, Troy Fautanu out of Washington, and Olumuyiwa Fashanu out of Penn. State. If the Patriots are looking for a bigger tackle, guys like J.C. Latham out of Alabama and Amarius Mims out of Georgia could pique their interest, with both standing over 6’5’ and weighing in the 340-pound range.


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Say the Patriots trade down with a team like Minnesota, who has two first-round picks, they could potentially get both a starting quality tackle and receiver in the first round. Hypothetically, if New England goes down to the Vikings slot at 11 and they inherit their second first round pick at 23rd overall, they could do something like take Odunze or Thomas Jr. at 11, then take Fashanu or Mims at 23rd, or go tackle at 11 and receiver at 23rd, since this class has been said to be rather deep at receiver. Another possibility which might be controversial for some is trading down and taking a quarterback, someone like J.J. McCarthy, Bo Nix, Michael Penix, or Spencer Rattler and getting a receiver or tackle to pair with them.  


After all, it is the NFL draft and anything can happen, as history has shown, but most signs so far are pointing towards either Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels becoming a Patriot. New England has hosted visits for both Maye and Daniels recently, so the intrigue for both is there, as it should be. There has also been some smoke concerning the Patriots being interested in J.J. McCarthy, but it would be rather surprising to see him go third overall, especially over both Maye and Daniels. Either way, with a draft class with supposed high-end talent at the quarterback position, it would be a head scratching move for New England to pass on a quarterback, a position they so desperately need.

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





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