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  • Writer's pictureTony G.

How Should New England Use Their First Top 5 Pick In 3 Decades?



Welp... After two decades of dominance, a short detour with Cam Newton, and three seasons of the Mac Jones experience, the Patriots have finally reached a place that seemed unfathomable during one of the greatest runs in NFL history, holding a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft. In 1994, the Patriots drafted Willie McGinest with the 4th pick in the draft, after drafting Drew Bledsoe with the top pick the year before. Since then, the Patriots have used mid to late picks in each round to build what was one of the strongest and most consistent rosters in the NFL.


While skewed slightly by ex-Head Coach/General Manager Bill Belichick's ability to trade back and maneuver through the draft, the Patriots average draft position during their 20-year run had them buried in the back third of the first round, where few of the highly touted skill players would fall. Belichick made his mark by finding amazing talents in rounds 3 and 4 (Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, SBLI hero James White) and some of the most impactful players in franchise history in rounds 5-7 (Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater, some guy named Tom Brady). The last time the team picked in the top 10 was 2008, and that player is now the one that needs to help decide to the direction of this year's top pick, because that player was now Head Coach Jerod Mayo.


Everyone has their opinion on what the best plan is for the number 3 pick in the draft. Some are dead set on drafting the new QB of the future. Others see a better path through the Patriots normal first round plan of trading back and accumulating more picks. I'm going to rank my top scenarios from worst to best.


3.) Selecting To Fill Another Hole On The Roster

While Mac Jones was not the solution the Patriots were looking for in 2023, he damn sure wasn’t the only problem. The offensive line was abysmal, the receivers continued to lack the ability to create separation, and the run game was anemic, ranking in the bottom 7 in both yards and touchdowns. If they aren’t satisfied with the quarterbacks on the board, staying at 3 and addressing one of their major issues by drafting OT Joe Alt out of Notre Dame or Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr would set the franchise on the path to success.


There are veteran free agent QBs that the Patriots could sign in this scenario. Under-30 options include Baker Mayfield and Gardner Minshew, while the older solutions include Kirk Cousins, and previous Patriots quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. The downside to this path is while it does address a need, it puts the team on a collision course with two or more seasons of mediocrity. Being stuck in neutral is the worst place you can be in this league, and this is why this is my least favorite scenario.

 

2.) Drafting the QB of the Future, Maybe

Mac Jones proved that he was not going to be the solution under center in New England going forward and was benched multiple times for the often equally inept Bailey Zappe. Jones’ continued regression has put a focus on the need to draft a difference maker at the quarterback position. Jones and Zappe combined for just under 3400 yards with 16 TDs and 21 INTs, which all landed in the bottom 6 in the league or lower for the season.


There are two quarterbacks that sit on top of most team's draft boards. USC QB Caleb Williams and UNC QB Drake Maye. While both had down years in 2023, both still have the hype and the talent to make them the clear-cut top prospects at the quarterback position. The problem is that the Patriots sit at pick number 3 and both teams ahead of them, Chicago and Washington, are potentially in the market for a new QB. On top of that, multiple teams in the top half of the draft are looking for a new face under center.


This leaves the Patriots with three options. Trade away the next two drafts to get the top pick from the Bears and draft the quarterback of their choosing. Hope and pray that Chicago is enamored enough with standout wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. to not want to risk moving outside of the top 3 picks and having him off the board and one of the top two guys falls to them at number 3. The third and most likely scenario is that they can turn their attention to one of the next level QBs like Jayden Daniels or JJ McCarthy and take one at 3 if they feel like it is not too much of a reach. Nothing is guaranteed in this league but I like them taking a swing and potentially missing on a QB prospect than being stuck in a purgatory of mid-first round picks.


1.) The Patriots Special – The Trade Back

The one comment I continue to hear that resonates through my brain like a non-stop car alarm at 3 am (now I am in full Dane Cook mode… “HELLOOOOOOO! I’M A CAAAAARRRRR!) is the “this is the Pats best chance to draft the QB of the future” line and I am absolutely sick of it. There are 5 teams between picks 6-13 that are in dire need of a QB. Next year’s class is far weaker than this year, which doesn’t fully help my argument but stick with me. As I stated earlier, the team has multiple holes on the offensive side of the ball. While QB is the most important position, we just saw the Niners led to the Super Bowl by the LAST PICK IN THE DRAFT! New England’s dynasty was built around a guy picked with a 6th round comp pick.


My point is that there are talented QBs that are overlooked that can be found later in the draft. There is also the trade route. Justin Fields may be available if the Bears decide they want Caleb Williams. Sam Howell could be a nice option as a gunslinger who may have just been put into a bad situation in Washington. Both are still young and neither would cost the team their 3rd overall pick.


Do you know what comes along just as infrequently as the chance to draft a top QB prospect? The chance to absolutely fleece another organization that is willing to push their next 2 or 3 first round picks to the center of the table and go all in on a POTENTIAL franchise quarterback.


Atlanta is a good young team that is a decent QB away from being a problem in the NFC playoff picture. Minnesota has the best receiver in football and one of the best young receiving corps all around and the front office looks like they are done lining Kirk Cousins pockets with guaranteed money. Sean Payton is looking to draft his “guy” in Denver to really jumpstart the rebuild of that organization.


This is the time. You have a rookie head coach who has likely been assured that he does not have the pressure of needing to win immediately. You are now out from under Belichick’s shadow and expectations are not necessarily that the team will contend immediately, but that the team will make the right moves to set themselves up for another memorable run. Even trading back with the Falcons at pick 8 would net the Patriots at least an extra first rounder next year, plus added picks on top of that. At pick 8 you could potentially still take the OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu out of Penn State or Romeo Odunze, the WR from Washington. Hell, they could even take TE Brock Bowers out of Georgia, and I’d be happy.



It is the Belichick frame of mind, but more picks give you a better chance of hitting on one. What if the Pats take Daniels at 3 and he’s a total bust. It’s not uncommon. Ask the Jets. Other positions have the same potential but the chances of the Pats whiffing on one pick are much higher than them whiffing on 4 or 5 picks over two drafts. If I am the front office, this is the route I take. Ask Bryce Young how it feels to go to a team with no protection and low-end skill players. He’s a Heisman Trophy winner too. Just saying.

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