Patriots’ draft approach likely to be different in post-Belichick era

FILE - LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) runs for a touchdown against Florida during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. Daniels is a possible first round pick in the NFL Draft.(AP Photo/Derick Hingle, File)

FILE - LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) runs for a touchdown against Florida during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. Daniels is a possible first round pick in the NFL Draft.(AP Photo/Derick Hingle, File) Derick Hingle

FILE - Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) rolls out during the second half of the Rose Bowl CFP NCAA semifinal college football game against Alabama Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, in Pasadena, Calif. McCarthy is a possible first round pick in the NFL Draft.(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong, File)

FILE - Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) rolls out during the second half of the Rose Bowl CFP NCAA semifinal college football game against Alabama Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, in Pasadena, Calif. McCarthy is a possible first round pick in the NFL Draft.(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong, File) Kyusung Gong

New England Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo, center, talks with reporters during an AFC coaches availability at the NFL owners meetings last March in Orlando, Fla.

New England Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo, center, talks with reporters during an AFC coaches availability at the NFL owners meetings last March in Orlando, Fla. ap file — Phelan M. Ebenhack

FILE - North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) plays during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Clemson, S.C. Maye is a possible first round pick in the NFL Draft. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman, File)

FILE - North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) plays during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Clemson, S.C. Maye is a possible first round pick in the NFL Draft. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman, File) Jacob Kupferman

By KYLE HIGHTOWER

AP Sports Writer

Published: 04-22-2024 10:38 PM

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The 2024 NFL draft represents the next chapter in the remaking of the New England Patriots.

Bill Belichick is gone after driving both the franchise’s on-field and personnel decisions for most of his more than two-decade run in New England.

It’s created a domino effect inside team headquarters, with team owner Robert Kraft seizing on the opportunity to take a more active role in steering the direction that his six-time Super Bowl championship franchise will move into its next era.

It started with the hiring of new coach Jerod Mayo, a former player and assistant under Belichick, but someone poised to bring a looser vibe to the locker room.

As for who will have the keys to the reshaping of Mayo’s first roster, Kraft has put that in the hands of Eliot Wolf, who has a lot more power than his nebulous director of scouting title suggests.

He will be the lead voice inside the Patriots’ draft room and have a large say in what the Patriots ultimately do with the No. 3 overall selection and the remainder of their eight total picks.

The biggest hole is clearly at quarterback after the Patriots traded 2021 first-round pick Mac Jones to Jacksonville.

Wolf wouldn’t divulge their internal ranking of the top quarterback prospects, but said “there’s a general consensus how we feel about these players.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Concord School District leaders stand by principal hiring despite past lawsuit
Memorial Day 2024 parades and events in Concord and surrounding towns
Internal emails reveal UNH administrators’ desire to quell pro-Palestine ‘encampment’ ahead of graduation
“It’s a miracle” – Family to attend funeral of missing World War II soldier from Northwood
The largest arcade in the world marches on
‘Book banning’ continues to leave parents, lawmakers divided

The focus is getting quality players who can help turn the page on back-to-back losing seasons.

“We’re going to try to get this thing right and get it back going,” Wolf said.

Mayo said he has trust in the structure that’s been created around him and in the personnel department’s ability to find Jones’ replacement and fill needs at receiver and on the offensive line.

“I’m confident we could absolutely fill those roles,” Mayo said at last month’s NFL owners’ meetings. “In saying that, though, it’s going to take time. Our philosophy as far as putting this roster together — you want to draft and develop. When it’s all said and done, you want to draft and develop. And I have 100% confidence in Eliot and his staff, weaponizing the offense and really getting us better as an overall team.”

Needs

The Patriots did make a move during free agency at quarterback after jettisoning Jones, bringing back veteran Jacoby Brissett — who was originally drafted by New England in 2016 — to a one-year deal. But he clearly is more of a placeholder than a long-term solution.

The Patriots still need a franchise QB.

The Chicago Bears are expected to take 2022 Heisman Trophy winner and former USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick. Washington is also in the market for a quarterback, leaving New England with a tough decision at No. 3.

LSU’s Jayden Daniels and North Carolina’s Drake Maye are considered to be the top prospects behind Williams, though Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy has also gotten late buzz. All three have visited with the Patriots, but a lead candidate is unclear.

That said, New England will be in the market for a top receiver and need help at offensive tackle to help protect whichever QB is under center.

Don’t need

One position the Patriots are in decent shape at is at safety. Kyle Dugger’s production dipped slightly from the breakout season he had in 2022, but he was still a stalwart for New England’s defense. There’s also decent depth behind him in Jabrill Peppers and Marte Mapu.

Trade possibility

As much as the Patriots don’t want to miss an opportunity to select a potential quarterback of the future at No. 3, Mayo and Wolf didn’t rule out the possibility of trading down, if a favorable amount of compensation were offered.

“We sit at a very enviable spot at No. 3, where we could take someone at No. 3 or if someone offers a bag, as we would say — or a lot of first-round picks — we’d definitely have to talk about those things as we continue to put together this team,” Mayo said.

Said Wolf: “We’re open to anything — moving up, moving down. We’re open for business in the first round and in every round.”